Third Trimester

The third trimester can bring a mix of emotions – much like your first trimester, as you get ready to meet your new bundle of joy in the coming months!

Developmental changes – 27 to 40 weeks

During this trimester, your baby usually turns so that his or her head is facing down in preparation for birth. By 37 weeks, your pregnancy is considered term and you can expect to go into labour any time after 37 weeks.

Here are some common discomforts you may notice in your third trimester:

Leg cramps – are quite common around the 30-week mark of pregnancy. The cause is not well understood, but possible reasons are thought to include:

  • Vitamin deficiency.
  • Changes in hormonal levels.
  • Too little or too much physical activity.

Stretches often bring about immediate relief, but speak to Dr Hong or your GP if you are concerned.

Braxton-Hicks contractions – these are a normal part of your pregnancy and involve the tightening and relaxing of your uterus, as your body prepares for labour. They are different from labour pains in that they:

  • Aren’t usually painful, just uncomfortable.
  • Last for approximately 30 seconds (labour pains get progressively longer in duration).
  • Are not regular in timing.
  • Tend to stop if you change position or walk around.

If you are concerned, or if you have pain or any bleeding with these contractions, it is important to contact your doctor straight away.


During your third trimester, you will require approximately 450 calories above your normal daily needs (equivalent to an extra 2-3 pieces of toast with honey and banana). However, it is important to note individual energy requirements will differ for each woman.

Healthy eating during your pregnancy  provides a good overview of what you should be eating, as well as what to avoid for optimal health during your pregnancy.


The flu and whooping cough vaccines are recommended during pregnancy.

Whooping cough (pertussis) vaccination – is a vaccine given to women between 28-32 weeks of pregnancy. Women are recommended to have whooping cough vaccination with each pregnancy, even when these pregnancies are closely spaced, so as to provide maximum protection to every child.

Whooping cough is caused by a type of bacteria, which infects the lungs and airways, making it difficult to breathe, resulting in a ‘whooping’ type of cough. It is very serious for babies, and can be fatal.

  • The Whooping cough vaccine is free to all pregnant women through the National Immunisation Programme, and it offers both you and your unborn baby protection.
  • Partners of pregnant women are also recommended to be vaccinated at least two weeks prior to the birth of the baby (if they have not been vaccinated for whooping cough in the past 10 years).

The Flu vaccine is part of the National Immunisation Programme and it is free to all pregnant women.

The flu vaccine is safe for you and your baby at any stage of your pregnancy and significantly reduces the risk of serious complications during your pregnancy.

You are able to have the flu vaccine at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine.

If you have any questions, or concerns regarding the flu or whooping cough vaccine, it is best to discuss your options with your Dr Hong or your GP.

Some key considerations in your third trimester:

Maternity leave – if you are working, you will need to give your employer written notice of your plans around your leave.

Antenatal classes – antenatal classes are a great way to meet other mothers who are at a similar stage in their pregnancy to you.

  • Antenatal classes help prepare you and your partner for labour, breastfeeding and caring for your newborn baby.
  • Ask Dr Hong, talk to your GP or Cairns Private Hospital about antenatal classes in your area.

Birth plan – a birth plan involves a plan of what you would like to have happen in your labour.

Below are some ideas of the things you can include in your birth plan, if you wish:

  • Your preference for how you would like to birth – such as on the floor or in a bed.

Preferred pain relief


  • Epidural – is where local anaesthetic is injected via a catheter (small plastic tube) into your lower back to deliver pain relief
  • Pethidine – a painkiller, given via injection into the muscle
  • Gas – provides oxygen and nitrous oxide gas via a mouthpiece to relieve pain


  • Breathing techniques and meditation
  • Acupressure
  • Aromatherapy
  • Heat packs
  • The support people you would like present during your labour – such as your partner, mother, friend or doula (a non-medical person who provides emotional support and coaching during and after labour).

Keeping an open mind and discussing your preferences with Dr Hong can help ease anxiety and also provide reassurance when it comes time to birth.

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