Your nursery is (mostly) finished, the drawers are filled with neatly folded onesies, and your family is brimming with excitement to meet your sweet baby. Congratulations! You’ve finally reached the third trimester, and that means one thing: baby is on the way! It’s time to dot your ‘i’s’ and cross your ‘t’s’ because your baby will be here in a matter of weeks. At this point, it’s probably getting a little tricky to sleep, tie your shoes, and maybe even go up the stairs, but the good news is, your sleepless nights will soon be filled with sweet baby snuggles.
Celebrating Your Last Trimester
As you near baby’s arrival, there are a lot of things you probably want to know. What position is my baby in? What are my pain management options during delivery? What is Strep B? How long will I stay in the hospital? The third trimester has a way of bringing out all the questions and all the emotions. To help navigate the last trimester, we had a chat with Heather S. Schwartzberg, MD, of Roper St. Francis Physician Partners OB/GYN.
What to Expect from Your 36 Week Visit (and Beyond)
Up to this point you’ve had regular doctor visits, but they are about to increase in frequency. Dr. Schwartzberg told us that during the third trimester, you’ll start having OB appointments every two weeks, and then at 36 weeks, those appointments will become once per week. During one of these visits, you’ll be given a Tdap vaccine to protect your newborn from whooping cough (pertussis).
At your 36-week visit, you will be tested for group B strep. The test is a vaginal swab to detect colonization (not infection) of group B strep bacteria in the birth canal. Thirty percent of women will be positive for group B strep (including yours truly). While group B strep is not a problem for adults, a baby who is exposed to the bacterium during birth through the birth canal can get very sick. Therefore, IV penicillin is given to group B strep-positive moms when they arrive at the hospital for labor and delivery.
Also, during your 36-week visit, an exam will be performed to determine the baby’s position. If the baby is breech (head toward mom’s head), you will be given two options: leave as is for baby to flip on her own (C-section is generally required if baby doesn’t flip by the time of delivery) or try an external ‘version’ in the Labor and Delivery unit to flip baby. When successful, ‘version’ allows for a vaginal birth.
Preparing a Birth Plan & Classes You Can Take
Speaking of delivery now is also a good time to discuss your birth plan with your healthcare provider, outlining your preferences for labor and delivery. Dr. Schwartzberg commented that your options are natural (unmedicated), epidural, or IV pain meds, which take the edge off but are not as numbing as an epidural. Let your provider know your preference ahead of time, keeping in mind that you can always change your mind. Your OB nurse will monitor your pain level throughout labor and work with you to be sure you’re as comfortable as possible.
Somewhere in between those doctor visits, it’s a good idea to schedule a few classes to help you and your partner prepare. Roper St. Francis Healthcare offers several classes that are quite popular with local moms. Their ‘Childbirth Prep’ series outlines childbirth techniques as well as how to manage labor and specific emergencies. Another one that is extremely beneficial is the ‘Baby Bootcamp’ which walks you through everything from your first diaper change to keeping baby safe.
Dr. Schwartzberg strongly encourages everyone to consider breastfeeding, especially considering the COVID pandemic. Roper St. Francis offers a ‘Breastfeeding Basics’ course that is designed to equip you as a mom with what you need to know to get you started. In my personal experience, the first nurses and lactation consultants you encounter will be vital in getting you on the right path, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
To access all of Roper St. Francis’ classes and pregnancy resources, download the My RSFH Baby app! This handy app has a kick-counter, journal for pregnancy notes, and health tracker in addition to their articles helping you prepare for baby. Dr. Schwartzberg recommends utilizing the app to track kicks, and when the time comes, contractions.
Ah. Contractions! You’re probably wondering what your baby’s entrance into the world will look like. What should you do if your water breaks? When should you call your OB? Dr. Schwartzberg recommends to “just come on in” when: you are having contractions every five minutes for one hour and/or experience a gush of fluid, have heavy vaginal bleeding, or baby is not moving around as usual. Some OB’s may advise you to call, and if they do, by all means, follow their protocol.
Once the baby arrives you can plan to stay in the hospital between 24-72 hours. For a vaginal delivery, 24 to 48 hours after delivery is standard. For a C-section, 36 to 72 hours after delivery.
Baby’s Here…Now What?
You’re about to meet your baby! As you look back and reflect on the past nine months, you should be proud of yourself and the mother you are about to become. Roper St. Francis Healthcare is proud to partner with you every step of the way from your first ultrasound to your baby’s first breath.
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