Third Trimester Symptoms: What to Expect
If pregnancy is a race, the third pregnancy trimester is the final lap. Like most races, the last steps are usually the toughest for moms-to-be.
As your baby prepares for their grand entrance into the world, your body goes through a whirlwind of changes. Most women feel plain exhausted and uncomfortable at this time, even with their bubbling excitement—and that’s completely normal. Just remember, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for you and your growing baby.
If you’re ready to finish strong, read on to learn about common third trimester symptoms and how to soothe them.
When is the Third Trimester?
To simplify treatment, medical professionals divide nine month pregnancies into three parts—your trimesters. Every pregnancy has some variance in trimesters, but most follow a timeline such as this:1
- First trimester – 0 to 13 weeks
- Second trimester – 14 to 26 weeks
- Third trimester – 27 to 40 weeks
Besides tracking calendar dates, the best way to monitor your progress is by checking symptoms. From contractions to nipple changes, let’s explore the physical signs that mark your transition into the final stage of pregnancy.
If you feel a pulse and a squeeze down below, don’t panic—your baby (probably) isn’t arriving yet. During the third trimester, abdominal contractions can actually be quite common.
Known as Braxton-Hicks contractions, most pregnant women experience mild squeezes in their lower abdomen during the final months.2 Typically harmless and irregular, they simply are a sign that your body is preparing for baby delivery. While they can occur at any time, pregnant women may find that Braxton-Hicks contractions are more frequent during these times:
- Afternoon or evening
- After exercise
- After sex
- Closer to the due date
Feeling a steady pulse below, but still weeks out from your due date? Sometimes, frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions can lead to early labor. If you’re concerned about a sudden shift in symptoms, contact your trusted medical provider for guidance.
Fatigue & Low Energy
By the time you hit month seven, every day might feel like a workout. After all, you’re carrying a near full-size baby at all times. As a result, you’ll probably feel more slow, tired, and worn down than in earlier months.
However, there’s a difference between tired and knocked down. If you can’t move from bed, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider and investigate underlying conditions. Otherwise, most pregnant women will feel moderate fatigue symptoms in the third trimester like:
- Reduced energy – Overall, expect to feel less energized. Taking naps, putting your feet up from time to time, and even designating a whole day just for rest in your oh so comfy pregnanacy robe can help alleviate the physical load of pregnancy.
- Dizziness – As your baby grows, your circulation typically slows and fluids can pool towards the legs.3 This lack of blood flow to your head can leave you dizzy or lightheaded, especially when standing for extended periods of time or rising quickly. Compression socks and small movements like short walks and knee bends can help treat mild symptoms of poor circulation.
- Insomnia – Just when you need the most rest, third trimester insomnia can snatch it away. Finding a comfy sleep position can feel downright impossible with that growing belly. Most women prefer sleeping on their side to ease any pains, but a maternity body pillow may help to make bedtime a bit more bearable.
- Shortness of breath – Between fatigue, low circulation, and a bulging belly, you might find yourself huffing and puffing at the smallest movements in the last trimester. To combat this shortness of breath, try to focus on maintaining proper posture and alignment and incorporating safe exercises during pregnancy such as, light aerobic exercise or meditative breathing into your routine.4
Physical Aches & Pains
During the third trimester, your body really pushes the pedal. For most women, these fast physical shifts can create harsh (but temporary) aches, pains, and swelling. In particular, you’ll likely feel pains in areas that support your belly, such as the:
- Lower back
- Lower abdomen
To find out exactly how these changes may manifest, look out for these pregnancy-specific pains that may be typical in the third trimester:
- Pelvic spread – To accommodate a baby, your body releases progesterone which helps to relax your pelvic muscles. However, this pelvic spread can weaken all postural muscles, sometimes leaving you feeling unsupported and aching. Some women end up with a “pelvic waddle” as they grow, widening their stride to find balance.5
- Sciatica – As your pregnancy weight increases, you might become susceptible to sciatica. This pinching of the sciatic nerve can create a sharp, intense pain down one side of the body. Most pregnancy sciatica resolves after giving birth, but heat therapy, yoga, and massage can help alleviate discomfort in the meantime.6
- “Lightning” crotch – It’s a bit of a mystery, but many pregnant women experience a shocking “lightning” sensation in their pubic area. Medical experts guess that excess pressure from the baby creates nerve-related pain near the cervix. While not preventable, these shocks should last no longer than a few seconds.
- Hemorrhoids – About half of pregnant women end up developing hemorrhoids.77 Excess stomach pressure and hormonal changes can lead to these intense sores, bringing bleeding, painful bowel movements, itching, burning, and swelling along with them. Treat any hemorrhoids at home with warm baths, gentle wiping, ice, and a fiber-rich diet.
It’s more than cravings for pickles and peanut butter. During pregnancy, your digestive system can suffer due to increased pressure and hormonal changes.
