The third and final trimester of pregnancy is the one where things suddenly start to feel a lot more real!
The chances are you’ll now be on a countdown to the big day and busying yourself with preparing your little one’s nursery and packing your hospital bag. You could be packing pink or blue clothes if you’ve had a gender test or perhaps white if it’s going to be a surprise! Preparing for labour can be overwhelming so make sure you use your time wisely during this trimester and spread tasks out to ensure you don’t end up burning out before the big day.
If you are working, by now, you should have a plan in place with your employer regarding maternity leave. Remember, whilst some women choose to wait until the last minute before beginning their maternity leave; you are entitled to request that your absence starts any time after the 29-week mark. Starting your maternity leave a little earlier could be really useful in helping make the last month or two of your pregnancy as relaxed as possible; allowing you to get plenty of rest while you still can.
Most first-time mums embark on antenatal classes at around the 30-week mark to learn more about what lies ahead. The NHS has a directory to allow you to find services local to you but if mobility issues are making travel difficult at this point, don’t despair: there are online antenatal classes available too. For example, Another Place offers free antenatal classes online.
However, as is always the case with general resources, do be aware that the information you read might not be specific to your condition, so it’s always worth speaking to your midwife too. “Some trusts and health boards are actually beginning to phase out physical antenatal classes and are moving them online, so it’s worth checking your own Trust’s way of doing things,” explains specialist midwife Lauren Kearney.
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Coping with your worries
With your due date drawing near, this trimester can be the most exciting time, but it’s worth being aware of the potential impact on your mental health too. Many women can find the thought of bringing a new baby into the world a little overwhelming, and those with arthritis might have additional worries around coping with labour or taking care of a newborn whilst managing a chronic condition.
Many women find hypnobirthing – a mix of relaxation techniques, visualisation methods and breathing exercises – a really useful strategy in the third trimester. Hypnobirthing can be done by following both in-person or online courses and is designed to give women a much-needed positive outlook towards childbirth and equip them with confidence to embrace this exciting time.
Don’t underestimate the power of your support network too. Hopefully you’ll have plenty of friends and family around you but finding local mums-to-be in your position can help too. Consider downloading an app such as Mush which can help you connect with nearby mums from your phone. Of course, if things get a little too much, don’t be afraid to reach out to your midwife, who will be able to refer you to specialist mental health services for talking therapy or more personalised support.
The birthing plan
Whether you choose to take part in things like antenatal classes or hypnobirthing, you should always ensure you do have a plan in place for the birth itself. Having arthritis doesn’t necessarily limit your childbirth choices but your doctor will be able to work with you on a plan for labour that is right for you, your condition and your baby. The NHS offers a great guide to birthing plans with an adaptable template you can use to suit you. At the same time, do try to remain flexible—since even the best laid plans can quickly change depending on the final weeks of your pregnancy, your baby’s position and your overall health.
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As every woman and every pregnancy is different, there is not just one path to follow. Don’t feel as if you can’t necessarily have the birth you want because of your condition or being consultant-led. “If a patient’s pregnancy goes well and the consultant thinks it’s suitable, she may be transferred to midwifery-led care for the birth,” adds Lauren. However, thinking about these things and having them written into your birth plan ahead of time can make things run much more smoothly.
For a small minority of women who are struggling severely with pain or mobility, this might be the time to talk to their medical team about options such as being scheduled for an elective caesarean section or induced early. “Towards the end of my first pregnancy, I was in so much pain that I was induced at 37 weeks, given an epidural first and had a wonderful labour that was almost pain free!” adds Jessica Taylor.
Of course, Jessica’s story is unique and lots of women won’t require these interventions, but regardless, you’ll need to consider whether you plan to opt for natural pain relief (such as having a water birth or using gas and air) or want to consider options such as an epidural.
No one ever feels 100% prepared to embark on motherhood but we do hope this guide has helped you feel a little more equipped to deal with the wonderful journey that lies ahead. Remember, there are many mums in our community support group, Arthur’s Social, on Facebook. If you’re not already a member, why not request membership today? There’s a lot of love and support available from others who really understand what you’re going through. Browse through the New Mums section of this special Project Mum kit, as well, to find more reassurance that you got this!
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