3rd Trimester of Pregnancy: Symptoms, Body Changes & Diet to Follow

Third Trimester of Pregnancy – Symptoms, Body Changes & Diet

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Priyanka Kalra (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

When a woman gets pregnant, it is the most beautiful feeling in this world. You walk with a smile on your face and your face glows. And when you realise your tummy is growing and you are entering the third trimester of pregnancy, i.e. 28th week of your pregnancy, you may feel overwhelmed but anxious at the same time. But, you need not worry as this guide would help you clear all your doubts and concerns.

Video : Third Trimester of Pregnancy – Symptoms, Baby Growth, Do’s and Don’ts

What Is Third Trimester?

The entire nine months of pregnancy, i.e. nearly 40 weeks of pregnancy are usually divided into three trimesters. Talking about the third trimester weeks, it includes 28th to 40th week of pregnancy. In simple words, it is the last three months of pregnancy and thus the most crucial one.

This third trimester of a pregnancy can be both mentally and physically challenging for a woman owing to the final growth stages the foetus goes through. In general, the foetus development is over by the end of week 37, and after that, you may become a mother anytime and knowing what all you can do and expect during this period can actually do the needful.

Third Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms

The third trimester of pregnancy is that point of pregnancy where maximum care and precautions need to be taken. A woman may feel pain, anxiety, and even swelling around some areas.

But the following are the major symptoms you need to look out for when stepping into the third trimester of pregnancy:

  • Increased foetus movement sometimes in the form of what you may call as kicks.
  • Stiffening of the uterus aptly known as Braxton-Hicks Contraction may occur, but they are not usually painful.
  • Frequent urinal discharge will make you take several trips to the bathroom.
  • Heartburn or acidity that is common in the other two trimesters too.
  • Swollen ankles, joints or fingers. These are the side effects of your body changing rapidly.
  • Tender or sensitive breasts that may even discharge the milky liquid already.
  • Insomnia which may be either because of the anxiety or the hormonal changes, as well as the growing belly causing discomfort.
  • Haemorrhoids, i.e. the swollen veins near the anus or in the lower rectum area.

Third Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms

Foetal Development

When stepping into the third trimester, your baby may already have grown large. The foetal weight gain in the third trimester may vary from around two and a half pounds and sixteen inches long in the 28th week of pregnancy to around six to nine pounds and nineteen to twenty-two inches long by week 40.

This change may baffle you, but this is how a baby grows through the entire pregnancy period. Read on to see the stages of foetal development in the third trimester.

  • Bones: When you enter the 32nd week of your pregnancy, by then the bones of your baby may get fully developed. The cartilage of the foetus fully transforms into bones, and the calcium required to develop healthy bones comes from your calcium-rich diet.
  • Hair, Skin, and the Nails: When the 32nd week of your pregnancy starts, the baby’s skin may also develop fully, including hair growth and nail formation.
  • Digestive System: When you reach the last few weeks of your pregnancy, meconium, or the baby’s “first poop”, consisting of blood cells, vernix, and the lanugo will start to show up in the fully formed baby’s intestines.
  • The Senses: The foetus’ touch sensibility may develop in the 29th or the 30th week of pregnancy. And, by week 31 your unborn may start showing response towards the known senses, i.e. the ability to see and perceive light, taste senses, hearing, and smell.
  • Brain Development: The brain may also show noteworthy growth in the third trimester as the foetus may be able to even dream or regulate its own body temperature.
  • Organs: By the 37th week of pregnancy, the organs of the baby are also completely developed.
  • Head Position: By the 36th week, the head of the foetus should be facing downwards. And, if after an ultrasound, your doctor tells you that this is not the case, then he may do his best to change the positioning or may suggest you go through a caesarian section surgery.

Foetal Development

Body Changes

The third trimester means a large belly and along with that size increase, a lot of other things may occur in your body irrespective of them being visible or not. The following section puts light on some of these body changes:

