Expert advice
Pregnant women lays hands on her baby womb and looks out of the window


The third trimester: Welcoming a new life

with MAM-expert Dr. Tony (Tao) Duan

In our final interview with MAM-expert Dr. Tony (Tao) Duan, we explore what is happening in the third trimester of your pregnancy. By this point, the dream of pregnancy and parenthood is about to become a reality!

MAM: When does the third trimester start?

Dr. Duan: The third trimester lasts from 28 weeks to delivery. 

MAM: How does the mother’s body change during this stage of pregnancy? 

Dr. Duan: The prospect of a new life may be very exciting, however the late stages of pregnancy can be quite challenging for expectant mothers. As if waiting patiently to meet your little one isn’t hard enough, you will experience your body achieving something incredible. Your growing baby bump may cause you to experience back pain, sleeping disturbances, heartburn and frequent urination. Some moms-to-be also notice swollen feet and ankles as well as shortness of breath. 

MAM: What do you recommend for a healthy lifestyle during the final trimester? Do you have any suggestions in terms of nutrition and exercising? 

Dr. Duan: There’s a simple principle in this regard: Control your diet and walk more. Pregnant women can eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains, low-fat dairy and a variety of proteins, such as nuts, meat and fish. The exact amount of food you will need depends on your pre-pregnancy body mass index, activity level and age. That said, your body is a pretty good guide. Eat when you are hungry and don’t be surprised if this is more often than usual. As a general rule, women of a healthy weight will need 350-450 additional calories a day during the last trimester. Most pregnant women require more than 2,500 calories a day. Exercise has many benefits during pregnancy. It can help with mood management, energy levels and sleep. To exercise safely during the last trimester, avoid lying flat on your back and taking vigorous exercise in hot or humid weather.  

MAM: How does the baby develop in the third trimester? 

Dr. Duan: The baby becomes bigger and bigger. It can blink its eyes, which will by now have lashes. Wrinkled skin is starting to smooth out as the baby gains weight. During this period, babies are also developing fingernails, toenails and normal head hair. Moreover, billions of neurons are added to their brains. The baby will spend its final weeks in the womb putting on weight.  

MAM: How can you prepare for birth in this final stage of pregnancy? What should the mom-to-be take along for the birth in a hospital? 

Dr. Duan: Expectant mothers can draw up a birth plan. This is a document that lets your medical team know your preferences for things such as how to manage labor pain. Bear in mind that you can’t control every aspect of labor and delivery. You will need to stay flexible in case something comes up that requires your birth team to deviate from your plan. Nevertheless, having a birth plan can help your medical team to understand you better during your labor. That will support them in making whatever decisions need to be made. 

MAM: What are the first signs of labor? When should you call a doctor or midwife, or go to hospital?

Dr. Duan: You feel your baby “drop” and you begin to experience more Braxton Hicks contractions. Your cervix starts to change and you pass your mucus plug, which is a thick clump of cervical mucus that forms during pregnancy, helping block the cervix. You experience bleeding and your water breaks. When all this happens, it is definitely time to go to the hospital. 

Photo Credits: Shutterstock


Dr. Tony (Tao) Duan

Founder and CEO

Shanghai Spring Field Hospital Management Group (China)