The third and final trimester of pregnancy starts at week 28 – the home stretch as they say. Your baby and belly are continuing to grow, you may move a bit slower and begin to feel like you waddle when you walk. Psst… it’s OKAY if you waddle a bit at this point! Your body has been working extremely hard throughout your entire pregnancy…
Your body has created the cells to grow the nerves, bones, organs and muscles – the entirety of your baby. It has also created extra cells to grow more uterine muscle, the placenta, several pounds (yes pounds) of amniotic fluid and blood, and additional liver and kidney cells so that your organs can properly process the waste of two individuals, not just one.
It is just as important to pay special attention to physical and emotional health in the third trimester of pregnancy as it is the first and second. Baby is continuing to develop as birth nears. Check-ups with the doctor become more frequent at every two weeks and then at around 36 weeks they become weekly. It is common to start to think about birth and wonder what the experience is like, and become a bit anxious. So, read on to learn ways to ensure that these last 12 weeks of pregnancy are comfortable.
1. Manage 3rd Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms
Pregnancy symptoms may have changed a bit by now, differing from what you experienced in the first and second trimesters. You probably still make frequent trips to the bathroom, might often be short of breath and hopefully have finally found a comfy position to sleep in. A few other new pregnancy symptoms may be…
Leg cramps/restless legs – Lack of calcium and magnesium may be a cause of leg cramps (restlessness, sleep issues, backaches may contribute to intense labor and afterbirth pain, preeclampsia and high blood pressure). Be sure to meet the recommended dose of 1000mg of calcium and 500mg of magnesium daily in pregnancy. Whole food sources of calcium and magnesium are best! Consider Red Raspberry Leaf tea as well.
Constipation – Pregnancy slows the physical function of the digestive tract. Constipation may also result from taking iron supplements in pregnancy. Here are my top tips for avoiding constipation or alleviating it if you are already experiencing this:
- exercise daily – walk!
- drink more liquids in a variety of forms (eight, 8-ounce glasses of fresh water a day, broth, fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juice, prune juice, smoothies, pregnancy tea)
- eat more fiber (ground flaxseeds, bran, amaranth, whole wheat, brown and wild rice, oatmeal, beans and legumes)
- consider eating less red meat, especially cured red meats
- take a magnesium supplement daily, Natural Calm is a good one
- add a little powdered Slippery Elm Bark (Ulmus rubra) to a bit of coconut oil and honey, eat a spoonful each day constipation occurs
Varicose veins and Hemorrhoids – Varicose veins can appear in the legs, groin, vulva, and rectum (hemorrhoids) because increased blood flow during pregnancy weakens the veins. Varicosities are weak or broken spots in the veins. Try these at-home remedies:
- Prenatal Yoga (best done in the third trimester with the guidance of a certified prenatal Yoga instructor), a daily brisk walk, swimming, support socks or stockings, or short leg massages. Avoid being sedentary for long periods of time.
- Eat well – eat raw garlic and onion if you can, which may help veins maintain and regain elasticity, and foods supportive of the circulatory system, like dark green leafy vegetables, oats, wheat germ, and steamed beets. Keep taking a whole food prenatal multivitamin for adequate amounts of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as B complex vitamins.
- Have a bottle of Witch Hazel on hand for topical application during pregnancy and post birth. Witch Hazel provides astringency and is cooling to relieve pain, reduce swelling and tighten tissues.
2. Adjust- Baby is Taking Up All The Room
It begins… it is no longer all about you. I say that a bit jokingly! You are still very important! Bodily functions that were easy pre-pregnancy are going to become a bit more of a challenge during these last few weeks of pregnancy because the space in the abdomen now mostly belongs to baby. More than likely you will experience frequent trips to the bathroom, feelings of being ravenous, but not being able to eat much in one sitting, developing stretch marks and becoming easily fatigued and out of breath. Your belly button may pop out too. So, how does one adjust? Try these comfort measures:
- go for walks, daily
- stand tall
- eat well to maintain energy levels (eat smaller meals more frequently)
- get adequate amounts of sleep
- rest when out of breath
Massage your growing belly with coconut oil, or a natural pregnancy stretch mark oil, to help reduce stretch marks. Applying one of these may not prevent stretch marks from happening, but it definitely will help to soothe the itchy, tight feeling of the skin of your belly as it grows.
