Pregnancy is definitely one of those times in your life when the days and weeks seem to drag on, but you blink, and here you are in the 3rd trimester! Whether you’ve just entered or your delivery is right around the corner, the 3rd trimester is full of excitement and anticipation towards meeting baby.
On the not so exciting side of things, the 3rd trimester pregnancy symptoms can be some of the toughest to handle. As your body continues to grow and change things start to get pretty uncomfortable. Luckily, I have some tips and tricks to help manage your symptoms and get more comfortable as your baby, and belly, grow.
Understanding why the symptoms are happening is also helpful in finding relief. So, let’s dive right in and start getting more comfortable ASAP!
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When does the third trimester start?
In general week 28 is considered the start of the third trimester and it means you are officially in the home stretch.
As you progress in your pregnancy, the exact line of when one trimester ends and the next begins starts to become a little gray. If you search this term on google, you will find a range of responses plus or minus a few weeks depending on whether you are counting by weeks, days or months of pregnancy.
Reaching the third trimester milestone is an exciting time! It marks a 90% increase in the likelihood of a pre-term baby surviving. It also means that you are ready to switch to having appointments with your provider every 2 weeks. Around week 36 you’ll up the frequency of visits to every week until delivery.
How should I be preparing for baby in the third trimester?
We’re going to dive into the symptoms and remedies in just a minute, but along with getting comfortable I’m willing to bet the reality of baby’s arrival is starting to feel very real.
- Create a birth tool box to prepare yourself mentally and physically for labor
- Stock your freezer with healthy meals before baby arrives
- Finish up the nursery and be sure to focus on its functionality and organization in addition to the cute factor 😉
- Choose a pediatrician for your baby if you haven’t already
- Prepare your home for baby by doing things like setting up swings and bouncers, getting organized, cleaning, installing the car seat and more
- Look into childcare options for your eventual return to work if you haven’t already
- Learn new parenting skills now and prepare your relationship for a new baby
- Pack your hospital bag
If you’re looking for help and support with getting all of this accomplished, and even more done before baby arrives, enroll in our FREE Nest Smart email course today. Using the 5 pillars of nesting you’ll get everything done in a flash.
What are common 3rd trimester pregnancy symptoms?
1. Insomnia and Weird Dreams
Why do I have insomnia in my third trimester?
Insomnia is a very common symptom of pregnancy and according to the American Pregnancy Association, affects over 75% of all pregnant women. Typically, it happens as a result of all of the other discomforts associated with pregnancy.
Women are unable to fall asleep or stay asleep because of general discomfort, heartburn, needing to pee during the night, anxiety, weird dreams and hormonal changes.
How to relieve pregnancy insomnia?
- Try a different sleep position. When I was pregnant, I actually found it more comfortable to sleep on the couch. I could create a supported incline position and still lay on my side with greater ease.
- When I did stay in bed, I couldn’t sleep without my Snoogle Total Body Pillow. It will seriously change your life. Just watch out because your husband or pets may like it just as much!
- One tip that Trina shared is that if you can’t fall back asleep after getting up to pee, you may be in need of some protein. Try eating a quick protein-filled snack and see if that might do the trick!
- Try utilizing relaxation or breathing techniques. It’s a great time to practice methods you may have learned in a childbirth birth or pain-management class like, hypnobirthing.
- Create a good sleep environment. Once your baby arrives, you’ll learn how important an optimum sleep environment is for them, don’t treat yourself any different! Make sure it is a good temperature, dark and calming. Remove clutter and as many electronics as possible. A sound machine might also be helpful.
What if I still can’t sleep?
If you still can’t sleep, it might make sense to get up and indulge your energy a bit. Have a snack and do a relaxing activity like reading a book or working on a small project for baby. I would often knit for N while listening to an audio book when I couldn’t sleep at night.
You might also find it helpful to work on getting organized when you are feeling sleepless. Sometimes creating lists, or doing some planning will relieve your anxiety and allow you to sleep. Our Nesting Planner has all of the checklists and planning sheets you could ever need.
You should also mention extreme insomnia to your provider. Especially, if it is interfering with your ability to function in day-to-day life. They may be able to recommend or prescribe something that is safe for pregnancy and will help you get some much-needed shut eye.
Why do I have weird dreams while pregnant when I do sleep?
Vivid, strange or even alarming dreams are very common during pregnancy. I would often swap crazy dream stories with the women in my prenatal group. Researchers don’t know for sure why this occurs but may be due to:
- increased hormone production
- an irregular sleep pattern resulting in more or disrupted REM sleep
- your mind processing all of the changes occurring in your life and handling stress and anxiety
How to handle intense dreams during pregnancy?
Keeping a dream journal can be a helpful way to process and possibly learn from your dreams. I always liked to share my dreams with my husband, Patrick. It usually got a good laugh and caused an unexpected bond between both of us and baby. Sharing weird dreams was also a great way to break the ice and bond with other expectant mamas.
