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The third trimester survival guide: Common symptoms and how to tame them

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki is a parenting writer and a mom to three wild boys who keep her on her toes (and occasionally make her question her sanity). With over 15 years of experience in the parenting industry, she has more tips and tricks than Mary Poppins on speed dial. When she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can find her sipping on coffee, hiding in the bathroom for five minutes of...
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 6 mins read
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If you are reading this, you are most likely a mum-to-be and really starting to feel your pregnancy! If this is your last trimester, welcome to your final stretch, the grand finale of your pregnancy journey. You’ve made it this far; now, it’s just a matter of hanging in there for the last few months. If you have started to feel some of the more common symptoms of this pregnancy stage, we are here to give you some handy tips to manage them.

Understanding the third trimester


Before we dive into the symptoms and tips, let’s start by answering the question, “What should a pregnant woman do in the third trimester?” It’s all about preparation. You’re at a crucial pregnancy stage, about to meet the mini-you that has been causing all this ruckus. It’s time to start preparing your body for the big day – so try out some of these tips:

Prenatal exercises: Engaging in gentle, pregnancy-safe exercises such as walking, swimming, or prenatal yoga can help keep your body strong and flexible, which can be beneficial for both vaginal birth and recovery from a C-section.

Pelvic floor exercises: Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can aid in a smoother delivery and faster recovery. Kegel exercises are a popular method to strengthen these muscles.

Prenatal classes: These classes can prepare you mentally and physically for labour. They often cover breathing techniques, labour positions, and information about pain relief options.

Nutrition: Maintain a balanced diet rich in nutrients to keep your body strong. This is crucial for your body’s recovery post-birth and for breastfeeding.

Rest and hydrate: Make sure to get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated. Rest is crucial for your body’s energy reserves, which you’ll need for labour and delivery.

Practice breathing techniques: Learning and practising different breathing techniques can help manage pain during labour. These techniques can also be helpful for managing stress and anxiety.

Discuss your birth plan with your healthcare provider: Whether you’re planning a vaginal birth or a C-section, it’s important to discuss your birth plan in detail with your healthcare provider. This can include your preferences for pain relief, immediate skin-to-skin contact, or any other specific wishes you have for your delivery.

Common symptoms in the third trimester of pregnancy


The third trimester, typically starting at week 28, comes with a delightful mix of discomfort, swelling, and a myriad of other manifestations. To give you a heads-up, let’s take a peek at what the next few months have in store for you.


1. Braxton Hicks


In the third trimester, your body conducts dry runs for labour, known as Braxton Hicks contractions. They can feel uncomfortable and a bit startling, particularly if you’re a first-time mum. These contractions are your uterus’s way of preparing for the real thing – labour. They might be milder, but these “practice contractions” still have a part to play in your body’s preparation for birth.

Braxton Hicks contractions are typically irregular and don’t get closer together. They usually subside with movement or change in position and don’t last long. However, if your contractions become regular, increasingly intense, and closer together, or if you have any concerns, it’s essential to seek medical advice, as this could be a sign of real labour.


Taming the Braxton Hicks


Shifting your position or activity can often alleviate Braxton Hicks contractions. Hydrating adequately can also help reduce the frequency of these contractions. A warm bath might provide some relief as well.

2. Swelling


Swelling, also known as oedema, is a common symptom during the third trimester. The increased fluid retention and blood flow needed for your developing baby can lead to swelling, particularly in your feet, ankles, and hands.

Typically, swelling is considered normal unless it is severe, sudden, or accompanied by other symptoms such as headache, visual changes, or pain in your chest or abdomen. These could be signs of a condition called preeclampsia, and you should seek medical advice immediately.

Keeping Swelling at Bay


Regular light exercise, like walking or swimming, can help promote circulation and reduce fluid retention. Elevate your feet when resting, and avoid standing or sitting in one position for long periods. Hydrating well can also help flush out excess fluids.

3. Gastroesophageal Reflux and Indigestion


As your uterus expands to accommodate your growing baby, it puts pressure on your digestive system. This can lead to gastroesophageal reflux, a condition where stomach acid leaks back up into the oesophagus, causing heartburn and indigestion.

While discomfort due to heartburn and indigestion is common in pregnancy, if you experience severe or persistent pain, lose weight unexpectedly, or vomit blood, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider.

Combating Acid Reflux and Indigestion


Try eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than large ones, and avoid spicy, acidic, or fatty foods. Allow yourself plenty of time to digest before lying down. Antacids can be useful, but always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new medication.

4. Fatigue


Third-trimester fatigue is a common symptom. Your body is working overtime to nurture your growing baby, which can take a toll on your energy levels.

Fatigue is a common part of pregnancy, but if you’re feeling excessively tired or have symptoms like dizziness, fainting, or rapid heartbeat, you should check in with your healthcare provider.

Handling Fatigue


Listen to your body and rest when you need to. Eat a balanced diet rich in iron and protein to keep your energy levels up. Practising mindfulness or gentle yoga can also help manage stress and promote better sleep.

5. Shortness of Breath


As your uterus expands, it presses against your diaphragm, the muscle under your lungs, which can result in shortness of breath.

While some shortness of breath is normal, if it’s severe, persistent, or accompanied by chest pain, rapid heart rate, or fainting, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Managing Shortness of Breath


Maintaining good posture can help maximise lung capacity. Sleeping propped up on pillows can also relieve the pressure on your diaphragm. Try slow and deep breathing exercises to help manage your breathlessness.

So, there you have it – your third trimester survival guide! While the symptoms may seem daunting, it’s essential to remember that these are all normal indications of your body preparing to welcome your little one. Keep in mind the most important aspect of the third trimester: preparing for your baby. As you navigate through these pregnancy stages, remember to appreciate the journey. You’re in the home stretch now, and soon enough, all the discomfort will be a distant memory. Remember, every pregnancy is unique and if you’re concerned about any symptoms or need more advice, always consult with your healthcare provider.


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