The third trimester of pregnancy is the last 3 months, or from the twenty-ninth through the fortieth week of gestation. It is a time of preparing for the birth, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The major physical changes that women experience during the third trimester include the following:
• Uterus. Toward the end of pregnancy, the uterus reaches the breastbone, or sternum, and measures about 11 by 14 inches. Lightening occurs from 1 to 6 weeks before delivery. This means that the baby’s head settles downward into the pelvis and may engage in the pelvic inlet.
Braxton-Hicks contractions become stronger and more apparent as the time for delivery approaches. The cervix becomes softer during the last few weeks and may begin to thin out and open up a little in preparation for labor. The woman may feel a sharp pain in the groin if she moves suddenly. This pain is caused by a spasm in or stretching of the round ligaments. These ligaments are a main support of the uterus and extend into the groin area on both sides.
• Vagina. As the pregnancy nears its end, more mucus is passed vaginally in preparation for the baby’s passage. The vaginal swelling also increases at this time and may result in discomfort during sexual intercourse.
- Eat frequent small meals.
- Avoid spicy or fried foods.
- Eat a small amount of yogurt before meals.
- Drink milk or eat ice cream.
- Chew gums.
- Never overfill your stomach with foods or liquids.
- Take an antacid as recommended by your caregiver.
- Try papaya enzyme with meals.
- Do not lie down after eating.
- Sleep with your head elevated.
- Avoid bending at the waist.
• Digestion. The growing uterus puts pressure on the stomach and intestines, pushing them up and back. Heartburn, a burning sensation felt in the chest, may occur. This is caused by the escape of gastric contents into the esophagus as a result of the relaxation of the sphincter at the top of the stomach. Problems with constipation may continue.
• Breathing. Shortness of breath is common because the uterus is pushing up to the diaphragm. This improves after lightening. Many women also experience nasal congestion and may even have nosebleeds.
• Vision. Some women experience a change in vision, possibly requiring new glasses or preventing them from wearing their contacts. Report any change in vision to your caregiver, since it may be the result of gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, or another serious problem.
• Calculation. Varicose veins may develop in the legs, vulva, or rectum (hemorrhoids). Varicose veins are caused by the increased pelvic pressure exerted by the uterus and growing fetus, as well as by the decrease in blood returned from the lower body and limbs. They usually diminish after delivery.
• Urination. The need to urinate usually increases, especially after lightening occurs. This is caused by the pressure of the baby on the bladder.
• Fatigue. Carrying around the extra weight causes fatigue to return during the last trimester.
During the third trimester, most women focus more and more on the baby, and on labor and delivery. Both parents-to-be find that the search for the perfect name has become an important pastime. They also spend time preparing an area in the house for the baby. Almost all women by now have accepted that they are pregnant and are able to differentiate their babies as real people, separate from themselves.
Time during the third trimester seems endless. Many women count on their due date to bring the end of their discomfort and may be very discouraged if go a week or more beyond.
Because of their large size, some women experience a drop in self-esteem during this trimester. They need the people around them, especially their husbands, to reassure them that they are still attractive.
You can use your preoccupation with labor and delivery to your advantage this time. Gather as much information about the birth experience as possible. Read books, take classes, and talk to new mothers. However, avoid people who repeatedly attempt to discourage you from taking prepared childbirth classes or who dwell on negative birth experiences. You need to keep a confident, relaxed attitude toward the upcoming event. Do not avoid your fears. Do not avoid your fears, but at the same time, do not allow negative thinking to dominate you. Your chances for a positive birth experience are to a great extent determined based on your attitude. Fear and anxiety create negative experiences.