An Overview of The Third Trimester of Pregnancy
Congratulations! You’ve made it through to your third trimester! The final trimester runs from the beginning of the 28th week of pregnancy until the time you deliver (around 40 weeks pregnant). Many women describe it as that time when you’re so close, yet so far away from finally meeting your baby!
So, what can you expect in the final 13 weeks of pregnancy? Which signs and symptoms are normal? And which are cause to get in touch with the doctor? What developments will your baby have? And what are the final things to do before he or she finally arrives?
We have the answer to all these questions and more in our overview of the third trimester of pregnancy. Why not make yourself a nice cup of herb tea, put those aching feet up, and read on?
Common Symptoms in the Third Trimester of Pregnancy
In the final trimester, your body and your baby go through a period of rapid change. Some of the most common late pregnancy symptoms include:
Uterine cramping is common in all of the stages of pregnancy and the third trimester is no exception. If the cramping can be eased by movement, changing positions, or a heat pack, there’s probably nothing to worry about. If the cramping is intense or persistent, it could be more serious.
The energy burst of trimester two wears off and you feel totally exhausted most of the time. Pregnancy fatigue is caused by a mixture of pregnancy hormones, dealing with symptoms, and the extra weight you’re carrying. Oh, and the hard work your body’s doing to grow a baby!
You’re SO tired but you just CAN’T sleep! Sorry, but pregnancy insomnia is one of the most common complaints of late pregnancy. Our only advice is to get what rest you can when you can. If you’re still working, consider when it’s the right time to start your maternity leave – you do need to be well rested before Baby arrives. You could also invest in pregnancy wedges or a body pillow. Read more about pregnancy support products here.
Your growing uterus is putting pressure on your stomach and pushing it up. This often leaves you with that horrible feeling of heartburn or indigestion.
The extra weight you’re carrying makes lower backache inevitable for many women. Staying active and aiming for a twenty-minute walk or yoga session can help to alleviate it.
Your breasts may leak a little as they are making colostrum the thick, creamy milk that comes before breastmilk.
One of the least dignified symptoms of pregnancy – but it happens to almost everyone. Your bladder control will be seriously weakened and, unfortunately, an innocent sneeze will probably be enough to make you pee!
Your skin is stretched pretty thinly to accommodate your growing baby and a few of these tiny skin tears are inevitable. Moisturize daily to minimize stretch marks.
Swollen Ankles and Feet:
Known as pregnancy edema, this symptom is caused by an excess of fluid building up in your tissue. A certain amount of edema is no cause for concern, but if it becomes painful you should consult your professionals.
Braxton Hicks contractions:
In the simplest terms, this symptom is your body practicing for labor. Slight contractions will occur periodically. They can be relieved by moving and shouldn’t actually hurt, so you should be able to tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and the real thing.
Risk Symptoms in the Final Trimester
There are some symptoms that can indicate complications in late pregnancy. Contact your pregnancy professionals right away if you experience:
Puffiness in your hands and face:
While swelling of the ankles and feet is normal, puffiness in the hands and face can be a symptom of pregnancy preeclampsia, which can put your baby at serious risk.
Any severe pain:
If cramping and pains are intense or cannot be alleviated using your normal strategies, they could be a sign of more serious complications, including preeclampsia.
It may mean nothing, or it may mean a serious problem, particularly if accompanied by pain or dizziness. Seek help.
Decreased fetal movement:
Track your baby’s kicks and movements – if you find that there is a dramatic change in the frequency of nature of kicks and movements, you need to get help immediately – it could be a sign of something seriously wrong with your baby.
Possible Signs of Labor
In years gone by, “full term” was considered to be anytime from the end of week 36 of pregnancy. This thinking has changed. Nowadays, your baby won’t be considered full term until 39 weeks and modern medical experts confirm that the closer to 40 weeks you go, the better. But, you’re body doesn’t always listen to “medical wisdom”, so it pays to look out for signs that labor might be starting. Sometimes your body plays tricks on you but the following symptoms are the signs of actual labor. Get in touch with your professionals if:
There is a “bloody show”:
If you see a thick discharge streaked with pink, brown, or red in your panties, it may be the bloody show – an early sign of labor.
You begin to have contractions:
You can tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and actual contractions because Braxton Hicks are less painful, less regular, and dissipate when you move around. Real contractions increase in intensity and regularity.
Your water breaks:
When the baby is nearly ready to be born, the amniotic sac will rupture – this process is informally called water breaking. The fluid will be straw colored and there will be a lot of it, so you’ll know that it’s not vaginal discharge. Remember that a loss of bladder control can be a symptom of late pregnancy. Sometimes, women lose the sensation of urination and can confuse an accident of this kind with the waters breaking. You should be able to tell the difference by the smell and color of the fluid.
Your Baby’s Development
Your body is putting the final touches on your little miracle and the last three months is a busy time for fetal development. Here’s a little about what’s going on inside your womb:
Make sure you’re getting plenty of calcium in your pregnancy diet because your baby’s bones are doing a whole lot of growing right now. The cartilage that formed earlier in pregnancy is solidifying into bones.
Enhancing the five senses:
By week 32 of pregnancy, your baby will be able to hear the sound of your heartbeat and voice, perceive light and dark, and even taste the food you eat!
