You are almost there…only a few weeks away from your delivery. You may be feeling the joy and excitement of giving birth to a new life but the third trimester of a pregnancy can be physically and emotionally challenging.
The growing baby, its size and position may make you uncomfortable, and you may feel exhausted all the time.
Read on to know the symptoms of third trimester of pregnancy and learn how your baby grows in this stage of pregnancy.
Third Trimester of a Pregnancy
The third trimester is the last stage of pregnancy that starts from week 28 to week 40. After week 37, doctors consider your baby as full term, and you may deliver the baby any time after this week. After week 37, your baby is ready to function on its own.
Your baby starts changing the position and turns its head down. The baby’s head moves down the pelvic area, and it stays in that position for the last two weeks.
You may be excited about your due date, but not all women deliver on the given date. You may go into labour a few days later or earlier than the date. So, do not be disappointed if your due date was uneventful. Be patient and let things happen.
Symptoms of Third Trimester of Pregnancy
- Braxton-Hicks contractions
Braxton-Hicks contractions are mild contractions that you feel in the final weeks of your pregnancy. These warm-up contractions prepare your uterus for labour. The difference between these two contractions is that Braxton-Hicks contractions are not frequent and less intense. Braxton contractions last about 15-30 seconds and subside when you change your position.In case of real labour, the contractions are regular, severe, longer and closer as you near labour.
In case you notice slight bleeding towards the end of pregnancy, it could be a sign that your labour is starting. However, spotting or bleeding can also be due to other serious problems, such as placental abruption, placenta previa or preterm labour. It is best to see your doctor immediately.
- Breast enlargement and leakage
In the third trimester of a pregnancy, you will notice that your breasts are enlarged and grown, and your nipples may start leaking yellowish fluid around your due date. This fluid is the first form of milk called colostrum that nourishes your baby when you breastfeed it.
- Weight gain
As gain weight is one of the symptoms of third trimester of pregnancy, put on extra weight to support pregnancy as per your doctor’s recommendation. However, the additional weight gain includes the mass of your baby, breasts growth, increased blood volume, amniotic fluid and placenta.In the case of overweight, your doctor may ask you to lose a few pounds for a safe pregnancy and delivery.
- Backaches and lower abdomen ache
The weight of your baby starts putting additional pressure on your back and lower abdomen that causes backaches and discomforts around your lower abdomen. Also, as the ligaments loosen and start getting ready for the labour, you may feel more uncomfortable in your hips and pelvis. You may also feel uncomfortable while sleeping and taking deep breaths.So, practice good body and sitting postures, tuck a pillow between your legs while sleeping and wear flat shoes.
- Heartburn and constipation
You may continue to experience heartburn due to the excess production of progesterone hormone. This hormone relaxes the oesophageal muscles that keep the food and acids in the stomach. The hormonal surge also relaxes the muscles that move the digested food through intestines. Therefore, these acids move up and cause heartburn. So, eat smaller meals and avoid citrus fruits and spicy and greasy foods.As the digested food moves slowly through the intestines, it results in slower digestion, and eventually in constipation. So, eat fibre-rich food and drink more fluids to help the digestion process.
- Vaginal discharge
One of the symptoms of third trimester of pregnancy, you will notice more vaginal discharge. If the vaginal discharge soaks your panty liner, see your doctor. Around your due date, you may notice either a blood-stained discharge or a clear and thick discharge. This discharge is your mucus plug, which indicates your cervix is beginning to dilate and getting ready for labour. In the case of a water break, you will see a sudden rush of water/fluid. Immediately see your doctor.
You may feel exhausted all the time carrying the extra weight in the third trimester of pregnancy. Also, with frequent rounds to the bathroom at night, you may not get enough sleep. This may drain you of energy, so, try and get a nap and relax regularly. Once, the baby comes, you may hardly get any time to sleep.
- Frequent Urination & UTI
As the baby turns its head down, it puts extra pressure on your bladder resulting in frequent rounds to the bathroom. You may notice that every time you sneeze, cough or laugh out loudly, urine leaks. Wear a panty liner to absorb the leakage and avoid drinking fluids before going to bed. If you experience pain or burning sensation while urinating, consult with your doctor. It could be due to Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
In your third trimester of pregnancy, you may experience sciatica, a pain that you suffer across the route of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs down from the lower back through hips and buttocks to down your legs. It could be a result of either the growing baby pressing the sciatic nerve or due to the hormonal changes. Try massage, yoga, or other physical therapies to relieve the pain. Once the baby is born, the pain fades away.
- Shortness of breath
In the third trimester of a pregnancy, your uterus expands and sits under the rib cage. This results in less space for the lungs to expand. Thereby, you feel shortness of breath. However, practice deep breathing exercises over the problem.
