It’s the home stretch (literally) – the third trimester and so much is happening to your body. Everything is being stretched to the max, and the aches and pains are coming thick and fast. There are skin changes, hormonal surges and changes in sleep patterns as both you and bub get ready for the big day.
The first trimester was all about symptoms that mainly centred around hormonal changes in your body, while the second trimester gave way to feeling better and baby movement. The third trimester shifts into another gear altogether, from false contractions to the strange line that appears on your belly and swelling of your feet.
Here’s what to expect in your third trimester.
Third trimester pregnancy symptoms
Braxton Hicks – While these can start in the second trimester, you’ll probably notice Braxton Hicks contractions more in the final trimester. They’re basically ‘practice contractions’ – your uterine muscles are just working out how to do what they have to do when the big moment arrives! They can feel pretty intense which is why they’re often confused for the real thing, but Braxton Hicks don’t actually dilate the cervix.
Backaches – Yep, pregnancy can be a pain in the back. Sometimes it’s the odd twinge and other times it’s hard to actually function properly. The pain is caused by the strain of extra weight on your body – you might have changed your posture because your centre of gravity has shifted. Those delightful pregnancy hormones also relax and loosen your ligaments and joints so things just aren’t the way they usually are. There are a few key rules to stick to that may help ease the pain as you waddle towards the end of your pregnancy.
Linea nigra – While there’s nothing to worry about, the linea nigra is a fascinating pregnancy symptom. Pregnancy hormones surging through your body do all sorts of things to your skin – they make your areola darker and also make the line on your belly darker. It’s the rising oestrogen in your system that’s getting you body ready, and it’s making extra melanin, which is the pigment responsible for making your skin darker.
Varicose veins – As your body continues to bear the growing weight of your bub, you may notice bulging veins on your legs. No, you’re not turning into a grandma. Varicose veins are dilated veins just under the surface of the skin, and they’re really common in the third trimester when the baby weighs the most, the size of your uterus is the largest and the increase in circulating blood volume is at its peak. There’s really nothing you can do to stop them happening, and they can also happen in the vulva – they’re called vulval varicosities.
Oedema – Yesterday your feet looked fine, today you can’t tell where they end and your legs start. Hello swelling. Swollen ankles and feet are known as oedema and it happens because your body is retaining more fluid than it usually would. As bub is growing your uterus is putting additional pressure on the blood vessels in your pelvis, which in turn impacts the large vein on your right-hand side. This vein is the one that gets blood from your legs, and as the pressure is slowing circulation, the blood pools. The trapped blood causes pressure, the pressure forces water down and into your feet and ankles. While this water would normally just be absorbed back into your body, your pregnancy makes you retain more water – hence the swelling. It can also happen in your hands and is super common.
If the swelling happens really suddenly, or there’s severe swelling of your face, hands or feet you need to seek medical attention to be checked for pre-eclampsia.
Fatigue – That second-trimester energy boost has faded and you’re back feeling exhausted. Carrying bub around, not sleeping properly during pregnancy, preparing for birth – it all makes for energy-sapping days and nights. Napping when you can might help stave off exhaustion some days, and help prepare for the big day ahead.
Breast leakage – Yellowish liquid leaking from your nipples means you’re producing liquid gold – colostrum. It’s bub’s first food and it means your breasts are getting ready for feeding.
Heartburn – The hormone that relaxes muscles in your body during pregnancy is also responsible for relaxing the muscles in your esophagus that normally keeps acids down in your tummy, causing heartburn.
Shortness of breath – Your expanding uterus is sitting just under your rib cage, so your lungs don’t have as much room as usual to expand. That pressure can make it more difficult to get your breath.
Read next …
The third trimester is amazing is so many ways. If you’re keen to know what’s happening with you and bub in the final trimester, have a read of these:
Ask other mums …
Feeling the weight of your third trimester? You’re not alone. In fact there are thousands of mums all due at the same time as you supporting each other through the final weeks of pregnancy in our Pregnancy due date groups.
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