2. Water retention and swelling
Why do I have so much water retention and swelling during pregnancy?
Water retention and swelling during pregnancy is impossible to avoid to some degree. This is because during pregnancy your body produces around 50% more blood and body fluids in order to grow your baby!
Your body also holds on to extra fluid to help your body soften and expand as baby grows and eventually to allow your pelvic joints to open for delivery.
So while the degree to which your swelling and water retention is noticeable may vary, it is a necessary part of pregnancy.
When does swelling start in pregnancy?
Swelling can begin at any point in pregnancy and most will have at least some degree of noticeable swelling by the third trimester. This is because during the third trimester your growing baby causes your uterus to put a lot of pressure on the large vein on the right side of your body (vena cava).
This vein carries blood from your legs and feet back to your heart. This can cause blood to pool and results in noticeable fluid retention below the knees. In general, this is totally normal (but annoying!) and is nothing to worry about.
Summer heat can definitely escalate the presence of swelling, so if you’re entering the third trimester during the peak of summer you should prepare to deal with this on some level.
How to reduce swelling and water weight during pregnancy?
Swelling is usually most frustrating in the legs, feet and ankles because it can make wearing shoes very uncomfortable and standing for long periods of time uncomfortable. Here are some things that might help:
- Compression stockings are often worn by pregnant women, especially if you need to be on your feet all day. It will provide support to your legs and help reduce swelling.
- Wear loose, wide and comfortable footwear. Definitely opt for flats, I lived in my BOBS while pregnant. Try shoes that are not constricting. Often swelling progresses throughout the day and shoes that were comfortable in the morning won’t be by the time 4pm rolls around.
- Cold compresses can be helpful on swollen knees, ankles and feet
- Try to take breaks to get off your feet. When you do sit, aim to elevate your feet and roll your ankles.
- Lay down and elevate your feet above your heart to promote blood flow.
- If you can’t do this during the day, try to do it in the evening when you get home. As a teacher this made a huge difference in my comfort and swelling. The Legs Up the Wall yoga pose is great for helping with swelling.
- Drink lots of water, some women find electrolyte water to help with water retention
- Try to stay cool, especially if it is summer. Go swimming, stay in the shade, and run the AC if you can’t cool down.
When should I worry about swelling during pregnancy?
As I mentioned, swelling during pregnancy is pretty par for the course but is always worth mentioning to your doctor. Extreme swelling, especially in the face and upper body can be a sign of the serious condition, preeclampsia. Swelling wouldn’t be your only symptom, but extreme swelling coupled with headaches or vision changes is a big red flag.
Never wait to talk to your provider about any concerns when it comes to pregnancy symptoms or discomforts. No call is ever too small.
3. Low Back and Pelvic Pain
Why do I have low back pain during the third trimester?
Back pain can occur at many points in pregnancy but is most common in the third trimester because of the excess weight you are carrying around. It can be worsened if you spend your days standing or don’t practice good posture while sitting.
Like many other symptoms in pregnancy, changing hormones also play a role. As your body allows for joints to open and loosen, the changes in joint positioning can cause back pain.
How can I reduce back pain during pregnancy?
While there is no one quick fix, generally focusing on good posture and sleeping on your side may help. You should also avoid high heels and try to squat when you pick things up instead of bending over.
Some women swear by seeing a chiropractor during pregnancy. A mom in my prenatal group went regularly and had a much more comfortable second pregnancy than her first by doing this. Always discuss these kind of decisions with your provider and be sure to check credentials and specialties before booking an appointment.
Why am I experiencing Pelvic Pain in the third trimester?
You guessed it! In addition to all of the extra weight putting pressure on your pelvic bones, your changing hormones are to blame again. As your joints and ligaments loosen to allow for opening during birth, you will start to feel more pain and pressure in your pelvic region which is no fun.
How can I relieve pressure on my pelvis during pregnancy?
Using a belly band can be really effective in helping with pelvic pain. It is basically a super tight band that goes around your belly. It is stitched so that it isn’t too tight on the belly, but around the belly it gets very tight and lifts. I never used one, but Trina found it during her second pregnancy and couldn’t believe what a difference it made.
Not only does it help relieve pelvic pain (especially if you have to stand all day) but it can help you not feel like you have to pee all the time too! It provides just enough lift to get the pressure off of your bladder as well.
4. Muscle Cramps (Charley Horses)
Ugh! This is third trimester pregnancy symptom is a tough one. If you’ve never experienced a muscle cramp before, it will really catch you off guard! They are an extremely painful tightening sensation. And definitely no fun. Trina just started experiencing them in her 28th week of pregnancy and can totally relate.
Why do I keep getting leg and muscle cramps during the third trimester?
