Congratulations! You’re days away from entering your third trimester!

You may be starting to become uncomfortable going about your day and sleeping at night. Your belly is stretching and should only get bigger as you go through this final stage of pregnancy. You may still be feeling the symptoms from the first two trimesters, plus some new ones.

Don’t worry, though. Feeling uncomfortable is expected. It is essential to know what else you should expect over the next 12 to 14 weeks as your body changes and your baby starts rapidly maturing in these final months.

26 weeks pregnant: What to expect

  • You’re still experiencing some symptoms from your first and second trimesters, but expect new symptoms with the start of the third trimester.
  • You might start to find breathing a bit more challenging as your baby grows.
  • You can expect a few more bathroom trips during the day and night.
  • Your baby is growing: They formed their lungs, grew hair, and started sleeping and waking regularly.
  • Your doctor will screen you for gestational diabetes.
  • You’ll want to keep your healthcare team informed of anything out of the ordinary and seek help for your symptoms (including any concerns about your mental health).
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Illustration by Alyssa Kiefer

Here are some other ways your baby is growing:

  • Hand and startle reflexes have developed.
  • Lungs are formed but not working yet.
  • Baby sleeps and wakes regularly.
  • If there are testicles, they’ll move from the abdomen into the scrotum.
  • If there’s a uterus and ovaries, they’ll start to be in place.

How is your baby developing?

With each exciting trimester, your baby continues to develop, hitting several growth milestones along the way.

At 26 weeks, you are in the middle of the sixth month of your pregnancy. This is when baby develops blood cells, taste buds, eyebrows, and eyelashes, according to Planned Parenthood. Hair starts to grow, lungs form, and baby now has footprints and fingerprints.

As your baby grows, they start to store fat and gain some weight. They are now almost 12 inches long and weigh about half a pound. To give you another perspective, your baby is about the size of a head of cabbage.

As you end your second trimester, the symptoms you felt during the past weeks may continue, such as frequent urination.

Here are some other expected symptoms, according to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH):

Braxton-Hicks contractions

However, another symptom that could begin around week 26 is Braxton-Hicks contractions, also known as false labor pains. When the muscles in your uterus tighten and then relax, it causes you to feel some discomfort similar to mild menstrual cramps.

Braxton-Hicks contractions begin in the first trimester of pregnancy, but you may not feel them until the second and third trimester.

There are ways to separate the false labor pains from real labor pains. Here are some characteristics of Braxton-Hicks contractions, per 2021 research:

  • irregular in how long and how intense they feel
  • infrequent and sporadic in occurrence
  • unpredictable
  • more uncomfortable than painful

If this is your first pregnancy, you may find it challenging to decipher actual signs of labor from the false ones. It is always best to check in with your doctor to rule out other causes, when in doubt.

Gestational diabetes

When your body shows a degree of glucose intolerance during pregnancy, this is known as gestational diabetes (GD).

A 2021 article estimates that 2 to 10 percent of pregnancies in the United States are affected by GD. People with GD have an increased risk of developing diabetes years after pregnancy.

Just like with diabetes, there are two kinds of GD. With the first type, you can control your symptoms with lifestyle changes alone, such as diet, exercise, and nutritional counseling. However, with the second type of GD, you may need medication and insulin to control your blood sugar successfully.

During pregnancy, the fluctuations of hormones trigger the body to fight insulin, leading to higher than typical blood sugar levels. So, your doctor may request a glucose tolerance test to screen for GD around this week of pregnancy.

If you are diagnosed with GD, your doctor may monitor you for possible complications that include:

Your doctor may need to keep a closer look at your pregnancy when you become pregnant with more than one baby. To do so, they perform a fetal ultrasound every three weeks to monitor the babies’ growth and anatomy.

Although twin babies may be susceptible to more risks such as early labor or impaired growth, many pregnant people successfully give birth to healthy multiples safely, per 2021 research.

Talk to your baby

Now that you know your baby can hear, add in some extra “talk time” with your belly. No worries if you’ve yet to stock the nursery with children’s books. Any reading, singing, or talking will do.

The relationship between parent and child begins in pregnancy. Additionally, one 2018 study makes the argument that this time is the most critical time to bond with your baby. Children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development may be affected by the time spent together in pregnancy.

The same study provided evidence that anxiety and depression elevate during pregnancy because you may worry about your pregnancy, the health of your baby, and your health. Communicating with your fetus is excellent to help curb worry and start bonding.

If you want to also strengthen your baby’s bond with your partner, try to schedule additional talk time between your partner and your belly.

In 2021, researchers theorized that the father’s or partner’s role in bonding and support is essential. You’ll also need their affection, care, and concern during this vulnerable period.

Plus, regularly scheduled storytime or music sessions are great excuses to slow down and enjoy this special time.

Eat well, move more

Maintaining a nutrient-dense diet is very important to the health of your pregnancy and baby. According to the OWH, your body needs more:

However, the phrase “eating for two” is just a pregnancy myth. Instead, doctors recommended you be mindful that the food you eat is your baby’s primary source of nutrition. That’s why it’s best to focus on balanced meals and sensible portions.

As you progress in your pregnancy, you may experience more discomfort and insomnia. Although you may not always feel up to it, regular exercise is vital to the health of your pregnancy.

A 2020 study found pregnant women who aimed to walk an estimated 10,000 steps per day had fewer insomnia symptoms and felt they had a better quality of life in their last trimester.

Be on the lookout for contractions, which can signify preterm labor. If you feel what you think is a contraction, don’t rush to the hospital just yet. Keep in mind you may be experiencing the previously mentioned Braxton-Hicks contractions.

There are other signs that you should call your doctor during pregnancy, per the OWH. These include:

You’re almost to your third and final trimester of pregnancy. Becoming a parent can be one of life’s greatest joys.

When you take care of yourself and your baby throughout your pregnancy, you are doing everything you can to ensure you have a happy and healthy pregnancy, baby, and delivery.