As soon as you enter the 28th week of your pregnancy, you are officially in the third and last trimester.
In weeks 28 through 40, fetal development continues. The baby inside your womb will open his or her eyes and gain more weight. By the end of this trimester, the average baby will be 18 to 20 inches long and weigh about 7 pounds.
Entering the third trimester also means the end of your pregnancy is near and soon you will be holding your baby in your arms!
But just as the first two trimesters have specific challenges, the third trimester does as well. The third trimester of pregnancy can be physically and emotionally challenging, and you may have to deal with lots of discomforts.
Here are the top 10 discomforts of the third trimester of pregnancy.
Backaches are a common complaint among pregnant women, especially when they are in the third trimester.
The hormonal changes in the body that occur during pregnancy relax the connective tissue that holds your bones in place, especially in the pelvic area. These changes can take a toll on your back and lead to backaches during the third trimester.
Plus, the extra weight you’ve gained is putting added pressure on your back, making it feel achy and sore. You also may feel discomfort in your pelvis and hips, as the ligaments loosen to prepare for labor.
A 2017 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Anesthesiology reports that low back pain was more frequent during the second trimester of pregnancy, but it is also prevalent during the first and third trimester (1).
To ease the pressure on your back, practice good posture. Always sit up straight and use a chair that provides good back support. Sleeping on your side with a pillow tucked between your legs can help.
Also, you can consider wearing a support belt under and over your belly to take some of the weight off your hips and back.
Swelling in the body, especially in your face, ankles and legs, is common during the last trimester of pregnancy.
The body produces more blood volume during pregnancy. At the same time, the growing uterus puts pressure on the large veins that return blood to your heart. This in turn allows all the extra fluid to pool in your lower limbs, leading to swelling.
The swelling, also called edema, resolves on its own soon after the birth of your baby.
In the meantime, to reduce swelling in the lower extremities, put your feet up on a stool whenever you sit and keep your feet elevated while you sleep.
A study published in the IOSR Journal of Nursing and Health Science in 2016 reports that leg elevation and water immersion are necessary to alleviate edema in the lower extremities during pregnancy (2).
To help reduce the swelling, you can immerse your feet in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes daily.
If you notice a sudden onset of swelling, see your doctor immediately. It may be a sign of preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication.
3. Frequent Urination
During the third trimester of pregnancy, another common concern is increased urination. You may need to visit the bathroom more often than usual.
Frequent urination happens as the growing baby’s head presses or rests on the bladder. Also, as the volume of blood in the body increases during pregnancy, it causes the kidneys to process extra fluid that ends up in your bladder.
Also, you may have difficulty emptying your bladder completely when urinating, thus increasing the need to visit the bathroom more often.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about this irritating problem. It will stop after delivery. In the meantime, don’t stop drinking water to avoid frequent urination, as dehydration can cause more problems like contractions, dizziness and lightheadedness.
During the last trimester, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. This usually happens because it’s difficult to get comfortable due to your growing belly. Also, frequent nighttime urination affects sleep quality.
In fact, 64 percent of women suffer from insomnia in late pregnancy, according to a study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology in 2018 (3).
It is important to take insomnia during pregnancy seriously. A 2014 study published in the Medical Science Monitor reports that poor third-trimester subjective sleep quality is a risk factor for postpartum depression (4).
To sleep better, try to find the position that’s most comfortable for you to sleep in. You can also try a variety of body pillows to make you feel comfortable.
5. Braxton Hicks Contractions
As your pregnancy progresses in the third trimester, you may start feeling mild contractions, known as Braxton Hicks contractions. It’s nothing to worry about. These mild contractions are warm-ups to prepare your uterus for the real labor to come.
These mild contractions are not as intense as real labor contractions. They are irregular and infrequent and usually last about 15 to 30 seconds. They go away when you change positions.
You can use these contractions as a chance to practice breathing to help you prepare for the real childbirth.