Leg and foot cramps during pregnancy are so painful and can strike at any moment, but tend to be most common at night. When they’re happening, there’s not much you can do but grit your teeth and breathe through it. Maybe practice some of those labor breathing exercises you’ve been working on for your birth toolbox 😉
How to get rid of muscle cramping during pregnancy?
While nothing can keep them away for sure, preventative measures can help.
- Stay well-hydrated and consider drinking an electrolyte water like Smart Water or coconut water
- Wear comfortable and supportive footwear
During the third trimester, heartburn was a symptom that I remember vividly. I unfortunately had morning sickness last until around week 22, and then a few short weeks later, my heartburn was almost unbearable!
Why am I experiencing heartburn during the third trimester?
Pregnant women are more susceptible to heartburn because of the hormone progesterone. This hormone allows your body to relax and loosen, but not necessarily just in the pelvic region. It will also cause the valve in your esophagus that keeps stomach acid down to loosen, making heartburn more prevalent.
Between the loosened valve and a growing baby that makes your stomach volume a lot smaller, stomach acid gets pushed up more and more frequently.
How do I relieve heartburn while pregnant?
- There are some foods that you can avoid to help lessen the symptom. Foods with high acidity like tomato-based dishes, citrus fruits and vinegary dressings can often be culprits. Caffeine, carbonated drinks and juices can also be to blame. Lastly, spicy food is known for causing heartburn too.
- Try to eat smaller more frequent meals instead of the more typical three meals a day. You may have used this strategy to help with nausea and it can be effective for heartburn as well. By keeping a smaller quanitity of food in your stomach, it won’t come back up as easily.
- Drinking water and staying well-hydrated is important in the third trimester for many reasons, and can help with heartburn too
- Talk to your provider about heartburn medications. Some are considered safe, and some are not. I was told that using Tums and Papaya Enzyme chewable were totally safe for me.
- The papaya enzyme was especially effective for me. It also contains mint which help kept my stomach settled. While these aren’t a complete cure because they can’t expand your stomach volume or tighten your esophagus, they help a bit.
6. Braxton Hicks Contractions (aka practice contractions)
What are Braxton Hick’s contractions?
Braxton Hicks contractions are basically practice contractions. They can occur at any point in pregnancy, but if you notice or feel them, it is most likely to be in the third trimester. They will feel like a tightening or cramp in your lower abdomen/uterus area.
Braxton Hicks contractions typically don’t come with any regularity and are often not as painful as real contractions. Unlike real contractions, they will not grow in intensity and will not become rhythmic or closer together.
How do I know if contractions are real?
If you think you are experiencing contractions and are unsure if they are Braxton Hicks or the real deal, try having a big glass of water and moving around. Typically, Braxton Hicks contractions will subside with hydration and movement, while real contractions may become stronger with movement. If you found the practice contractions occurring while you were active, then try laying down and resting to see if they stop.
Remember, this is not a fool-proof test. If your contractions continue, become more painful, rhythmic and close together, or you are having any other doubts that it is really labor, call your provider!
Why am I experiencing Braxton Hick’s contractions?
It is not fully known why we experience these. They are not thought to play a role in dilation, but they are thought to help strengthen the uterine muscles in preparation for labor. They also may promote blood flow to the placenta.
What is causing my Braxton Hick’s contractions?
These often occur in conjunction with dehydration, a full bladder, and after sex. But they may also occur at seemingly random times as well.
7. Extreme Thirst
Extreme thirst is a very normal pregnancy symptom and is rarely an indicator that anything is wrong. As I mentioned in point 2, the amount of fluids and blood in your body at this point in pregnancy has increased by almost 50%. To keep up with the production of blood and fluids your body needs to be well-hydrated.
The best way to manage this symptom is not surprisingly, to drink more water! Treat yourself to a large, high quality water bottle. I love my Hydroflask because it keeps water nice and cold. I guarantee you’ll continue to get use out of whatever water bottle you choose once baby arrives because nursing will make you thirsty too.
What if I just can’t seem to get myself to drink more water?
In addition to upping your water intake, eating fruits and veggies with a high water content can help quench your thirst too. Think watermelon, oranges, celery and cucumber.
You can also try treating yourself to flavored seltzer waters or making your own flavored water by adding fruits, cucumber slices, or lemon to a pitcher of water. In our house, especially during the summer we love keeping a pitcher of “spa water” as Patrick likes to call it, in the fridge.
8. Constipation and Hemorrhoids
Unfortunately, these two symptoms can be really common for women in their third trimester and often go hand in hand. To some degree, these can be tricky to avoid. This is because the uterus sits on the large vein that carries blood from the lower body up. This causes pressure on the veins making them more likely to dilate or swell, forming hemorrhoids.
What are hemorrhoids?
