Third Trimester Basics: What to Expect in Your Last Three Months

by: Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo with Catherine Whitney
Learn what to expect during the third trimester of pregnancy.
What to Expect in Your Third Trimester

The third trimester is dedicated to intensive fetal growth. Your fetus will gain fully half its weight during this period. In the final months, there will be further essential lung and brain development.

The food you eat during the final three months is directly utilized in increasing your baby's birth weight. The quality of the food you eat continues to be of primary importance.

As you approach the birth of your baby, typically after some 40 weeks, it's normal to feel equal measures of excitement and apprehension. If this is your first pregnancy, you're entering the great unknown. You may find your thoughts filled with worries about whether your baby is all right, and dread about what you'll experience during labor.

If you've participated in childbirth classes and have a strong partnership with your doctor or midwife, some of that anxiety will be alleviated. And if you've adhered to your blood type plan, you can have some degree of confidence that you've done the best you can to assure a healthy baby.

The key now, as you prepare for labor, is to be as physically and mentally prepared as possible. Continue to gain about one pound per week during the seventh and eighth months. Your weight may stabilize and you may even drop a pound or two during the ninth month.

Common Third Trimester Conditions

Lack of Appetite Many women find they have far less appetite later in pregnancy. One reason is the pressure of the growing fetus on your abdomen. There's simply less room for food. The best way to combat this is to eat something, even a small snack, every three to four hours.

Don't drink water or juice with a meal. Liquid fills your stomach quickly, leaving less room for solid food.

Constipation Constipation, which afflicts many women in the first trimester, often reappears in the final months of pregnancy.

pregnancy constipation

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Edema Sluggish metabolism, often triggered by eating the wrong foods for your blood type, leads to an accumulation of extracellular water, which, in turn, causes edema. Mild swelling, especially in your legs and feet, is to be expected during pregnancy.

Shortness of Breath/Fatigue By the third trimester, you'll be carrying a heavy and awkward load. The pressure of the expanding uterus on your respiratory system can cause shortness of breath even with mild exertion. Fatigue can also be caused by sleeplessness. Many women have trouble sleeping in the final months because they can't get comfortable.

Indigestion and Heartburn You may find that the pressure from your growing fetus constricts your digestive tract, forcing stomach contents back up through the esophagus. You can minimize acid reflux or heartburn by eating small, regular meals, chewing food thoroughly and eating slowly. Don't lie down for at least an hour after eating.

High Blood Pressure If your edema is more serious, it could be a sign of preeclampsia. Eclampsia is a severe condition associated with elevated blood pressure. Even women who are not normally at risk for high blood pressure sometimes develop a pregnancy-induced hypertension. High blood pressure can restrict blood flow to the placenta and rob your fetus of oxygen and vital nutrients.

If you have hypertension, you'll need to get more rest and even stay off your feet.

Urinary Tract Infections UTIs are very common during pregnancy. In the third trimester they are more serious because of the potential for developing a kidney infection. Kidney infections can provoke preterm labor.

Urinary and Vaginal Problems During Pregnancy

Find out more about urinary and vaginal problems that can occur during your pregnancy from Dr. Chloe Zera of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Exercise Guidelines

Keep in mind that exercise is not only tolerated, it can prevent potentially serious complications, such as high blood pressure that can lead to preeclampsia. Exercise during pregnancy may also prevent some of the aches and pains associated with carrying extra weight and the changes in gait.

However, pregnancy is such a different experience for each individual that, according to your own level of fitness and your needs at this time, it is best to approach your exercise program with great care and scrupulous attention to both form and function. Don't hesitate to adapt your daily workout according to your needs.

It is common for women in the final months to feel short of breath, especially when exercising. Awkwardness, leg cramps and pelvic aching can all hinder your ability to exercise as fully as you once did. Care should be taken to rise gradually from the floor to avoid dizziness.

More: Prenatal Strengthening and Toning Exercises

Dads Take Note: Stress and Weight Gain

As your partner's pregnancy progresses, be aware of your own stress triggers. A recent study showed that men gained an average of three to four pounds during their partners' pregnancies. First-time fathers tended to eat and drink too much in response to stress.

Perineal Massage

Your body is making lots of new hormones that enhance the relaxation and elasticity of your muscles. This elasticity allows your abdomen and pelvis to accommodate the rapidly growing fetus. You can use this to your benefit by beginning to stretch the vaginal opening to ease the delivery of your infant's head and minimize the need for an episiotomy.

Recline comfortably, either on your bed or the floor. Place a small amount of warm almond or olive oil on your thumb. Insert your thumb into the vaginal tract, and gradually apply light pressure downward toward your feet. Do this for a count of 10, then allow another count of 10 for relaxation. Repeat five to six times. Practice this stretching routine daily in the third trimester and invite your partner to participate.

Are you in your first or second trimester? Check out First Trimester Basics and Second Trimester Basics!

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    Eat Right for Your Baby
    Eat Right for Your Baby