This is it — you're two-thirds to the finish line, as you enter your third and final trimester! And what a difference a trimester makes. Gone, most likely, are the days when you could call pregnancy "comfortable" (that is, if you ever did). These days, your baby's kicking (or lack of) is keeping you up at night and worried during the day, your feet are swollen, you're getting tired all over again, and your backache is a pain that just won't quit. And even though he or she hasn't started crying yet, it may seem that your baby's getting on your nerves already — literally. As your baby gets settled into a proper (you hope) position for birth, his or her head (and your enlarging uterus) may rest on the sciatic nerve in the lower part of your spine. And if that happens, you may feel sharp, shooting pain, tingling, or numbness that starts in your buttocks and radiates down the back of your legs — otherwise known as sciatica. The pain of sciatica can be quite intense at times, and though it may pass if your baby shifts positions, it can also linger until you've delivered. A heating pad, a warm tub, stretches, or just some self-imposed bed rest can help with the discomfort. So can some complementary and alternative therapies.
Baby: Dream, Dream, Dream
Are you dreaming about your baby? Your baby may be dreaming about you, too. Brain wave activity measured in a developing fetus shows different sleep cycles, including the rapid eye movement phase, the stage when dreaming occurs. By now, your baby, who weighs in at about two and a half pounds and stands — or rather lies — at almost 16 inches (measured head to toe) has added blinking to his or her growing bag of tricks. (Outside in the real world, blinking is necessary to help keep foreign objects out of the eyes.) Other impressive new talents being added to your baby's roster include coughing, more intense sucking, and, perhaps most important, better breathing. The good news is that babies born this week, though premature, have an excellent prognosis because their lungs have reached the point (for the most part) of maturity — so you too can breathe a little easier now. Of course, it's still best if a baby doesn't check out of that uterine hotel just yet — there's still a lot of growing and maturing to do over the next 12 weeks.
Feel like you could fit a week's worth of laundry in those bags under your eyes? The two main culprits are water retention (see, it's not just in your ankles) and fatigue, so try to get as much rest as possible and drink plenty of water to flush your system — the more you drink, the less you retain. Still puffier than you'd like? Here are some quick fixes: When you first wake up (bags are more prominent in the morning), place something cool over your eyes — the always favorite cool cucumber slices, cold tea bags, chilled spoons, or a bag of frozen blueberries (then use them for a smoothie), followed by healthy helpings of concealer and eye-opening mascara.
Take Care of Mommy
Take time during this last week to pamper yourself a bit, since you probably need a little TLC and you won't have much time for it once your baby is here. (Now there's an understatement!) Treat yourself to an easy-care haircut (it'll be months before you'll find the time to get one again). Consider a manicure and pedicure or a facial and prenatal massage. Take your best pal to lunch and a movie…or treat yourself to a romantic dinner out with your partner. You deserve it, Honey.
Just as your raging hormones cause the hair on your head to grow faster, hair growth on your legs and underarms may unfortunately be speedy as well. (Um, didn’t I just shave there this morning?) Shave those legs with care (and a lot of nick-protecting shaving gel), since (a) your balance may be off and (b) you probably can’t see beyond your belly. Make sure the blade you use is new, so you’ll be less likely to draw blood. If possible, enlist a willing husband or friend to shave you, or sit on the edge of your bed and try an electric razor. A definite no-no: Shaving in the shower, where it’s way too easy to lose your balance — and where a slipup could be serious. Another option: Head down to the salon and have a wax (but only if pregnancy hasn’t made your skin too sensitive; itchy bumps that you can’t reach to scratch are the last thing you need right now).
Extra!: The Learning Process
Okay, students: Your due date is still months away, but school (or at least a childbirth ed class) is in session — so start taking notes. You'll graduate from one of these classes with all the skills (and know-how) you and your labor coach need to get through delivery — with honors. You can choose a class at the hospital or with a local instructor, but sign up early so you can finish several weeks before your due date. Ask whether your course includes lessons on infant care, CPR, and breastfeeding (it should). Have special needs? There are classes for second-timers who need to brush up on their techniques, classes for moms who are attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), and classes designed for those expecting multiples. There are even intensive classes taught over a weekend at resorts, which can double as a couple's getaway. Whichever class you choose, make sure your instructor is certified by a national childbirth education organization. And here's a bonus: Your insurance company may cover your tuition, so be sure to submit your bill.
Fitness: Take Heart
Now that you're pumping for two it's more important than ever to keep an eye on your heart rate when you're exercising. The best way to check how much you're exerting yourself is to use the exercise-talk test (no need to take your pulse!). If you can't exercise and talk simultaneously, your heart rate is probably too high.
Dad: Got Milk?
Bottle or breast? She may already have made up her mind, or she may really appreciate talking it through with you. Together, do your homework — you'll find out, if you haven't already heard, that breast is best for a variety of compelling reasons (from less risk of allergy and illness for baby, to a lowered risk of breast cancer later on for mom, to less smelly poop for you to clean up). If either of you have reservations about breastfeeding (some men worry about the idea of their partner exposing her breast in public, others worry about their territory being appropriated by baby, still others worry about being left out of the feeding process), put them on the table before you make your decision.
Eating Well: A Fish Tale
Been reading the headlines lately? Then chances are your head's swimming with fish stories. Fish is heart healthy! But wait, it's also full of mercury! Fish is loaded with baby-friendly DHA! But not so fast — it's also loaded with PCBs! What's the dish on fish? It's a first-rate source of lean, baby-building protein — an essential ingredient throughout the making of your amazing baby, but an especially important one in the third trimester, when brain growth is fast and furious. What's more, fish, especially the fattier varieties, is an excellent source of DHA, the fabulous fat that's known to boost baby brain power. It benefits your brain power, too — getting enough omega-3s can improve your memory (remember when you had one of those?) and your mood (a low intake of DHA during pregnancy is linked to postpartum depression). Plus, fish deserves those heart healthy headlines — a diet rich in fish lowers the risk of cardiac disease by stabilizing heart rhythms, reducing blood clotting, and lowering blood pressure. But there's a dark side to the fish story. It's true that some fish, particularly large ocean-faring fish (and especially predator types) contain high levels of mercury, a distinctly baby-unfriendly toxin. Others, especially those that frequent polluted lakes and rivers, are laden with PCBs, a chemical you definitely don't want to be feeding a fetus — or an infant. To play it safe, you'll need to keep all those fish off your dish while you're pregnant, as well as when you're nursing. And to play it extra safe, you'll have to limit other kinds of fish as well. When fishing for dinner that's healthy and safe, take these guidelines along. Avoid: Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, fresh tuna, tilefish, mahimahi, grouper, amberjack, and fish from contaminated waters. Limit to six ounces per week: Canned (or packaged) albacore tuna and freshwater fish caught by family and friends. Limit to 12 ounces per week: Shellfish, canned (or packaged) light tuna, smaller ocean fish, farm-raised fish, and store-bought freshwater fish. Safely eat: Salmon, sea bass, sole, flounder, haddock, halibut, ocean perch, pollack, cod, and trout.
This is the start of the Third trimester... Your lucky 7th month!