Skin, nails, and hair:
Baby will shed the waxy coating (vernox) and soft hair (lanugo) that has protected him or her up until now. The skin will become opaque and fat will form rapidly. The hair he or she will be born with will grow and so will finger and toenails.
The Digestive System:
The Meconium will start to build up in your baby’s digestive system – this will eventually be his or her first poop.
By the time you reach the third trimester, your baby’s little brain is already going a mile a minute and he or she will be trying out all sorts of little tricks. In your late pregnancy ultrasound, you may even catch Baby blinking or maybe even sucking his or her thumb! He or she even dreams! I wonder what about?
Important Advice for the Final Weeks of Pregnancy
To make sure everything’s running as smoothly as possible, keep a third-trimester pregnancy diary and keep track of the following factors:
Track Baby’s movements:
Note down your baby’s movements: count the kicks and record the times of the day. That way, you’ll be able to notify your pregnancy professionals if you notice any changes.
Monitor your weight:
Sudden, rapid, or excessive weight gain (apart from the bump!) are not healthy in the third pregnancy trimester. Monitor your weight carefully and report any changes to your midwife or doctor.
Keep up with regular checkups:
The frequency of your antenatal appointments should increase as you get closer to delivery. Your midwife and doctor will be monitoring your pregnancy health carefully. You may find that you are occasionally forgetful (baby brain!), so make sure that both you and your partner have appointment dates and times noted in your diary.
Stay as active as possible:
There are lots of great reasons to stay active during your third trimester. Keeping pregnancy fatigue and insomnia at bay, improving your mood, and having more stamina for labor, just to name a few. Experts also believe that exercising during pregnancy benefits your baby. Let us help you design a safe and effective late pregnancy workout here.
Third Trimester Pregnancy Checklist
The energy burst of the second trimester has probably worn off and you might be feeling quite tired by now. Take it easy and don’t overdo things. The most important item on your final trimester to-do list should be to relax – you don’t want to put any undue stress on your baby! However, there are still things you can do when you feel up to it. Here are a few ideas:
Make sure you have a car seat and crib:
You’ll need a way to get Baby home from the hospital. Oh, and somewhere for him or her to sleep! Make sure your car seat and crib are safety improved and that you have the car seat installed in your car. Check out our baby gear checklist hare.
Stock up on baby supplies:
Diapers, wipes, blankets, hats and booties, thermometer, breast pads, pram… the list goes on! Now’s a great time to find out what you need for your baby and stock up before the arrival.
Set up the nursery:
A lot of people do this during their “nesting phase” in the second trimester. But, if you haven’t set up your nursery yet, now’s the moment. Just get Hubby to do the heavy work!
Get a pregnancy photo shoot:
Soon your pregnancy will be a distant memory and you’ll be busy being a Mom! Why not have some pictures taken with your husband, partner or family? You’ll be able to look back to this time and also share it with your child when he or she is older.
Pack the hospital bag:
Labor’s just around the corner and it’s a good idea to have your hospital bag packed and ready to go from the beginning of your eighth month. Unsure what to put in? Check out our hospital checklist here.
Create or revise your birth plan:
If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to create your birth plan. This document communicates your wishes and preferences during labor and delivery. If you’ve already created yours, review it carefully to make sure everything’s still relevant. For extra guidance, check out our guide to birth plans.
Fill the freezer:
The first few weeks with a newborn will be exhausting. A casserole in the freezer after a really hard day can feel like winning the lottery. So, when you’re cooking a meal, why not make a double batch and pop half in the freezer?
Sort your budget:
Life is about to change a whole lot and your priorities will be totally different. Have you started putting money away and sorted out a baby budget?
Shop for nursing clothes:
You’ll need a few really good bras and some comfortable nursing clothes that allow easy access for breastfeeding. Check out our buyer’s guide to maternity nursing clothes here.
Learn about your baby’s first year:
How much do you know about what having a newborn baby entails? The sleepless nights of your third trimester are a great time to read up on your baby’s first year.
If you haven’t already, narrow down that list of baby names:
Oliver? Jacqui? Apple? Harry? Doris? Agreeing on baby names can be one of the biggest compromises a couple ever makes. Start narrowing down the list of names you both love (or at the very least can both live with!).
Make contact with friends and family:
Some people tend to get a bit insular during pregnancy and you may realize you haven’t been in touch with the people closest to you for a while. Get on the phone and update friends and family on how you’re going. They’d love to hear from you and you may find you have even less time for a good chat once Baby arrives.
Learn More about Your Pregnancy
The big day is just around the corner! Do you know what to expect when you go into labor? Download one or two of these books by the experts on childbirth and find out more about what you’re about to experience.
Believe it or not, a woman’s pregnancy can be a really hard time for the man in her life, particularly in the uncomfortable third-trimester stages. Feelings of confusion, hopelessness, and anxiety are not uncommon in expectant fathers. Check out these five books on what a guy can do when his wife has a bun in the oven.
This post was an overview of all the symptoms and developments in the third trimester of pregnancy. If you want more detailed information on each of the weeks in your final trimester, check out our week by week pregnancy calendar.
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