The Final Stretch: Everything You Need to Know About the 7th Month of Pregnancy
During the 7th month of pregnancy, or the beginning of a woman's third trimester, every mother-to-be is just ready to welcome her baby into the world. Yet before being able to cradle that little one in her arms, she should prepare herself for everything to come once she transitions into that time period when both she and her baby begin to experience lots of physiological changes. Here's what to expect when you're seven months pregnant.
Your Baby’s Development
Once reaching 7 months, all of the baby's organs are going through major transformations, according to Dr. Dimitry Goncharov, a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist for both New York Methodist Hospital and Mount Sinai Beth Israel.
"They're undergoing full development," Dr. Goncharov said. "The lungs are getting to a state of full maturation [and]
full lung maturation happens usually after 39 weeks."
From the fetus's digestive system and kidneys developing, to the more minor things like its nails beginning to form (remember that one scene from "Juno" where Su-Chin tells Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) that baby's have finger nails?), babies experience drastic growth from the 7th month of pregnancy and on. Additionally, the baby will start to store more fat during the third trimester and will typically grow more rapidly through this time as well, according to Dr. Goncharov.
"The baby usually — toward the second half of the third trimester — gains half a pound per week," Dr. Goncharov said. "The weight of the baby, on average at 28 weeks, is about 1,100 grams. And starting at 32 weeks the baby will start to gain half a pound per week."
Likewise, with all of this development from the baby and it beginning to take up even more space within the uterus, things may feel a bit cramped for both the mother and child since the baby's movement is limited.
"[Mothers] should experience regular movements but the movements are going to be more like pushes, not necessarily kicks... because there's a little bit less room for the baby to move around" Dr. Goncharov said. "The mother should feel regular movements of the baby [and] the majority of mothers know what's normal for their baby and how often their baby moves, so any change in that normal baseline is important to address with your health care provider. But the general recommendaton is the mother should experience at least 10-12 movements in a two-hour time frame; this is the minimum."
Typically during this month the baby will position him or herself vertically as well, with the head downwards, since the lower uterus generally allows more room for the largest part of the baby (its head). However, this isn't always the case as many infants "breech" during birth, meaning they come out feet or buttocks first, leading to a C-section in some situations.
Arousal of the Senses
With the development of the auditory system beginning between 5 1/2 and 6 months of pregnancy, the fetus can finally hear now. In fact, babies can reportedly hear what their mothers are saying before birth and may recognize their voice after as well, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Babies can hear a whole range of sounds, although they’re muffled by the amniotic fluid. On a more or less conscious level, babies also hear noises coming from within, like a rumbling stomach or their mother's heartbeat.
As to whether or not babies can identify high-pitched sounds like their mother's voice or low-pitched sounds like their dad's voice, scientific opinion is divided. However, studies have shown that babies can distinguish a female voice from a masculine one, or one different melody from another. So after birth, babies will typically be more sensitive to music and voices heard when they were in the uterus.
During the 7th month of pregnancy, the baby's eyes will open. When a bright light is pointed at your stomach, the baby might jolt or its heart rate will increase, implying sensitivity to visual impressions. However, that's not to say that light will be prominent to the baby, because after all, they are still in the womb. The other senses, like smell and taste, continue to develop as well.
Although it's not recommended to do rigorous activity while you're pregnant, especially if it requires standing on your feet for hours, Dr. Goncharov does recommend trying your best to stay healthy. During the third trimester, most women will gain about half of their pregnancy weight, according to Dr. Goncharov, and will gain approximately 25-35 pounds in total. This number will change from woman to woman, but it's generally based on your baseline BMI. However, it's advised that women don't get too discouraged by all the weight gain.
"The most important thing to focus on is not the weight gain but just staying healthy," Dr. Goncharov said. "Exercise is recommended during the pregnancy, [but] you always want to stay away — this is not dependendent on trimester per say — but obviously with the third trimester you have to be a little more cautious, especially with the balance."
Noting that because of these weight changes, a woman's balance may be off, Dr. Goncharov said that with any activity and physical exercise, an expectant mother should be aware of anything that could potentially cause her to fall on her belly. Likewise he mentions that women generally shouldn't change their workout routine too much (e.g. if you weren't very active before pregnancy, don't take up anything too intense during pregnancy).
Unpleasant Side Effects
Beginning with the 7th month of pregnancy, it's not uncommon for mothers to be easily out of breath just doing everyday tasks as they carry around the baby within them. Unfortunately, many women might actually experience some negative side effects during this time period that'll make them more than ready to pop that little girl or guy out as soon as possible.
Vulvar Varicose Veins
These veins appear between the 7th and 8th month and you may experience feelings of heaviness or itching. They can be painful during sexual intercourse but often subside three or four months after the birth. Avoid hot baths and strong spices such as cayenne, mustard, black pepper, hot sauces and curry.
Water Retention & Swelling
It’s normal for a woman's legs, face and especially ankles to swell once she reaches her third trimester. The best thing you can do is drink large quantities of water (1.5 liters per day) to drain your tissue properly. However, while the swelling might be a bit shocking at first, Dr. Goncharov assures that this is completely normal and is merely a part of the physiological changes a woman experiences while pregnant.
Something that all women dread, back pains only get worse during the last few months of pregnancy.
"Because of the changes skeletally-wise, it's quite frequent to have some discomfort in the pelvis, some discomfort in the back area and lower back especially." Dr. Goncharov said. "Unfortunately, that is very frequent and should be addressed with your health care provider if it’s something that's bothersome."
In the majority of cases, lumbar (lower back) pain lasts for about a year after giving birth. Gentle exercise like swimming or walking will help you get back on form.
Although having heartburn is a normal experience for most women throughout their pregnancy, Dr. Goncharov said it usually gets worse during the third trimester. He recommends eating smaller and lighter meals and not to lie down after eating. Similarly, pregnant women should avoid eating spicy or acidic foods to lessen the pain.
The Importance of Rest
Towards the end of the pregnancy, insomnia is frequent not only because lying down becomes uncomfortable (your belly is in the way after all), but also because the thought of giving birth may occupy your mind.
To help with this, women should take light naps in the evening and sleep in a fresh, airy room. Likewise, mothers should try to set aside time to rest during the day, have a little siesta in the morning and one in the afternoon. The baby’s sleep won’t be affected by doing so.
The same goes for daily tasks. Don’t be shy about asking for help with housework or shopping. To avoid the risks of premature birth, keep your lifestyle as stress-free as you can. Avoid standing for long periods of time and don't carry heavy objects during your pregnancy.
During the 3rd trimester, increase your calorie intake to 2,800 calories a day. Prioritize dairy products, carbohydrates, iron, as much red meat as white meat, fruit and vegetables.
Preparing for the Birth
Typically during the 7th month, many women attend lamaze classes. In class you will learn about what happens during childbirth, how to handle the pain, as well as breathing techniques and relaxation exercises. If the father is planning on being present at the birth, he can also go along with you to the classes (or you may decide to attend together anyway).
What have you been experiencing during your third trimester? Tweet us @wewomenUSA!
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