What To Expect: The 3rd Trimester

Wow, mama! You are almost all the way there. Maybe it feels like it’s flown by. Maybe you feel like you’ve been pregnant your entire life… or maybe it seems like both at once. But either way, you are almost to the finish line. There’s so much to be done and so little time.

The 1st trimester was a shock. The 2nd trimester was all kicks (literally) and giggles. The 3rd trimester is full of so many feelings. Excitement. Anxiety. Overwhelm. Impatience. Fear. Joy. Pain. Sometimes we as mothers don’t even know what to feel. Sometimes we are so unsure of what to expect that all we can feel is anxiety.

Whatever it is that you’re feeling, being prepared can make all the difference. My hope in writing this is to answer some of the questions you may have about the 3rd trimester! Here are the questions I’ll be covering in this article. Scroll down to find the one you are looking for!

  • What symptoms can I expect? 
  • What kind of diet & exercise regime should I be doing? 
  • What things should I avoid? 
  • What can I expect at my doctor’s visits? 
  • What is happening with my baby? 
  • What are some signs that labor may be approaching? 
  • What do I do when I think I’m in labor? 
  • What should I be doing to prepare? 

What symptoms should I expect?

  • Ligament Pains & Cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Braxton Hicks
  • Varicose Veins & Stretch Marks
  • Backaches & Sciatica
  • Crazy Dreams
  • Clumsiness
  • Lack of Bladder Control
  • Loosening Joints
  • Leaky Breasts
  • Swelling

If you need ideas for coping with your pregnancy symptoms, check out this post!

What kind of diet & exercise regime should I be doing?

Just like in the 2nd trimester, it’s normal to gain about 1 pound per week. However, around week 34-35 your weight will stabilize, which means no more weight gain! Which is perfect considering that 35 pounds is the most weight you should be gaining during your pregnancy. Good news though… you can eat 450 extra calories this trimester!

While exercise is great, you will need to be more cautious in the 3rd trimester not to wear your body out. You are much more clumsy and fatigued as your body gets larger. You will also need to add some more supplements to your diet to prepare your body for what it’s about to go through.

  • Continue with your prenatal vitamins. They are so important in assuring that your baby will have all that he needs to grow healthy and strong. It’s not the end of the world if you miss one, because hopefully your healthy diet is giving you most of what you need. Think of vitamins as insurance that your baby is getting everything that he needs.
  • Eat 6-7 small meals. Instead of 3 giant meals each day, try snacking on healthy foods all day long. Eating often will help you keep your weight down, help with morning sickness and acid reflux, and provide a constant stream of nutrients to your baby.
  • Ask your doctor about these additional supplements. 
    • Omega-3. Healthy fats are absolutely vital for your baby’s brain growth in the 3rd trimester. Many prenatal vitamins supply these for you, but double check with your doctor to see if you are getting enough through your diet and prenatal vitamins.
    • Calcium & Vitamin D. These two nutrients work in conjunction to help baby’s bones grow strong. If you eat plenty of dairy and vegetables and live in a place where you are getting a lot of sunlight, you probably won’t need to worry about supplementing these nutrients. You can find orange juice that has added calcium and vitamin D! One glass a day would be a great addition to your diet. Talk to your doctor.
    • Magnesium, Choline & Iron. These nutrients are very important for you to have in store for labor and postpartum. Check with your doctor to see what you need.
  • Use this trick to get in your extra 450 calories the right way! Create a simple chart of the basic food groups and post it on your refrigerator. At the end of the day, note what you’ve eaten. For your bedtime snack, pick something that fulfills whatever category is lacking that day – yogurt (or a bowl of ice cream!) if you need more dairy, for example, or an orange if you need an extra serving of fruit.
  • Drink lots of water. Just like eating often, drinking often is likely to help with constipation and swelling. Your body slows down ALL processes to make sure that your body can soak up every last nutrient for your baby. If you are constantly feeding yourself with nutritious substances and hydration, your body won’t have the need to hold back as much for an emergency. Let your body know that you’ve got this taken care of!
  • Take it slow on the caffeine. Caffeine is perfectly safe to drink while pregnant, just stick to 1-2 cups a day (8-16 oz). Black coffee is obviously the best and healthiest option, but if you must add creamer or need some soda, don’t be worried about the health of your baby. They will be just fine.
  • Consider adding Red Raspberry Leaf Tea (RRL) to your diet. A few cups a day will help to soften your cervix and prepare your uterus. Make sure that it is Red Raspberry LEAF tea and not just Red Raspberry flavored herbal tea. RRL tea is not sweet, so you may want to add some honey to make it more enjoyable.
  • Consider eliminating all refined grains from your diet. Studies have suggested that taking out refined grains from your diet around 30 weeks of gestation can help you have a faster and more efficient labor. Not to mention the wonders it can do for your overall health and energy!
  • Walk & Squat & Kegel. These three exercises will be super helpful in preparing your body for labor. Whenever you are bored, do some deep squats and kegels. Go on long walks (or short if that’s all you can handle) every day, if possible.
  • Avoid reclining during the last month of your pregnancy. I know, it sounds like absolute hell. But it’s been suggested that reclining can cause your baby to fall into your back and face forward, which will cause back labor and possibly issues with baby descending properly. To help you accomplish this, get an exercise/yoga ball (these are also GREAT in labor!) Sitting on this to do projects and watch TV are very helpful to make you sit up straight, and they also feel great on your lower back and pelvis.
  • Go see a chiropractor. Having a professional check out your pelvis, as well as the rest of your alignment, can be really helpful in avoiding problems during labor. Seeing a masseuse can be great too, just make sure that either one of these professionals is experienced in dealing with pregnant women.