  • Stomach Pains: The round ligaments which support the lower abdomen start stretching to the extent that you may feel sharp intolerable stomach pain. This stretching is due to the adaptability of the body for accommodating the growing baby. There is no way you can avoid this pain rather than being patient and tolerable towards the pain.
  • Tiredness: In your third trimester of pregnancy, you have to carry your weight along with the increasing weight of the baby. This may become difficult to handle and may result in you being tired every now and then. This discomfort may also lead to difficulty in sleeping, but it is up to your wisdom on how to move forward in an organized manner. It is advised to eat well, keep yourself moving but in limits, and manage your sleep well.
  • Braxton-Hicks Contractions: This is one body change that would continue until the real labour starts. This is stiffness or the “practice contractions” that you may feel frequently that may even fool you into thinking that it is time for the delivery.
  • Stretch Marks: To accommodate the growing size of the baby, your body stretches to the extent that stretch marks start showing up. These stretch marks are a sign of the normal growth your baby may be going through. You could gently apply moisturiser to the stretch marks to help reduce its effect.
  • Back Pain: When you carry the weight of your body and the baby’s, your back supports it. But this may result in sharp back pain. The back pain may also occur because of the high secretion of “relaxin”, the pregnancy hormone; your joints start to loosen up, and the grown abdomen may pull the centre of gravity of the body in the forward direction.
  • Frequent Trips to the Bathroom: In your third trimester, even a single sneeze can make you pee in your pants. This is because the additional weight on the pelvic floor that makes it irresistible to control peeing.
  • Milky Breasts: Your breasts may start secreting the milky substance, and this may be the body’s sign that you are soon going to be a mother.

Weight Gain

The weight gain in the crucial period of the third trimester is rapid. This is the time when your baby gains maximum weight. According to research, a baby generally weighs from around 2 pounds in the 27th week to 4 pounds in the 32nd week. By the end of the pregnancy or more precisely the 40th week, the baby’s weight may vary from 6-10 pounds.

Apart from the baby’s weight, your body weight may also increase due to the presence of fluids, amniotic fluid, over-sized uterus, or even the more blood formation. This is the reason a doctor advises to stay fit during the first two trimesters so that the entire body weight in the third trimester becomes easy to bear. Staying active and moving is the key here if you want to be saved on extra kilos that you put on.

Exercises You Can Try

Pregnant women who prefer exercising during the 40 week period enjoy better overall health, controlled weight, and better mood. Low to medium intensity exercises have always been recommended by physicians but one should keep the safety factor in mind.

The following are exercises recommended that can be continued during the pregnancy’s third trimester:

  • Walking and Light Jogging: Walking is the best exercise for pregnant women since time immemorial. Just get your sports shoes on and start walking on smooth pavement. Also, do not brisk walk as this may leave you tired. You could also do slow jogging unless you have complexities or any other discomforts.
    Swimming: If you have a swimming pool to go to, why not use it? You could either swim through the pool or even do easy and recommended aqua activities. One of these activities could be lap swimming which could help in providing relief from abdominal pains. Water could prove to be soothing to the body in many ways, but it is recommended to not exert pressure on your body.
  • Yoga: This is one of the best exercises that can help you stay fit, release stress, and keep your mood elated. Yoga also prepares you for taking on the labour pains in a less painful manner. Preferring to meditate and do the yoga for about 20 minutes would be more than enough but repeating it twice a day would be highly beneficial.
  • Body Weight Workouts: You could also try squats, wall push-up or planks when in the third trimester of your pregnancy. These exercises can build stamina and the strength you would need during your labour period. Avoid crunches or any kind of abs-oriented workout in the last three months of the pregnancy.

It is recommended to consider doing the mentioned exercises only after a thumbs up from your physician or gynaecologist who can give you the best advice for you and the baby.

Tests and Scans

The third trimester includes those last three months of your pregnancy that require utmost care and attention. One of these cares includes visiting the doctor frequently for the required tests and scans. The following are the tests and scans that you should know of:

  • Ultrasound Scan: The third-trimester ultrasound would be similar to the ones conducted in the previous two trimesters. This test would help in knowing the baby’s head position and growth advancement.
  • Electronic Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring: This procedure is conducted to ensure if the baby’s heart is functioning properly with the heart rate as per the normal standards or not.
  • Group B Streptococcus Screening: Group B strep bacteria are normally found in the bowel, vagina, the throat or even the rectum. It is not dangerous for adults but may cause infections to the growing baby. Thus a doctor checks for the intensity of this bacterium for ensuring sound health of the foetus.
  • STI Tests: The doctor may also check for sexually transmitted infections such as Chlamydia, HIV, gonorrhoea, and syphilis as this may also get transmitted to the baby as well.

Third Trimester Diet

Maintaining a healthy diet is one important thing to consider during the entire pregnancy period. A nutritious diet would help you stay upright and going in the third trimester. You should know what to eat and what not to eat, as it is the health of your baby in question and not something you can compromise.

Foods to Eat

  • Lentils should be preferred as they are rich in fibre and proteins.
  • Fruits such as guava, apples, oranges, kiwi or even melons can be included in the routine diet plan for they provide energy and the required vitamins.
  • Dry fruits such as walnuts, almonds, raisins or even hazelnuts should be eaten as they are rich in vitamins and fibre.
  • Avocado should be included in the diet as it is rich in fibres, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
  • Eggs provide the essential fats required during pregnancy, but one thing to keep in consideration is to only consume fully cooked eggs.
  • Plain yoghurt is also a recommended option for pregnant women as it is a rich source of nutrients and healthy fats.

