Pregnancy – The Third Trimester

Congratulations Mommy, you have now entered the third trimester of pregnancy. This post covers everything that you need to know about body changes, baby’s development and symptoms.

Pregnancy – The Third Trimester

The third trimester is the last stretch before giving birth to your little one. During this trimester the fetus develops, grows, and starts changing position to prepare for birth. There is only a few more weeks to go, but it’s also the most challenging period of pregnancy.

Third Trimester of Pregnancy – Fetal Development

Your baby keeps growing, and by the end of the third trimester, most babies are 19-21 inches long and weigh 6-9 pounds. The baby’s head begins moving into the pelvic area facing downwards before giving birth. He will remain in this downward position during the final two weeks of pregnancy. Some of the developments in your baby during the third trimester include:

  • Opening his eyes and seeing
  • Hearing
  • Smiling
  • Sucking on his thumb
  • Crying
  • The brain continues developing
  • The kidneys and lungs mature
  • Gaining about 16% of body fat
  • Gaining muscle tone
  • Toe and fingernails
  • A baby boy’s testes descend into his scrotum
  • A protective layer covers the baby’s skin (vernix caseosa)
  • The soft body hair that started to develop during the second trimester (lanugo) begins falling out and will be completely gone at week 40.

Third Trimester of Pregnancy – Body Changes You Can Expect

the third trimester

  • Abdominal aches – as the fetus grows, it takes up more space in your belly which causes some discomfort and aches. You might find it challenging to get comfortable at bedtime. At times you might have issues with breathing.
  • Backache – the additional weight gain places added pressure on your lower back. You might also experience discomfort in your hip and pelvis areas when your ligaments loosen to prepare the body for giving birth.
  • Bleeding – you might notice spotting or light bleeding towards the end of your third trimester which can signal that labour has begun. Always consult with your doctor when you notice spotting or bleeding as it can be a sign of more serious underlying issues like placenta previa, preterm labour, or placental abruption.
  • Braxton-Hicks contractions – they happen to prepare the uterus for birth. They are less intense than real contractions and are not as close apart. With real contractions, they will slowly become closer together and increase in intensity.
  • Breast leaking and enlargement – your breasts get larger and you might notice a yellowish fluid leaking from your breasts (colostrum). This is excellent nourishment for your baby during the first few days after giving birth.
  • Clumsiness – you might have issues with balance and clumsiness during this trimester due to the extra weight in your belly region.
  • Vivid dreams – it’s normal to have nightmares or vivid dreams which are caused by hormonal changes in the body.
  • Vaginal discharge – you will notice vaginal discharge which is normal. Just keep an eye on it – if the flow is heavy and soaks through your panty liners, consult with your doctor. Close to your due date, you might notice a clear, thick, or slightly blood-tinged discharge which is the mucus plug. This means your cervix started dilating to prepare your body for birth. A sudden rush of fluid might be a sign that your water has broken. However, most women’s water breaks after contractions begun.
  • Regular urinating – now that the baby’s head presses on your bladder and has grown in size, you will feel the need to urinate more often. You might even urinate a bit when sneezing, laughing, or coughing. To try and avoid leakage and relieve some of the pressure, you can wear panty liners, go to the bathroom regularly, and avoid drinking fluids close to bedtime.  Whenever you experience a burning sensation or pain, contact your doctor immediately as it might be a sign of urinary tract infection.
  • Constipation and heartburn – cause by the additional production of progesterone.
  • Fatigue – during the second trimester, the fatigue subsided somewhat. However, during the third trimester, the extra weight, some anxiety about birth, and waking up during the night to urinate more frequently can all take its toll on your energy levels. Try to take regular naps whenever possible, because once your little one arrives, sleep deprivation will be at the order of the day.
  • Hemorrhoids – the extra weight during pregnancy and additional blood flow can elevate the pressure in the veins surrounding your backside (varicose veins). A warm bath (not hot) and some pregnancy-safe over-the-counter ointment can offer some relief.
  • Sciatica – some women experience nerve pain shooting from their lower backs to their buttocks and down their legs because of baby’s weight pressing against the sciatica nerve. Physical therapy, massage, or yoga can bring some comfort.
  • Shortness of breath – when the uterus expands it rises upwards landing just under the rib cage, which leaves less room for the lungs to expand. Propping your shoulders and head with extra pillows at nighttime can make breathing a little easier.
  • Varicose veins – excess blood that is sent to your baby can cause spider/varicose veins, but usually goes away after giving birth. You can prevent them from getting worse by elevating your legs, moving around every now and again, and wearing a support hose.
  • Stretch marks – you might notice them on your thighs, breasts, and buttocks.
  • Swelling – You might experience bloating, and notice swelling in your face and ankles due to extra fluid retention. To lower swelling, elevate your feet while sitting for long periods or sleeping. If the swelling rises too rapidly, seek medical advice, because it could signal preeclampsia (especially when labour is approaching).
  • Weight gain – a good rule of thumb is to gain 0.5 or 1 pound each week during the third trimester.  The extra weight will make up for amniotic fluid, baby’s weight, placenta, increase fluid volume, blood, and extra breast tissue. So, don’t worry too much about weight gain.


Pregnancy – The First Trimester

Pregnancy – The Second Trimester

Final Thoughts

The third trimester can be challenging but soon your baby will be born and it will all be forgotten. To ease some of the added pressure on your lower back, you can practice good posture by sitting up straight on a chair that offers sufficient back support. Try sleeping with a pillow tucked between your legs and wear comfortable shoes with sufficient arch support.

Remember, within a few weeks you will be welcoming the new addition to your family. Be good to yourself, take it easy, and keep reminding yourself that you’re doing a great job! Good luck for the last stretch.

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