While the second trimester probably left you energized and nausea-free, for many women, the last trimester can herald the return of a few unwanted pregnancy symptoms. Some women experience all of these, while others only notice one or two. And if you are lucky and don’t have any, don’t tell your pregnant friends since they will surely be jealous!
1. Swelling. This is probably one of the most common third trimester symptoms. Some swelling is normal, but some can be a red flag.
2. Frequent urination. You can thank your growing baby and uterus for this one. Since they squeeze the bladder, you feel the need to pee more often. This is normal (and keep drinking your water even though you feel like you live in the bathroom!), but if you notice burning when you pee or when you go nothing comes out, let your doctor or midwife know. These can be signs of a urinary tract infection.
3. Difficulty sleeping. It can be hard to get comfortable as your pregnancy progresses, which can lead to frequent awakenings at night (so can having to pee). Get rest whenever you can. Sometimes certain body pillows can help you get more comfortable, too.
4. Fatigue. If sleeping is difficult, you may feel quite tired during the day. Also, your body is working extra hard carrying around an ever-growing baby. This can lead to the return of the fatigue you probably remember from the first trimester. Listen to your body and rest up — especially since you’ll be even more tired once your baby arrives!
5. Low back pain. The uterus can put pressure on certain nerves in your back, making back pain a frequent occurrence. Try to stretch and exercise to help alleviate this (yoga can be great for this), and take advantage of warm baths and massages. A belly band can be a life-saver, too.
6. Contractions. As your uterus is growing, the muscle fibers are going to start practicing for the big day. Braxton Hicks contractions are normal and do not cause labor, but if you are preterm and have four or more strong contractions in one hour, you need to let your provider know so they can rule out preterm labor. Once you hit the term mark, you can know when it might be the real thing.
7. Shortness of breath. Once again, the expanding uterus is to blame. It pushes up on your diaphragm, which means your lungs can’t fill up with as much air. This leaves you winded. Take it easy, and stand up straight to give your lungs room to fill. If you notice any chest pain or are very short of breath (such as only from walking a few feet), you need to let your provider know immediately since this could be a sign of an emergency.
8. Hemorrhoids and constipation. Hemorrhoids result from increased blood flow in the pelvis, as well as poor blood drainage from the growing uterus. Constipation can make them worse since straining can make them bigger and more painful. Fortunately, they can be treated.
9. Stretch marks or itchy skin. While stretch marks can be unavoidable for some women, the itchy skin that can come with them can be improved by using moisturizing cream and, sometimes, a low-dose steroid cream. Save your money on the expensive stretch mark creams — there is no data that they work!
10. Leg cramps. Some pregnant women are awoken at night by leg cramps, which can be quite painful. Frequent stretching and standing on the cramped leg or massaging the calf can help when these strike. They are not dangerous but can be annoying.
11. Numbness. Swelling puts pressure on nerves and can lead to numbness, often felt in the hands or toes. This is not permanent or dangerous, but if it is very bothersome, tell your doctor or midwife. If they think you’ve developed carpal tunnel syndrome, they can recommend wrist splints that can help.
12. Stress. As your due date nears, you may start wondering if you are really ready to have a baby! Nursery preparations, finding the perfect car seat, and trying to handle well-meaning family can all lead to anxiety about the arrival of your little one. Take it one step at a time, and realize that babies don’t really require much. Rest when you can, and enjoy your last few weeks by doing some things you might not be able to do with a newborn!
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, August 2019
- Many symptoms can appear in the third trimester, and most are not worrisome or dangerous.
- Fatigue often returns in this trimester, so rest up when you can.
- Know what kind of contractions may signal preterm labor so you can let your provider know if your contractions are real.
- It’s normal to be a little stressed as your due date nears, but try to focus on small tasks to make things manageable.