Week-by-week guide to pregnancy
Our week-by-week pregnancy guide is full of essential information. From advice on writing a birth plan to what to expect at antenatal classes, you'll find it all here.
Week 41 and over – your 3rd trimester
It's not unusual to go past your due date, try to be patient and use this extra time to relax with your feet up.
What's happening in my body?
It's usually fine to go over by a week or so without any extra risks. However about 10 or 12 days after your due date, there is some evidence to suggest the placenta starts to work less well. Your care providers will discuss the best ways forward with you, which could involve extra monitoring or induction.
You might be offered a membrane sweep to start with. This is where your midwife or doctor sweeps their finger around inside you and separates your cervix from the membranes around your baby. The idea is to stimulate hormones that could bring on your contractions.
Labour may then start within 24 to 48 hours. However you may need a couple of sweeps to get going, and it doesn't work for everyone.
Around 1 in 5 births are induced, which means that drugs are used to get the labour going.
You might be offered a membrane sweep first - this can feel uncomfortable, but it doesn't harm you or the baby.
A drug called prostaglandin is then used to open up the cervix and get contractions going. It's put into the vagina as a gel or tablet. It can also be delivered through a pessary, which looks like a mini tampon and releases the drug over 24 hours.
You may need to have your waters broken if they do not break naturally. You may also be offered a drip containing another drug called syntocinon if the labour needs to be speeded up.
There's a lot to consider when you're offered an induction, so ask as many questions as you like. Here are a few things to consider:
- there could be medical reasons why it's important for your baby to be delivered sooner rather than later
- induction can often avoid the need for a caesarean
- it could be more painful than a spontaneous delivery - you may end up with an assisted delivery using forceps (which are a bit like tongs) or a ventouse (which is a special suction cup)
3rd trimester pregnancy symptoms (at 41+ weeks)
You could be feeling very frustrated, but try to stay calm as that's best for you and the baby.
Your signs of pregnancy could also include:
- painless contractions around your bump, known as Braxton Hicks contractions
- sleeping problems (week 19 has information about feeling tired)
- stretch marks (read about stretch marks on week 17's page)
- swollen and bleeding gums (week 13 has information about gum health during pregnancy)
- pains on the side of your baby bump, caused by your expanding womb ("round ligament pains")
- piles (read about piles on week 22's page)
- indigestion and heartburn (week 25 talks about digestive problems)
- bloating and constipation (read about bloating on week 16's page)
- leg cramps (week 20 explains how to deal with cramp)
- feeling hot
- swollen hands and feet
- urine infections
- vaginal infections (see week 15 for vaginal health)
- darkened skin on your face or brown patches – this is known as chloasma or the "mask of pregnancy"
- greasier, spotty skin
- thicker and shinier hair
You may also experience symptoms from earlier weeks, such as:
- mood swings (week 8's page has information on mood swings)
- morning sickness (read about dealing with morning sickness on week 6's page)
- weird pregnancy cravings (read about pregnancy cravings on week 5's page)
- a heightened sense of smell
- sore or leaky breasts (read about breast pain on week 14's page)
- a white milky pregnancy discharge from your vagina and light spotting (seek medical advice for any bleeding)
What does my baby look like?
The average baby is now around 3 to 4kg. We cannot be too precise, but imagine that there's a small pumpkin or a watermelon sitting in your stomach. The fast period of growth is now over. Your baby should be chubby enough and mature enough to survive outside the uterus (womb) without any assistance.
Overdue babies tend to have red, dry and peeling skin. This is usually because they've lost their vernix, which is the greasy layer that stops their skin from drying out in the amniotic fluid. Don't be tempted to moisturise your baby's rough skin, as it could make it even worse. The red layer will peel off after a few days, without any help, revealing perfect skin underneath.
This week you could also...
It's a good time to tone up your pelvic floor muscles. Gentle pelvic floor exercises can help to prevent leakage when you laugh, sneeze or cough. Get the muscles going by pretending that you're having a wee and then stopping midflow.
Do your best to stop smoking, give up alcohol and go easy on the tea, coffee and anything else with caffeine. Ask your midwife or GP for support if you need it.
To keep bones and muscles healthy, we need vitamin D. From late March/early April to the end of September, most people make enough vitamin D from sunlight on their skin. However, between October and early March, you should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement because we cannot make enough from sunlight.
Some people should take a vitamin D supplement all year round, find out if this applies to you on the NHS website. You just need 10 micrograms (it's the same for grown-ups and kids). Check if you're entitled to free vitamins.
Get moving! It's recommended that you do 150 minutes of exercise a week while pregnant. You could start off with just 10 minutes of daily exercise - perhaps take a brisk walk outside. Check out Sport England's #StayInWorkOut online exercises (scroll to the pregnancy section). Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
There's no need to eat for 2. Now you're in the 3rd trimester, you may need an extra 200 calories a day, but that's not much. It's about the same as 2 slices of wholemeal toast and margarine.
How are you today? If you're feeling anxious or low, then talk to your midwife or doctor who can point you in the right direction to get all the support that you need. You could also discuss your worries with your partner, friends and family.
You may be worried about your relationship, or money, or having somewhere permanent to live. Don't keep it to yourself. It's important that you ask for help if you need it.
Having another baby is probably the last thing on your mind! However now is a good time to start planning what type of contraception you would like to use after your baby is born. Getting pregnant again could happen sooner than you realise and too short a gap between babies is known to cause problems. Talk to your GP or midwife to help you decide.