Changes in Your Body During Pregnancy – Third Trimester
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The third trimester is the “home stretch” of your pregnancy! As your baby grows, your body will feel even more awkward and heavy. Everyday things—like getting out of bed or rising from a chair—will require extra effort.
Path to improved health
Your body, and your body’s hormones, will affect how you feel during this time.
- The tiredness you felt early in pregnancy may return, making naps a good idea.
- You will feel your baby move, especially at the beginning of this trimester.
- The “nesting instinct” may kick in. You may feel a need to clean the house or finish getting things ready for baby. Take it slow so you don’t wear yourself out
- You might also start to feel more emotional as you prepare for labor, delivery and parenthood.
Your body may experience some physical changes during this trimester.
Fluid retention and slowed blood circulation are to blame for swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, hands and face.
If swelling in your hands and face becomes extreme—especially if it’s accompanied by headache, blurred vision, dizziness and belly pain—contact your healthcare provider. These may be signs of a dangerous condition called pregnancy‑induced hypertension (also called preeclampsia).
Tingling and numbness.
The swelling in your body may press on nerves, resulting in tingling and numbness in the legs, arms and hands. The skin on your belly may feel numb, too, because it is so stretched out.
Tingling and numbness in the hands usually occurs because of carpal tunnel syndrome, which is caused by pressure on a nerve within the wrist. An easy way to relieve some of these symptoms is to wear a “wrist splints” at night when you are sleeping. Fortunately, the problem usually ends after pregnancy.
These are bluish, swollen, sometimes painful veins beneath the surface of the skin. They often show up on the backs of the calves or the inside of the legs.
Varicose veins are caused by:
- Pressure your growing uterus puts on the large veins behind it, which slows blood circulation.
- Pregnancy hormones, which cause the walls of veins to relax and possibly swell.
- Constipation, which makes you strain to pass hard bowel movements.
- Increased fluid retention
These are varicose veins in the rectum. They may stick out of the anus and cause itching, pain and sometimes bleeding. Contact your healthcare provider about taking a stool softener (not a laxative) if you haven’t been doing so already.
Aching back, pelvis and hips
This may have started in the second trimester. The strain on your back will increase as your belly grows larger. Your hips and pelvic area may hurt as pregnancy hormones relax the joints between the pelvic bones in preparation for childbirth. Sleeping with a pillow behind your back may help with the pain.
The muscles and ligaments (tough, rope like bands of tissue) that support the uterus will continue to stretch as your baby grows, and they may be painful.
Shortness of breath
As your uterus grows upward, your lungs will have less room to expand.
More breast growth
Your nipples may leak colostrum. If you breastfeed, this fluid will be your baby’s first food.
More weight gain
You’ll likely add pounds at the beginning of your third trimester. Your weight should even out as you get closer to delivery.
Discharge may increase toward the end of your pregnancy. If you have any fluid leaking or see any blood, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
As the baby grows, your skin will get stretched more and more. This may lead to stretch marks. These can look like small lines on your skin. They often appear on your stomach, breasts, and thighs.
Less fetal movement
As your baby continues to grow, they start running out of room to move around in your uterus, so you might notice fewer movements throughout the day. If you don’t feel your baby move at least 6 times in 2 hours or if you’re concerned about the lack of movement, contact your healthcare provider right away
Things to consider
As you get bigger, you might struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position and find it harder to change positions. Side sleeping will be best. Try to fall asleep on your left side. This will help circulation, which is important for the baby. If you wake up, return to that position before going back to sleep. Putting a pillow between your knees or behind your back may make you comfortable.
Sleeping on your back will be uncomfortable because the weight of your baby presses on the veins in your lower back, slowing the return of blood from the lower body to the heart.
Other things interfering with sleep may include:
- Nasal congestion, caused by increased blood flow to the mucous membranes in the nose and mouth.
- Heartburn, the burning feeling in your lower chest, which may worsen as your uterus crowds your stomach out of its usual position. Ask your healthcare provider if you can take a chewable antacid if needed.
- The need to urinate. This is partly due to hormones. And partly due the fact your growing baby is pushing on your bladder.
- Leg cramps, which may be related to the pressure your uterus puts on the nerves and blood vessels that go to your legs.
- Restless legs syndrome, in which you feel an urge to move your legs, often because of an unpleasant feeling in them.
- Strange dreams, which some women have in the last weeks of pregnancy.
- Your baby’s movements
You might lose the desire for sex, partly because of your size and partly because you’re preoccupied with getting ready for labour, delivery and parenthood. But it’s still OK to have sex, unless your healthcare provider has told you not to.
Talk to your healthcare provider about the signs of labor. They will tell you what to expect and when to call or go to the hospital. But here are some common changes you may notice.
- Your baby may change position, with their head moving down in your pelvis. People might notice your belly is lower and say that you’ve “dropped.”
- Your cervix (the lower end of your uterus) will begin to thin (healthcare providers call this “effacement”) and open (“dilation”).
- Braxton Hicks contractions (tightening of your uterine muscles) may happen more often and become stronger. These are often a sign labor will be starting soon.
- You may have a constant backache and cramping, diarrhea and gas before labor begins.
- If your contractions seem to be happening in a regular pattern, and if the time between contractions starts getting shorter and shorter, you’re probably in labor. True labor contractions are usually more painful than Braxton Hicks contractions. If your contractions are so painful that you can’t talk, contact your healthcare provider.
- Your “water” breaking is another sign of the beginning of labor. This is caused by a tear in the sac that encloses your baby and the amniotic fluid, releasing some of the fluid. Contact your healthcare provider or go to the hospital if you think this has happened. However, for many women, the water doesn’t break until labor has begun.