As you approach the third trimester of your pregnancy, you are nearing the end of this remarkable journey. There are certain new symptoms that emerge during this trimester, and there will also be some changes in frequency of doctor visits. You can define the third trimester as months seven through nine.
Though second trimester pregnancy is usually marked by high energy and a reduction in discomfort, the third trimester can be uncomfortable for many women because of the growing baby. During these last three months, baby size may increase by four to six pounds (1.81 - 2.72 kg). This swift change naturally places more stress on the mother’s body.
A few things that will be noticed because of the growing fetus are things like an increase in heartburn, as baby’s weight sits on the gastrointestinal system. Women may also have slight shortness of breath until the last few weeks when the baby drops back down into the pelvis. Backaches are common and the frequent urination of the first trimester is back, with some women experiencing stress incontinence when they laugh or cough. Another change may be an increase in appearance of stretch marks on the belly and the breasts.
Some women in their third trimester have bouts of fluid retention and get puffy ankles and hands. If this becomes significant you should talk to your doctor, but for most women, these symptoms occur at the end of the day and can be helped by elevating the feet. Hemorrhoids are also pretty common in the third trimester and it can help to keep fiber intake high so bowel movements are softer and don’t require significant straining. Drinking plenty of water is important too.
Weight gain can be significant during the third trimester, especially because you can expect a quick gain of weight of the baby. Breasts also get larger, and it may be time toward the eighth month or so to start searching for nursing bras. Some have adjustable cup sizes, which can help you accommodate larger breasts when milk production begins.
Fatigue gets more common as the third trimester comes to a close and moodiness may return too. It’s normal for most women to seriously question whether they will be adequate parents and to feel anxious about the impending birth of a baby. If you feel really anxious or if a couple is having difficulty getting along, visits to a counselor may help to talk things through.
One of the big changes in the third trimester is that you will begin to feel contractions that are not true labor. These are called Braxton-Hicks contractions and they may begin a few months before labor. They can be startling at first, though they’re usually more uncomfortable than they are painful. It may feel as if the pregnant belly has suddenly gotten rigid. These contractions have no set pattern, but if they become very painful, or seem to be frequent, you should contact your obstetrician.
Another change in the final trimester is frequency of doctor visits. During weeks 32-36, you may see your doctor every other week, and some women see doctors once a week. From week 36 on, when you can technically go into labor at any time, you will probably see your doctor once a week. If you have not yet prepared for bringing home your baby, plan to get things organized by week 36.