- Varicose veins
Varicose veins worsen in the final stage of pregnancy. The increased blood flow to your growing baby can result in tiny red veins, called spider veins. Some of the veins may become blue/ purple in colour, and your legs may swell. This is called varicose veins. The condition improves after a few months of delivery.To ease the condition:
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Avoid standing for too long
- Use a stool to rest your legs while sitting
- Be active and move around instead of sitting for too long
- Skin changes & stretch marks
You continue to notice brown patches on your face and brown marks/ lines around your tummy during the third trimester of pregnancy. This is because of the extra production of melanin. Also, in this stage, your skin becomes more sensitive to sunlight. So, stay indoors and avoid going out in hot conditions.You will also see pink/purple/red/ brown stretch marks appearing on your belly, breasts, buttocks and thighs as the baby grows. Yet not every woman gets them.
Emergency Symptoms of Third Trimester of Pregnancy
Get instant medical help if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Heavy bleeding According to Mayo Clinic, your baby gains weight, opens eyes and gets ready to come out. Here is how your baby grows week after week in the 3rd trimester:
- Week 28 – The lungs develop further and become strong to support life once it comes outside. The baby develops reflexes, starts breathing, hiccupping, moving, and sucking. The fine hair (lanugo) and vernix start disappearing, and the body fats make the skin smooth. The muscles become more toned, and the heart and brain development continue. The adrenal glands of the baby produce oestrogen and androgen that stimulate the mother’s hormones to produce milk. Blood flow increases to the placenta to support baby’s growth.
- Week 29 – In this week of third trimester of a pregnancy, the lungs breath in a rhythm and the bone marrow starts red blood cells production. Your baby starts smiling and developing taste buds. The bones harden while the skull remains soft and brainwave activity begins. The baby starts rapid eye movements, and the skin becomes soft.
- Week 30 – The lungs continue to develop, and the bone marrow produces more red blood cells. The brain is further growing to accommodate more brain cells. The nervous system is developed and controls a few body functions. The baby can open and close the eyelids, has taste buds and can react to sounds.
- Week 31 – In this week, the bones are fully developed, but are soft. The brain is developing fast and sending signals. The kidneys and lungs continue to grow. The heart is beating in rhythm, and the baby has developed all the senses – taste, touch, hear and vision. The baby will start smelling only after coming out of the womb. The skin looks smooth, and the fine hair begins to disappear.
- Week 32 – Your baby’s bones harden further, but the skull bones are soft. The lungs are fully developed, and the genitals are grown. In boys, testicles descend to the scrotum, and in girls, the clitoris is developed and is half covered by labia. Hair is growing thicker, and the fingernails and toenails grow till the tips. Taste buds are fully formed, and eyes and ears are fully developed. Skin is smoother, and a thick coat of vernix covers the body.
- Week 33 – In this week, your baby’s limbs are fully developed and are curled up into the chest. The brain and nervous systems are fully developed, and the lungs are fully formed. The skin is smoother, and fat continues to deposit under the skin. Your baby can open and close eyes and can see a little bit.
- Week 34 – The baby kicks get hard this week, and you can see the sucking movements in the scan. The brain is developing, and genitals are growing. Facial features are distinct, and the face is pink coloured. Skin is smooth and covered in vernix. Week 35 – The brain is developing faster and is creating surfactants. The bones are fully developed. The heart vessels, blood vessels and lungs are fully developed. The genitals are fully grown. Fingernails and toenails are extended up to the finger/toe tips.
- Week 36 – The muscles are toned, bones are hard (except skull bones), and the head size is in proportion with the body size. The digestive system can now digest breast milk. Limbs, ears, eyes and facial features are fully grown. The skin coat gets, vernix, gets thicker and fine hair disappears from the face.
- Week 37 – In this foetal stage, the lungs are fully matured, muscles and bones are formed, and hands are strong enough to get a grip with fingers. The digestive system contains the first poop, meconium. The heart, lungs and genitals are fully formed.
- Week 38 – The umbilical cord is 20-24 inches long; the intestine is full of meconium, and the lungs are breathing in rhythm. Fat deposited under the skin makes the baby look plump. Breast buds develop on the chest. The baby responds to light and sound and firmly grasps with fingers.
- Week 39 – The brain, lungs and digestive system are fully developed while the liver continues to grow. The skin coat vernix is gone, except a few shreds in skin folds, such as underarms, elbow crease and chin.
- Week 40 – Skills and reflexes are developed in the baby this week, and the thin body hair completely disappears. Hair grows thicker and longer, and the nails grow longer. The lungs are matured, and the gut contains meconium (a green sticky substance) that forms the first poop. The baby develops fontanelles on the skull that helps the brain grow further and helps the skull bones move one over other during delivery.
- Eat healthy food that includes grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products.
- Get enough rest and full night sleep.
- Drink sufficient water and other fluids to stay hydrated.
- Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes every day.
- Do not miss your check-ups and get all the tests done.
- Moisturise your dry and stretched skin daily.
- Maintain your weight as suggested.
- Eating heavy meals
- Eating spicy, oily or undercooked food
- Drinking caffeine in excess
- Drinking alcohol
- Smoking tobacco or other abusive substances
- Taking unprescribed medication
- Standing/ sitting for long periods
- Stressing over things