Remember to contact your doctor if the contractions become painful or regular.
Throughout pregnancy, some women can suffer from heartburn. By the third trimester, it’s more common than not.
Heartburn affects up to 80 percent of women in the third trimester, according to a 2008 study published in Cochrane Database and Systematic Reviews.
The reasons for the increase in symptoms during pregnancy are not well understood, but the effects of pregnancy hormones on the lower esophageal sphincter and gastric clearance are thought to play a part (5).
Avoid taking heartburn medicine during pregnancy because it can have lasting effects on the unborn baby.
Instead, mix 2 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar mixed in a glass of water or juice twice a day. Also, eat small, frequent meals and eat slowly and chew your food well.
Raising the head of your bed by a few inches can help prevent heartburn at night.
7. Shortness of Breath
You might get winded easily and experience shortness of breath during your third trimester.
Rising hormones, particularly progesterone, during pregnancy directly affect your lungs and stimulate the respiratory center in your brain. This can add pressure on your lungs and make it more difficult to breathe.
Experiencing shortness of breath from time to time is fine, but more frequent shortness of breath is not good.
A 2015 study published in Clinical Cardiology reports that significant shortness of breath during an otherwise normal pregnancy is associated with significant echo cardio-graphic findings that may suggest a subtle cardiac involvement (6).
Practice good posture to give your lungs more room to expand. Also, doing light exercises can help with shortness of breath. See your doctor if the shortness of breath is frequent or doesn’t improve.
8. Breast Enlargement
As your pregnancy progresses, it is obvious that you’ll see a change in your breast size.
The ongoing hormonal changes in the body are preparing your breasts to feed your baby. Mother’s milk is the best and the first food for your baby.
Along with increases in your breast size, there may be a yellowish fluid leaking from your nipples that occurs closer to your due date. This substance is known as colostrum.
To deal with the increasing breast size and soreness, you can try wearing good fitting bras. Avoid wearing tight bras, as they can inhibit milk production.
The energetic feeling that you probably had in your second trimester will go away as you reach your third trimester.
The rising level of progesterone makes you tire more easily. Plus, the burden of carrying extra weight, frequent urination at night, insomnia and dealing with the anxiety of preparing for a baby can all take a toll on your energy level.
Eat healthy food and get regular exercise to keep your energy level up. Take small naps during the daytime and sit down often and relax for a few minutes.
Also make sure to ask for help whenever you need it.
10. Spider and Varicose Veins
During pregnancy, there is increased blood circulation in the body. This can cause tiny red veins, known as spider veins, to appear on your face, neck and arms.
There may also be gnarled, enlarged veins known as varicose veins on your legs. Some pregnant women even experience painful, itchy varicose veins in their rectal area (hemorrhoids).
For painful varicose veins, exercise and elevate your legs frequently to reduce the pain.
To prevent hemorrhoids, increase your fiber and water intake. To ease the pain of hemorrhoids, apply witch hazel pads to the painful area.
Spider and varicose veins will improve within a few months after your baby is born.
- Low back pain during pregnancy. Brazilian Journal of Anesthesiology (English Edition). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0104001416300276. Published November 25, 2016.
- Effect of Leg Elevation versus Water Immersion on Leg Edema in Third Trimester of Pregnancy. IOSR Journal of Nursing and Health Science (IOSR-JNHS). http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jnhs/papers/vol5-issue6/Version-1/A0506010109.pdf.
- Sixty-four percent of women suffer from insomnia in late pregnancy. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180129131340.htm. Published January 29, 2018.
- Poor Sleep Quality of Third-Trimester Pregnancy is a Risk Factor for Postpartum Depression. Medical Science Monitor : International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4280053/. Published 2004.
- Interventions for heartburn in pregnancy. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4071443/. Published 2008.
- Shortness of Breath During Pregnancy: Could a Cardiac Factor Be Involved? Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/clc.22452.