What things should I avoid?

  • Strenuous activity, lifting or strength training.
  • Long car trips or airplane rides. Most airlines won’t allow you to fly after 34 weeks! If you must travel, make sure to take lots of breaks to urinate and stretch your legs.
Note: This list of things to avoid is in addition to the lists from the 1st and 2nd trimesters.

What can I expect at my doctor’s visits?

  • Regular Tests. You can expect to give a urine sample, and have your weight, blood pressure, and baby’s heart rate checked.
  • Stool Test, which will be checked for Group B strep. If this comes back positive you will just be given antibiotics during labor to keep it from passing to your baby.
  • Blood Tests. Your blood will be checked for blood type, anemia, blood sugar levels, and STD’s.
  • Stress Tests. If you go overdue, you will probably need a cervical exam to see if you have dilated and stress tests to check on the baby.
  • Ultrasound. Around 34 weeks you will get an ultrasound to check on the growth of the baby.
  • Discuss labor & postpartum. Your doctor will ask you questions about your preferences and give you information about what to expect. Make sure you have a list of questions ready to ask your doctor.

What is happening with my baby?

  • Bones. During months 7-8 your baby’s cartilage transforms into bones! Make sure to get plenty of calcium and sunlight (or vitamin D supplements).
  • Hair, Skin & Nails. By week 36, your baby will have gained enough fat underneath so his skin is no longer see through.
  • Five senses. By week 31 your baby will be fully receptive to all five senses.
  • Brain. In the 3rd trimester your baby’s brain is growing faster than ever.
  • Turning. Around week 34 your baby will flip head down to prepare for labor. If he or she refuses to flip, your doctor may try to manually flip him or her around 37 weeks.
  • Growing. Your wee one can grow up to 8 pounds and 6 inches during the 3rd trimester alone! The 1st trimester is all about growing from a spec of DNA to a fully formed human, while the 2nd trimester is about developing more intricately. But the 3rd trimester is all about growth and strengthening! This is why your nutrition is SO important.

What are some signs that labor may be approaching?