Foods to Avoid

  • Avoid unpasteurized milk and any product made from it as they may be laden with disease-oriented microbes.
  • Avoid eating raw fish, chicken, or meat.
  • Processed food and junk food are a complete no-no.
  • Avoid pineapple, papaya or even grapes.
  • Do not consume any caffeine products.
  • Avoid high salted foods as it may result in water retention which may lead to swollen feet and fingers.
  • Avoid street food or any food source if you are unaware of the hygiene and handling.

To-do List in the Last Trimester

The 3rd-trimester pregnancy care is important, and here is the to-do list for ensuring good health throughout the third trimester:

  • Keep your weight in control by following a maintained diet plan and do the recommended exercises.
  • Schedule for tests and scans with your doctor for ensuring the good health of your baby and you.
  • Buy baby essentials for your baby like clothes, strollers, diapers, powder, soaps, moisturizers, and more.
  • Consult your doctor for tips for managing labour pains.
  • Keep your hospital bag ready with blankets, bottles and baby essentials intact.

Precautions to Take During the Third Trimester

The major precautions that need to be taken during the third trimester of your pregnancy are divided month wise so that you can easily follow-up.

7 Months Pregnant

  • In the 7th month of pregnancy, avoid carrying any kind of heavy load that may put stress on your belly and your back.
  • Prefer taking the support of railings when climbing up or down the stairs and if possible avoid taking the stairs altogether if you have access to the elevator.
  • Prefer leaning on your left side when sleeping as this would help in enhancing the blood flow and would also help in making you sleep better.
  • Avoid overeating as this may result in heartburns or unwanted weight gain.

8 Months Pregnant

  • Avoid exerting yourself too much and also keep your body well hydrated.
  • Lie down on your back whenever you start experiencing Braxton Hicks Contractions.
  • Prefer visiting your doctor at least once a week to keep a record of your health.
  • Do not leave exercising but continue it only after consulting your doctor.
  • Avoid going for long journeys and prevent going on air journeys.
  • Avert from going out in dusty weathers as it may make you vulnerable to bacteria that may cause issues to you and the foetus.
  • Maintain a healthy diet plan but as mentioned earlier, do not overeat.

9 Months Pregnant

  • Go for walks and keep yourself in a positive mood.
  • Travelling is a complete no-no during the ninth month of pregnancy.
  • Decide on the birth process and make all the arrangements beforehand to avoid any last-minute panics.
  • Go for weekly checkups to keep the track of the final stages of development.
  • Eat a lot of fresh fruits and natural juices and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Do not stay alone during this period and always keep someone by your side.

Warning Signs to Watch Out For

Sometimes due to complexities or other unknown reasons, your pregnancy may come under the risk spectrum. The following are the warning signs to look for which point at the need to visit your doctor:

  • The white discharge during pregnancy in the third trimester is common but if you notice that the discharge is quite heavy and wets your undergarment in a short duration visiting your doctor is recommended.
  • Look for any kind of bleeding and consult your doctor immediately.
  • If your face reddens or you go out of breath and feel contractions, it may be time.
  • If you experience severe stomach pain during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester, seek immediate medical help.
  • Dizziness, nausea, or vomiting are also red flag symptoms to watch out for.
  • Increase in swelling or a rapid weight gain in the last few weeks can be a sign of impending preeclampsia.

Tips to Deal With Discomfort in the Third Trimester

The third-trimester pregnancy is known to be associated with discomforts due to increase in weight and hormonal changes. Here are some tips to help you deal with the discomfort of the third trimester:

  • Be more endurable and show patience. Panic and cribbing about pain won’t help. These discomforts are ought to occur and comforting your mind with positive feelings would help a lot.
  • Do not drink too much water before going to bed as this may lead to an increase in the number of times you visit the bathroom.
  • Attend special counselling classes for pregnant women where you would be taught to deal with the discomfort along with several relaxation exercises.
  • Always keep your loved ones near as these discomforts can induce negative thinking or even other complications that require attention.
  • Sit up in a good posture and use a chair to provide support to your back as this can help provide relief from back pain.

Owing to the sensitive period of the third trimester, this guide would help you know about the A-Z of week 28 to week 40. Feeling excited and nervous at the same time? Do not worry, everything will be fine when the new joy enters your life in the form of a beautiful baby.

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