Your little one is gaining about a half-pound a week, and as your pregnancy enters the home stretch, your body is changing like never before. On average, women add 1 to 2 pounds a week during the third trimester.

"Embrace the changes while doing things in a healthy way," said Dr. Brooke Chalk of Novant Health Coastal OB-GYN Midwifery - New Hanover in Wilmington, who has delivered thousands of babies. "Our bodies are designed to do this."

When your back aches or your legs swell or you have to pee every five minutes, remember that it will all be worth it. Here are some changes to expect during weeks 28 through 40:

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Braxton-Hicks contractions: If you haven't noticed these irregular contractions before, you probably will now. Similar to menstrual cramps, they are prepping you for labor. Unlike true contractions, Braxton-Hicks often stop if you change positions.

How to cope: If you're uncomfortable, empty your bladder. Change positions. Stay hydrated. If you're concerned, take note of the frequency, intensity and duration of your contractions and talk to your health care provider. This story dives deep on the topic.

Sleep: Getting enough sleep — eight to 10 hours a night — won't be easy. Your growing baby puts pressure on your stomach, bowels and bladder. You may get acid reflex or gas. You'll probably wake several times a night to urinate. Leg cramps and restless leg syndrome are common.

How to cope: Avoid caffeine after midday. Take short naps if you ever get the chance. Aim for a consistent bedtime. A warm shower, gentle stretches and a meditation app or personal playlist can help you unwind. (Avoid screens in the hour before bed.) To protect baby, sleep on your left side. Support your bump with pillows and tuck one between your knees — or try sleeping in a recliner. Keep the room cool.

Swollen ankles, feet and fingers: Expect swelling, and it may be worse at day's end. It's caused by your body holding more water than usual.

How to cope: Remove rings if you still can! Go shoe shopping: Many women go up a size — or two — in the final weeks. Wear compression socks and elevate your legs when you watch TV or work at your desk. Avoid standing for long periods but try to take regular walks. Soak your feet in cool water.

Foot exercises can reduce swelling and prevent leg cramps. Bend and stretch your foot up and down 30 times or rotate each foot eight times in each direction. It may sound counterintuitive, but staying hydrated helps your body get rid of excess water.

Call your clinician ASAP if you have a sudden increase in swelling. This can be a sign of a dangerous complication called preeclampsia. Here's one mother's story.

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Varicose veins and hemorrhoids: Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that you can see under the skin. They're usually found in the legs, genitals and rectum— (hemorrhoids are varicose veins in and around the anus). If your mother or grandmother got these, you probably will too. Fortunately, they often improve after you deliver.

How to cope: Avoid crossing your legs when seated, raise your feet often and move around. Eat a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of liquid (80 to 100 ounces of water a day) to prevent constipation that can lead to hemorrhoids. An ice pack, witch hazel pads or soak in a warm tub can provide relief.

Back pain: As your uterus grows, your center of gravity changes and your abdominal muscles weaken, straining your back and joints. Backache is one of the most common complaints during the final stages of pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

How to cope: Wear a belly band, a stretchy belt-type garment that cradles your bump to redistribute your baby's weight over your abdomen and lower back. Ask if a physical therapist can show you stretches and exercises to do at home.

Skin changes: Dry skin and acne are common during pregnancy, but women may see some unusual skin conditions as well.

PUPPS is an itchy, hive-hike rash that sometimes forms in the stretch marks on your belly and spreads. It's harmless and usually goes away after delivery.

A liver problem called cholestasis of pregnancy causes severe itching — usually on the palms of hands and soles of feet.

How to cope: Moisturize. If you get acne, ask your doctor which cleansers and treatments are safe. Over-the-counter itch cortisone cream often helps with PUPPS, but see your doctor if you have symptoms of cholestasis, because it may pose a risk to your baby.

Discharges: Your breasts may leak colostrum in preparation for breastfeeding. Expect an increase in white-colored vaginal discharge, which may contain more mucus. Stinging or strong odor are signs of infection.

Hair: Your tresses may be their best ever, but new hair may sprout where you don't want it — your face or neck, for example. Waxing, tweezing and shaving are all OK. Hair growth should be back to normal about six months after delivery.

You'll be seeing your health care provider more frequently now. Ask questions. Share your concerns. And remember this:

"The vast majority of women," Chalk said, "Are going to have an uncomplicated pregnancy and a healthy baby."