20 things pregnant women need to know about the third trimester

The third trimester of pregnancy is an exciting but also totally exhausting time.

You’re in the final countdown for the baby’s arrival and there’s so much to look forward to.

But you’ve still got quite a few weeks to go and you’re getting bigger by the day, which means that physically this pregnancy thing is just going to get tougher.

Following on from my tips and advice for getting through the first and second trimesters, here’s what you need to know about the third.

1. Back ache

You’ve got a lot of extra weight in front so it’s inevitable that your back is going to be raking a lot of the strain.

This is where walking and keeping fit ahead of this bit of the pregnancy will pay off, because your back muscles will already have some strength in them.

Try to keep up with gentle exercises. 30 minutes of walking a day can work wonders.

2. Making a birth plan

It’s good to have an idea of what to expect and all the information about the pain relief options available to you. But I suggest that ruling anything out is a mistake.

You may have to have a C-section to save you and your baby’s lives. That’s not a failure, it’s just using modern medicine to your advantage.

Having a birth plan is fine to highlight certain key points, but don’t get bogged down in things going to plan. Your baby won’t be reading the birth plan and they probably have other ideas!

3. Getting comfortable

It’s hard to get in the best position for sleeping at night, particularly as sleeping on your back is no longer an option.

A maternity pillow is good for supporting you. Just try lots of different positions on your side and try to relax as best you can.

4. Get a comfy bra

Your boobs may be sore and swollen, plus towards the end of your pregnancy they might even start leaking a little bit as they gear up for breastfeeding.

A comfy bra, preferably without underwire, is great for providing support day and night. Nursing bras are perfectly designed for this, alternatively a good sports bra is also great.

5. Braxton hicks

The muscles of your womb can start tightening after around the midway point of your pregnancy. If you put your hands on your bump you may be able to feel them tighten and release.

They can be confused for labour, but the key differences are that they are infrequent, will often go away if you change activity and don’t increase in intensity.

When you’re in labour, you will know. Real contractions are impossible to talk through and it will be possible to time them and spot a pattern.

6. Get the hospital bag packed

Now is the right time to get that hospital bag packed. When it comes to picking clothes you will wear in labour, don’t pick anything that you value. It will get covered in blood and all kinds of other fluids.

It’s wise to pick a long t-shirt or nightie as these give the midwife or doctor easy access to see what’s going on downstairs.

Don’t forget clothes and blankets for the baby. I’ve written a post with lots of tips on packing your hospital bag here.

7. Have a final date night

Make time for you and your partner because soon your lives will be taken up with feeding, changing and grabbing whatever sleep that you can.

Go to the cinema, go out for dinner, grab a coffee, have a day out at a National Trust property, just do something to enjoy your final weeks as a family of two.

8. Plan how to reach the hospital

It’s a good idea to have a little chat about the best route to the hospital and how you’re going to get there. Keep your hospital bag somewhere easy to pick up if you’re in a rush and don’t forget to out your medical notes with it too.

9. Be aware of these symptoms

Remember to keep an eye on your baby’s movements and report any concerns.

Also be on the look out for bleeding, strong pains, and itching. You should also be aware of the signs of pre-eclampsia which include blurred vision, swelling in the hands and feet, nausea and severe headaches.

10. Vaginal discharge

As you approach your due date you may notice an increase in vaginal discharge, which is totally normal.

Around your due date, you may also get a “bloody show” which is the mucus plug around your cervix coming away. This doesn’t necessarily mean labour is imminent that day, but it is a good sign.

11. Trouble breathing

You’ve got a baby and all the associated fluids crammed inside you. It’s going to displace your organs and it does put extra pressure on your lungs.

Feeling short of breath is normal, try not to overdo it.

12. Swelling and weight gain

It’s normal to gain up to 30lbs in pregnancy. Plus a little swelling of your feet can also occur, although be sure to report this to your midwife if you’re concerned.

If you plan to breastfeed it requires a lot of calories and energy, so storing some fat reserves now is no bad thing.

13. Rib pain

My first baby kicked me in the ribs constantly. I felt like she was going to break them at times.

Unfortunately you just have to ride this pain out, as awful as it can feel.

14. Bump size

Your midwife will measure your bump at every appointment. The tape measure is place at the top of your bump then run down to your pelvis.

The theory is that it should measure the number of weeks of your pregnancy, plus or minus 2cms either side. So at 38 weeks you should measure between 36 and 40cms.

You may be referred for a growth scan if you’re measuring particularly small or big. I was with my first and it was nothing to worry about in the end.

15. Pelvic pain

This can range from mild to extremely uncomfortable. It can be caused by your baby’s movements or by your baby’s head dropping down into the right position for labour.

16. Final midwife appointments

Remember to ask any questions you have at these final appointments, including details about pain relief and what happens if you’re overdue.

Most NHS trusts will book you in for an induction for around 14 days after your due date unless there is a medical reason to do it earlier.

17. Self-care

Put your feet up, have a nap, watch some movies and paint your nails (your toes may be tough to reach at this stage).

If you’ve finished work ahead of your due date and feel like you’re twiddling your thumbs, enjoy this time by relaxing and caring for you.

18. Impatience

You’re probably itching to meet your baby by the time you reach the fortnight before your due date.

And it’s not just you getting impatient. You may find yourself fielding calls from a lot of different relatives and friends asking if there’s any news yet.

Try to laugh it off, they’re just being concerned.

A good idea for using up these days where you’re just waiting is to practice using the baby gear like the car seat and pram. Figure out how the harnesses work, how they fold up and how they fit in the car now. It’s much harder when you have a screaming baby with you.

19. Getting labour started

Eating pineapple or spicy curries, going for a long walk, sex and bouncing on a exercise ball are all supposed to help bring on labour.

I can find no evidence to support any of these theories, having done a ton of research in the days after my due dates with both kids.

It does make me chuckle when people swear eating a curry started their labour, three days after their baby was due. The fact is it was probably total coincidence.

By all means, do all of the things on the list above, just don’t have high hopes of them working.

Your midwife will probably offer you a sweep if you’re a week overdue. This involves her inserting two fingers into your vagina and sweeping across the cervix. It’s not particularly comfortable but I didn’t find it painful. There’s not great statistics on success rates but some studies quote around 40 per cent.

20. Safe sleep advice

Soon you will have a baby in your house and you’ll be thrown in at the deep end learning to care for them.

Don’t panic, use common sense and you’ll be fine. Do brush up on the safe sleep advice from the NHS and Lullaby Trust.

Key pieces of advice include try not to let baby overheat (use lightweight blankets), put your baby in their cot with their feet to the bottom of the bed (helps prevent them sliding underneath the blankets), and put your baby on their back to sleep.

It’s simple stuff but it could save your baby’s life.

Found this useful? For more tips on preparing for your baby, surviving the early weeks, breastfeeding, bedtime routines and much more, subscribe to my mailing list and gain access to FREE printables.

Ultimate guide to the third trimester of pregnancy - all the most important things you need to know plus FREE printable checklist for packing your hospital bag

20 things pregnant women need to know about the third trimester

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