Welcome to the third trimester – or maybe not? Calculating your pregnancy term is really complicated; ultimately, a pregnancy lasts 10 rather than 9 months and each trimester has different indications. Some people will talk about the 28th week of pregnancy marking the start of the third trimester, whereas others will consider it starts in the 25th or 26th week of pregnancy. Let's agree to keep things simple here: welcome to the 26th week of pregnancy. We hope you enjoy reading all about it!
The size of the foetus is around 32-37 cm (crown - heel) and it weighs approx. 800 grams. The feet are around 5 cm long.
Space is gradually getting tighter in the womb. When the foetus turns and stretches, it often kicks the wall of the uterus – that's good exercise, as the foetus is learning to control its movements and gain a better perception of its body.
Your baby is now roughly the size of a red cabbage.
When it is too light or too loud, your baby will react – it will be startled, will kick, turn away or blink. Apart from the usual physical exercises, such as grasping, sucking and "breathing" (the baby takes amniotic fluid into its lungs and the breastbone moves), the other organs are now developing fully. The lungs take the longest. Every week, lots of new air sacs and blood vessels are forming, although development is only complete shortly before the birth.
This is why the lungs and/or breathing is always a major problem with premature babies. Thanks to the medical capabilities we have today, the chances of survival in the 26th week of pregnancy are quite good, at least in theory – the greater the baby's birth weight, the better its chances.
What are the chances for premature babies nowadays?
The chances of survival of premature babies very much depend on the week in which the baby is born and its birth weight. As a rule, single pregnancies are less critical. Generally speaking, births before the 25th week of pregnancy are particularly problematic, especially for babies with a very low birth weight. It is life-threatening for these babies to be outside the uterus as the lungs are not yet fully functional. The greatest health risks posed to very premature babies are neurological disorders and brain damage.
However, the good news is that from the 28th week of pregnancy, the chances of survival are already more than 90%. So it's just a matter of coaxing your little one to stay put for a while and minimise any risks. You can do this by paying attention to factors such as stress, alcohol and nicotine. However, bacterial infections of the vagina can also trigger premature birth – so, if you want to play everything safe, avoid public pools for a few more weeks.
The growing uterus is putting more and more pressure on the bladder, so the fact that you now need to go the toilet more frequently is not unusual.
Back pain can also intensify, as pregnant women's lower backs take the strain of their body's constantly changing centre of gravity. The spine and lumbar region in women is more elastic and robust than in men, enabling them to withstand this load (more or less) without pain and avoid long-term damage.
To take the strain off your back at night, it may help to lie on your side with a pillow between your knees. You could get a breastfeeding pillow at this point and use that as a support in bed – that way, you don't need to buy anything that is unnecessary, because the breastfeeding pillow will be put to good use later, when the baby arrives!
You might find that lying on your back is uncomfortable, and it might even result in circulation problems. In a supine position, the weight of the uterus or the baby puts pressure on one of the body's main veins: the vena cava. This vein carries the blood upwards from the lower part of the body – if the vein becomes constricted, it can lead to problems with blood pressure, dizziness or palpitations (also referred to as vena cava syndrome).
So, grab yourself a breastfeeding pillow or knee cushion and curl up with your bump for a comfortable night's sleep!
Source: Your Pregnancy Week by Week, Prof. Lesley Regan, DK Limited, London, 2019, pp. 199