They are swollen blood vessels in your rectal area. They can have a wide range in size and position. You may find them to be itchy, uncomfortable or very painful depending on their size and location. Some bleeding may also be associated with hemorrhoids.
How can I avoid hemorrhoids during the third trimester of pregnancy?
Staying well-hydrated and avoiding constipating foods is your first line of defense against hemorrhoids. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can also cause pressure and blood to pool. Varied positions and some movement is important to keep blood flowing. Lying on your side at night and while resting is a good position for comfort and keeping blood moving.
How can I stay more comfortable if I’m already experiencing hemorrhoids?
- When you clean yourself after using the bathroom, it’s important to be thorough but gentle. Dabbing instead of wiping can be helpful. Use fragrance-free wet wipes to help get yourself cleaner.
- Apply ice packs with a clean cloth over them to the affected area and this may help with the swelling.
- Heat can also be soothing in the form of a warm sitz bath.
- Try using witch hazel on a cotton ball, or witch hazel pads which can be soothing on hemorrhoids as well.
- If your hemorrhoids are very painful, a donut sitting cushion will allow you to sit without putting adding pressure on the region. This will be worthy investment because you will undoubtedly get use out of it for postpartum comfort as well.
Keep in mind that your hemorrhoids may stay until after delivery. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but it can be difficult to rid them completely while there is still pressure on the region from your growing uterus.
You may also experience more hemorrhoids after delivery during your postpartum period. Labor and particularly pushing your baby often results in hemorrhoids. This makes investing in any of these pain relievers worthwhile because they will continue to serve you and are great to have on hand now so that you aren’t scrambling when you arrive home with baby.
You may or may not have experienced fatigue back in the first trimester, but either way, it is likely going to occur now. A lot of this has to do with all of the added weight you are carrying around and because of possible insomnia.
The most obvious way to beat fatigue is by resting as much as possible. Even when you can’t actually sleep, finding some time to get off of your feet and relax is very important. Take up a stationary hobby, find a great book or get into a new (or old favorite) TV show.
How else can I beat fatigue during the third trimester?
Eating a well-balanced diet is important and will help you feel like you have more energy. If you are having trouble finding the time or motivation to cook healthy meals each night, consider doing some meal prepping. This is a great activity to do with your partner, and something I highly recommend doing before baby arrives anyways to ensure you’ll have a well-stocked freezer for easy meals.
Movement and exercise can actually be invigorating and help you feel more awake. If the season is right, try swimming or walking in water. At any time of the year a brisk walk around the block, on a local trail, or even in the mall will help you feel more awake.
Could low iron be the cause of your pregnancy fatigue?
After mentioning my sudden extreme fatigue to my provider, she ordered an additional blood test to check for low iron and that was in fact the culprit. By starting on an iron supplement, I was shocked at how quickly I started to have more energy and how much better I felt.
10. Nesting Instincts
Nesting is an important part of pregnancy and usually starts to really ramp up during the third trimester, so much so that it really is like a symptom. Nesting is our brain’s intrinsic way of wanting everything to be completely prepared, safe and ready for baby.
Maybe you’re already very aware or your nesting tendencies because of the way you are obsessively organizing every nook and cranny of the house, or maybe you aren’t quite sure why you keep pinning every DIY nursery idea under the sun… either way, rest assured that this is normal!
The only ‘downside’ to all of this is that sometimes, nesting can manifest in a sort of form of anxiety. And especially as a first time mom, it can be hard to know how to channel these inner desires effectively. To learn more about staying organized and having checklists and planning sheets for every essential task when it comes to planning for baby and birth, check out the Nesting Planner.
Start getting more comfortable today!
Now you know the whys behind 10 of the most common 3rd trimester pregnancy symptoms and have a variety of ideas to help you get more comfortable right away. As your body grows and changes it can be frustrating to feel so uncomfortable all the time.
This is a wonderful point in pregnancy to start incorporating some birth affirmations in your daily routine. Keeping a positive mindset will be so helpful during labor and delivery. Start this mindset with daily affirmations now, particularly while things are so uncomfortable.
Lastly, you can ease your mind and indulge your nesting instincts as a way of alleviating at least the mental side of your third trimester pregnancy symptoms. Do this right now by enrolling in the FREE Nest Smart Nesting Crash Course 🙂
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Alli Wittbold is a wife, mama, blogger, and online teacher. She feels passionate about connecting expectant mothers with childbirth class educators, and supporting them to achieve the birth they desire. After having her first baby delivered by a Certified Nurse Midwife, Alli is an advocate for midwifery prenatal care. She has learned so much about labor and delivery by attending and reviewing dozens of birth classes to help mothers learn and explore options. Alli co-authored the Week-by-Week Bump Smart Course, the Nesting Planner and the Breastfeeding Handbook, resources she is proud to share with as many expectant and new mothers as possible. Read more about Alli.