The third trimester can be a time of contradictions – you may be more excited than ever for your little one to arrive while also feeling extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to deal with tough physical symptoms while also still staying positive about your approaching due date.
How Your Baby is Growing
At the beginning of the third trimester, you baby will weigh a little over 2 pounds and measure about 15 inches long. He’ll continue to grow rapidly in the coming weeks – the average newborn weighs about 7 and a half pounds and is about 20 inches in length. In between the start and finish of the trimester, however, some key developmental changes take place. Eyelashes grow, eyesight improves and fingernails and toenails appear. You baby even starts having dreams during this time. At 37 weeks, you’re full-term, meaning that the baby’s lungs would work fine if he or she was born at this point. However, waiting till 40 weeks to arrive is ideal for their overall health.
The following are some of the common physical symptoms experienced by women in their third trimester of pregnancy:
- Weight gain: By your due date, you will have gained about 25 to 35 pounds total since before your pregnancy.
- Breast growth: Women can gain up to 2 pounds of breast tissue during their pregnancy. Near your due date, you may notice your nipples leaking a yellowish fluid – this is colostrum and it will nourish your newborn once she arrives.
- Backaches: Backaches are common during this time since pregnancy hormones relax the joints in the pelvic area, placing extra pressure on the back. Massages, heating pads or ice packs can help manage pain. Be sure to wear shoes with good arch support.
- Vaginal discharge: Vaginal discharge may be heavier than normal near the end of your pregnancy. If you saturate a panty liner within a few hours, however, call your doctor.
- Spider and varicose veins: The increase in circulation can cause tiny red veins called spider veins to appear on the skin. Blue or reddish lines beneath the surface of the skin called varicose veins may also develop. Varicose veins in the rectum (hemorrhoids) are also a potential issue. Elevate your legs and wear supportive stockings to relieve painful varicose veins. Drink lots of fluids and get plenty of fiber to avoid hemorrhoids.
- Frequent urination: Your baby can put pressure on your bladder and cause you to leak urine or feel like urinating more often. Be sure to see a doctor if you have any signs of a urinary tract infection.
- Swelling: An expanding uterus puts more pressure on your veins, which can lead to swollen ankles, feet, legs, arms or hands. Meanwhile, fluid retention could cause slight puffiness in your face and eyelids. Try lying down or swimming to reduce swelling.
- Heartburn: Your growing uterus can also lead to heartburn. Avoid certain foods (fried, citrus and spicy) and drinks (carbonated or citrus juice) to help. Also, eat smaller meals and drink plenty of fluids.
- Shortness of breath: As the uterus pushes on the diaphragm, you may experience shortness of breath more easily. Good posture can help with this symptom.
- Braxton Hicks contractions: Weak and irregular contractions are common during this time.
Anxiety about childbirth is normal at this stage – taking a childbirth class may help ease your mind. Many expectant moms and dads start to worry about impending parenthood during this trimester as well. Planning ahead by getting supplies, reading books and talking to other parents can help you feel more prepared.
Appointments & Checkups
Checkups with your doctor will likely become more frequent in your third trimester, starting with appointments every other week around week 32 and weekly at week 36. Screenings for certain health conditions and monitoring your baby’s growth and heart rate are the focus of these checkups. Once it gets close to your due date, the doctor may check your cervix to see if it has started to dilate at all. Always ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Preparing for Childbirth
During the third trimester, expectant parents should lay out their birth plan. Discuss with your doctor where and how you’d prefer to give birth, including whether you want medication administered. Even if you do have a plan, however, remember that unexpected things can happen and it’s okay if you don’t follow the plan exactly. It’s also helpful to have a bag packed and ready to go to the hospital at a moment’s notice.
Women who are worried about the labor and delivery should read up on what happens during birth to ease their worries. It may also help to talk to other moms who’ve been through childbirth in the past. Communicate your needs, hopes and worries to your partner and ask for support when you need it. You may also be able to take a tour of the birth center or hospital in advance to help you prepare.
The third trimester can be full of excitement, anxiety or even both at the same time. Preparing for your baby’s arrival and talking to your doctor about any concerns can help make this an enjoyable stage of your pregnancy.