3. Eat Well and Often – Important Third Trimester Nutrients
We’ve already covered why eating adequate amounts of calcium, magnesium, and fiber and staying hydrated in this final trimester is so important to the health of your pregnancy and baby. There is one more thing that is super important to be sure you are eating – fats.
It is commonly believed a pregnant woman in her third trimester should be gaining about a pound a week. This can be done by eating a Pregnancy Diet and focusing on eating healthy fats. “Healthy fats are important in the third trimester to support your pregnancy and prepare for lactation, says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D. and founder of Capitol Nutrition Group, which specializes in prenatal care. The key is focusing on fats that come from whole foods (like nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, eggs, salmon, yogurt and cheese), rather than the processed saturated and trans fats you’ll find in packaged foods…” I would add coconut oil and cod liver oil to that list!
Fun fact: A baby’s brain develops connections associated with his/her metabolism in the third trimester. Brain development, health and a baby’s metabolism are all impacted by maternal health in part as a result of the mother’s diet.
4. Spend Time With Your Spouse or Partner
Now is the time to connect with your spouse or partner about how you are feeling, how he/she is feeling, concerns about these final weeks of pregnancy and birth, how he/she can participate in birth, if he/she wants to hold the baby skin to skin after it’s born, participate in baby’s first bath and initial exams, etc.
Take the time to spend quality one on one time with each other with the phones and computers OFF for a bit of time each day. Cook meals together, sit together, talking to your baby (he can hear you now and differentiate between tones), shower together, find and make one on one time.
5. Prepare for Childbirth
The process of labor and childbirth is physical; it’s a lot of work, but it is also emotional. Many women experience anticipatory anxiety and nervousness about the unknown as the due date approaches. An array of emotions before, during, and after birth are a result of hormonal changes, exhaustion, excitement, and the sheer joy of finally getting to hold and snuggle their new baby.
Consider any or all of the following to help you prepare physically and emotionally for childbirth:
- exercise daily – labor is hard physical work
- stretch – back and legs
- put away birth story books, stop reading about the experiences of others
- take a childbirth class
- talk with your healthcare provider about pain management options during birth
- learn relaxation techniques – meditation, EFT- Emotional Freedom Technique, or Visualization
- try Hypnotherapy – we love Hypnobabies
- practice deep breathing
Mama tip: Hearing the birth stories of others can exacerbate fears, inspire strength, or both. Traumatic birth stories may plant a seed of fear, which you will want to avoid. Remember, your birthing story is going to be your very own, unique to you and your baby.
Most of all, trust that your body will do what it needs to do during this time, that it is strong and capable, and honestly, enter birth with no expectations. Don’t over plan the delivery; be flexible. Using a “birth plan” as a general outline for labor and birth preparation can help to keep you organized, but don’t count on it to be the holy grail of your birth experience. Consider the best interests of you and your baby: being set on your birth plan can be emotionally scarring should there need to be an alteration to the plan during labor and birth.
Don’t be alarmed if that due date comes and goes either. For many women it can be “normal” to deliver a baby prior to or after that date. Many people are now calling the “due date” the “guess date” because that is all it is, an estimate of when the baby might come.
Try to enjoy each day of the third trimester. Be reminded through any discomfort, of the capacity and ability of the female body. It is really astounding. Birth is a miracle, babies are miracles!
- Hon, M. (2018, October 18). How To Overcome Fear of Childbirth – Tips from Experienced Mommy Bloggers. Retrieved from: https://www.thechillmom.com/2014/07/how-to-overcome-fear-of-childbirth-tips.html
- Fowler, P. (2018, November 30). The Third Trimester Diet Change You Need To Make Now. Retrieved from: https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/nutrition/the-third-trimester-diet-change-you-need-to-make-now/
- Fetal development: What happens during the 3rd trimester? (2017, July 06). Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/art-20045997
- Tarkan, L. (2013, December 23). All About the Third Trimester. Retrieved from: https://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/all-about-third-trimester?page=3
- BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board. (n.d.). Your pregnancy: 28 weeks. Retrieved from: https://www.babycenter.com/28-weeks-pregnant
- Weed, Susun S. (1985) “During Pregnancy.” Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year. Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub., 17-53.