  • Baby Dropping. How do you know? Well, if you’ve been out of breath your entire labor… all of the sudden you can breath (and you’re in the bathroom twice as much as you were before!) You may also notice your baby bump become significantly lower and begin to do that famous “waddle”. This can happen as soon as one month before labor.
  • Bloody Show / Mucus Plug. Just like it sounds, bloody show is unsightly, blood-streaked mucus that shows up on your underwear. By itself it really means nothing. Your mucus plug can begin to disintegrate at any time during the end of the pregnancy, but can build itself back up. However, loss of the entire mucus plug (you’ll KNOW if this happens) usually means labor is happening soon.
  • Increased Vaginal Discharge. As you may have already had plenty of this during your pregnancy it can be hard to know if there is any more than usual or if it’s all in your head.
  • Diarrhea. For many women their bodies begin to clear out the intestines as labor draws near. This will probably be a welcome relief for anyone who has dealt with constipation during their pregnancy!
  • Nesting. This is just the body giving tons of adrenaline to you to help you get ready for the baby… so take advantage of it! Plan to get most of your to-do list done as soon as you feel up to it. It probably won’t last long and you’ll be back to total exhaustion.
  • Weight Stabilization. Towards the end of the 3rd trimester you will stop gaining weight. This is just a sign that baby has stopped growing as quickly and is settling down for labor. You may gain some water weight from swelling, but that will go away quickly after birth.

What do I do when I think I’m in labor?

  • Rupture of Membranes. Your water breaking is an actual sign of labor which means that you need to get to the hospital pronto. Most establishments have a 24 hour rule, which means that your baby must be out within 24 hours of breaking your water.
  • Labor Contractions. What’s the difference between Braxton Hicks and real labor? Braxton Hicks go away when you change your movement. Real labor doesn’t stop, no matter what you do. But don’t worry about not noticing in time… even if you aren’t sure at the beginning of labor, you WILL know soon enough. There is no time clock on labor if your water hasn’t broken. Call your doctor when you’ve had REAL contractions every 5 minutes for an hour (if this is your second baby or more, call at 10 minutes for an hour). It is possible to have Braxton Hicks consistently every 5 minutes for an hour…. however, if you can talk/walk/joke through a contraction, you aren’t ready to go to the hospital yet.

What should I be doing to prepare?

