The Third Trimester: Physical and Emotional Changes

Here is some of what you might experience:

  • Changes in your body
  • Emotional changes
  • Warning signs your caregiver may need to evaluate

Your Body
This is a general guide to the changes pregnant women often experience. You may be more tired as growing fetus and bodily changes sap energy. In the last month, nighttime sleep is often interrupted and not very restful. Midday rest periods can be very helpful. Try to sleep on your side, with pillows for support between your knees or under your belly.

You'll experience vigorous fetal movement, sometimes visible even through clothing. You might feel occasionally uncomfortable as the fetus stretches and bumps into muscles and organs

An expectant mother may feel taken over by -- and sometimes even secondary to -- the baby. Continued support from the expectant father will remind her that she is desirable and is still herself. Expectant couples begin to seriously discuss plans for birth and parenting. Fears of pain, complications and defects alternate with excitement and anticipation.

Lamaze classes enhance a couple's well-being; they also provide information, a chance to share feelings with other couples undergoing the same experience and practical techniques for dealing with labor and hospital routines.

Increasing anticipation of the start of labor can make expectant parents nervous. It can also interfere with sleep and with scheduling pleasant, distracting activities. A lot of interest is focused on the uterus and impending delivery.

Expectant parents enjoy final preparations and plans for layette, furniture, etc., and make serious decisions about how they'll feed their newborn. With more women breastfeeding and clear medical evidence supporting it, the couple may become the first in their family to breastfeed. Support groups may be helpful.

The pregnant woman often experiences an increased interest in her own mother's birth experience and makes comparisons between her mother's style of parenting and the style she hopes to develop herself.

The last days and weeks seem long, and you'll feel increasingly impatient for the end of the pregnancy and the opportunity to hold the baby.

Warning Signs
Not all warning signs mean something is wrong. Use these as a guide when communicating with your caregiver.

  • Severe problems in partners' relationship; overwhelming feelings of dependence.
  • Inability to slow down and rest.
  • Marked decrease in amount of fetal activity lasting 12 hours or more.
  • Weight gain of more than three pounds in one week.
  • Sudden increase in the amount of swelling in ankles, hands or face. Severe backache, especially if accompanied by fever or burning on urination.
  • Contraction (especially if painful or if more than four per hour), increasing pelvic pressure or increasing vaginal discharge before 36 weeks could signal preterm (premature) labor.
  • Inability to plan; paralyzing anxiety.
  • Painful, hard veins.
  • Vaginal bleeding either with or without pain. Constipation and hemorrhoids are occasionally associated with rectal bleeding after a bowel movement.
  • Shortness of breath at rest; chest pain.
  • Persistent or severe pain anywhere in the abdomen.

Seek professional help if any of the physical or psychological symptoms listed here develops. In addition to these specific symptoms, the following problems should also be reported to your clinician if you experience any of them while pregnant:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Leakage of fluid from the vagina that is not your normal pregnancy discharge or urine
  • Fever of 101 degrees F or higher
  • A rash, especially if accompanied by flulike symptoms; severe pain in head, chest, abdomen, pelvis or limbs.

For more information, please read:

Additionally, sign up for your personalized Pregnancy Calendar.

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