  • Finish 1st trimester to-do list.
  • Finish 2nd trimester to-do list.
  • Write a birth plan & talk to your doctor. During one of your 3rd trimester visits, plan to discuss your labor and delivery plan with your doctor. Have a list of questions to ask so that you can decide what to be plan of action can be.
  • Pick a pediatrician.
  • Deep clean the house, or better yet: hire someone else to do it for you!
  • Do something to spoil yourself. Get a fresh haircut, a pedicure, or a massage. Distract yourself from the fact that you are a fluffy mess.
  • Stock up on nursing bras, tanks and other postpartum clothing. Most likely you won’t be receiving these things as gifts.
  • Pack diaper bag.
    • Nursing cover
    • Breast pads
    • Burp cloths
    • Gas drops
    • Pacifiers
    • Diapers
    • To-go toiletry bag (nasal aspirator, mini baby shampoos & lotions, baby nail clippers, 1-2 washcloths, mini baby powder, mini baby butt cream, baby brush, etc.)
    • Ziplock bags for messy clothes and/or dirty diapers
    • Bottle bag for breastmilk
    • Nipple shields (if you’re using them)
    • Nipple cream
    • Swaddle blanket
    • Wipes
    • To-go changing pad
    • Extra clothes
    • Baby tylenol & mommy tylenol 😉
    • Wallet & checkbook
    • Keys
    • Chapstick
    • Snacks for mom
    • Gum
  • Pack hospital bag.
    • 3-5 baby outfits (premie, newborn + 0-3 months)
    • Sweatshirts for mom & dad
    • 3-4 comfy outfits for mom & dad
    • Chapstick
    • Gum
    • Snacks
    • Chargers & phones
    • Toothbrushes & toothpaste
    • Tylenol & prescription meds
    • Hairbrush
    • Pillows
    • Hair clips & bands
    • Tylenol PM
    • Deodorant
    • Baby blankets
    • Flip-flops
    • Socks and/or slippers
    • Nursing bras/tanks
    • Nightgown/PJ’s (accessible for breastfeeding)
    • Swimwear if you plan to use the jacuzzi during labor
    • Your birth plan
    • Camera & chargers
    • Change for vending machines
    • Books & magazines
    • Notebook & pen
    • The hospital will provide: diapers, wipes, ugly baby outfits/blankets :), postpartum underwear, maxi pads, nursing pads, nipple shields, nipple cream, a water bottle, and a lot of other things if you really need them!
  • Pre-wash baby clothes & organize baby’s dresser and closet.
  • Ask someone to take labor photos & your first family photos. You may not want them in the moment but TRUST me… you’ll regret it later if you don’t have them. You may just want to have your doula, mother or a close friend be there with a phone in hand. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. But this is definitely an important thing to consider.
  • Buy some granny panties for afterwards. Trust me. You’ll be thankful you have them.
  • Make “padsicles“. These are a God-send. I ended up with a c-section and I still used them all up! When you’re bloody, sweaty and exhausted having something cool down there feels grrrreat!
  • Make freezer meals. I made about a month’s worth (15-ish meals for us because we always have leftover) and stockpiled my fridge. Pinterest has fabulous ideas! I also made these granola bars and stuck them in the freezer. There were also enough in a recipe for me to have on every morning. They helped me with constipation issues and supposedly are really great for milk supply!
  • Sign up for meals. If you’re part of a church, they probably already have this ministry. If you are not part of a church, ask a friend to set up meals for you. It’s pretty common to get 7 meals, either every day for a week or every other day for two weeks. After that, this is where your own freezer meals come in. 🙂
  • Install car seat. 
  • Stock baskets to put by your bed, nursing chair, and anywhere else you may be stuck with baby for a long period of time. I kept chapstick, diapers, wipes, water bottles, burp cloths, gum, snacks, nipple cream, nipple shields, and a phone charger by the main spots I knew I would be hanging out with baby.
  • Stock up on necessities: toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, dish soap, paper plates, plastic silverware, kleenex. Whatever your family uses the most of… make sure you have plenty. That way you won’t have to worry about dashing out to the store when you’re overwhelmed and look like a fluffy raccoon. I can’t express how thankful I was that I had plenty of paper plates. Between people bringing meals and the freezer meals I had stocked up, I didn’t have to cook or wash dishes for two months. And speaking of food…
  • Stock up on your groceries as well! Unfortunately, you can’t get some things too far in advance. But stock up on crackers, cereal, granola bars, fruit snacks, snack packs of yogurt or pudding…. whatever it is that your family likes to eat that won’t go bad, get lots of it! You’ll be really happy when you’re up at 3 am for the millionth time and your belly is rumbling. Pro tip: bagels, bread, tortillas… (pretty much any packaged grain)… will stay good for weeks if you stick it in the fridge! I’m a bagels and cream cheese girl, so I grabbed myself a big tub of cream cheese and a few packages of bagels. This was my go-to breakfast.
  • Get the car detailed. Or, if you’re feeling really energetic, clean it yourself! It may seem insignificant, but when you walk out of that hospital…. you’ll want to get into a clean car. Not to mention when you’re in the throes of labor on your way TO the hospital….
  • Go on one last special date with your husband. It’s not like it won’t ever happen again, but it definitely might be awhile. Having another baby creates a little upheaval for awhile. Most likely you won’t be able to focus too hard on each other for a least a couple of months. Fork out the $$ for a sitter (I know, I KNOW…this entire list so far has been dishing out the cash… but it’s worth it. I promise.)
  • Spend some special time with yourself. If this is your first baby, you might have nothing BUT time with yourself if you are on maternity leave and waiting anxiously for your little one to arrive. Or you may have multiple kids and don’t have time to think. Either way, it’s SO important to take the time to process the emotions and thoughts you have right now. Whether that’s through journaling, singing, dancing, or simply sitting in nature… take some time to process. Write a letter to your baby. Go on a long walk. Take some time in prayer. Treasure this special time of waiting… before you know it your life is going to change forever. Good luck, mama.

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