But shifting between a revved-up appetite and digestive issues can be tough to manage. In order to maintain proper prenatal nutrition, there are ceratin foods to eat when pregnant during the first trimester. As you transition into the third trimester, watch out for these digestive symptoms:
- Heartburn and acid reflux - Over the third trimester, your uterus begins expanding against your stomach to make room for your little one. Unfortunately, this may lead to heartburn and acid reflux. Soothe the burn by eating smaller and more frequent meals, bland foods, and avoiding eating before bed. For severe cases, seek proton-pump inhibitors or H2 blockers to lower stomach acid.
- Gestational diabetes - Pregnancy’s quick weight gain and hormonal shifts can sometimes be the cause of low insulin levels, leaving 2-10% of pregnant women with gestational diabetes.8 Since this temporary form diabetes has no symptoms, you should keep up with routine medical visits during your pregnancy to test for and treat this condition.
- Nausea - No, morning sickness isn’t just a first trimester issue. In fact, some pregnant women experience nausea over the nine months. Third trimester nausea usually comes from gastrointestinal pressure, and can be accompanied by gas, bloating, or loss of appetite. If this is true for you, try to sip on ginger tea, eat regularly timed meals, and stick with bland foods.9
- Diarrhea - Loosened pelvic muscles can leave all of your lower muscles loose, too. Thanks to a relaxed rectum, you might experience diarrhea in the third trimester. Increase your fiber and water intake to combat this symptom.
Changes in Appearance
When pregnant, you might look in the mirror one morning and not even recognize yourself, or maybe you gradually notice changes in your appearance over time. Either way, it’s completely normal. Your body is transforming to bring a new life into the world.
Changes in appearance are expected and normal during pregnancy. In fact, a few shifts can be signs of a healthy baby to come. Most women experience these noticeable and harmless changes during the third trimester:
- Excess hair on limbs
- Nail strengthening
- Breast enlargement
- Belly button expansion
- Darkened nipples
However, there are a couple physical changes that could lean positive, neutral, or negative. Keep an eye on these markers during your third trimester:
- Varicose veins – Veins carry your blood directly back to the heart. However, pregnancy weight gain can slow this one-way blood flow, creating new purplish-red veins across the body—also known as spider veins.2 Some spider veins are harmless, but they can sometimes turn quite painful or itchy. Light exercise, a warm bath, and hydration can help with a varicose vein problem.
- Weight gain – Over the third trimester, your body continually packs on weight to support your little one. Medical experts recommend gaining about 1 to 2 pounds per week, avoiding any sudden and excessive weight increase.10
- Edema – If you need new shoes during the third trimester, you’re probably not alone. Due to weight gain and pregnancy hormones, your body tends to retain extra fluid during pregnancy. By the third trimester, this can leave your feet, lower legs, and hands swollen and achy. Try elevating your feet, wearing compression socks, and boosting hydration to combat this fluid retention.
Other Common Third-Trimester Symptoms
Every mother has a unique and individual pregnancy. During the third trimester, the range of symptoms can go far and wide. Beyond the above symptoms, expectant mothers might also experience these common events during their final months:11
- Baby movements or “kicks”
- Increased urination
- Restless leg syndrome or leg cramping
- Severe headache
- Dry + itchy stomach skin
- Skin hyperpigmentation
- Colostrum (early breast lactation)
Monica + Andy—Your Motherhood Community
For some women, the third trimester is equal parts exciting and exhausting. Just know that every physical shift is one step closer to meeting your child for the first time. With an encouraging support system and proper medical guidance, these symptoms can remain as temporary bothers, not roadblocks to motherhood.
Whether newly pregnant or postnatal, every mom deserves as much love as their baby. That’s why Monica + Andy offers quality classes for all stages of motherhood. Catch virtual courses on prenatal yoga and infant CPR—or bring your baby to live sing-a-long events. It’s the supportive community that every parent needs.
And if you’re setting aside some time in your third trimester to stock your baby’s closet, take a look at our organic baby clothing and baby blankets. From take-home blankets to one-pieces, wrap your child in love with Monica + Andy.
the three trimesters." UCSF Health. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/pregnancy/trimesters
- "Pregnancy week by week." Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20046767
- Patel, Shivani. "8 third trimester pains and how to deal with them." UT Southwestern. 31 May, 2016. https://utswmed.org/medblog/third-trimester-discomfort/
- "The Third Trimester of Pregnancy: Shortness of Breath and Edema." Healthline. 19 December, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/third-trimester-shortness-breath-edema
- Beans, Carolyn. "What Puts The Waddle In The Walk Of Moms-To-Be?" NPR. 5 July, 2016. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/07/05/484167200/hey-moms-to-be-here-s-what-puts-the-waddle-in-our-walk
- "How to Handle Sciatica During Your Pregnancy." Cleveland Clinic. 31 December, 2019. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-handle-sciatica-during-your-pregnancy/
- Silver, Natalie et Nunez, Kirsten. "What to Know About Pregnancy Hemorrhoids." Healthline. Updated on 30 November, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/pregnancy-hemorrhoids.
- "Gestational Diabetes." CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/gestational.html
- Bradley, Sarah. "When Morning Sickness Doesn’t Go Away: Third Trimester Nausea." Healthline. 3 July, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/third-trimester-nausea
- "Pregnancy Weight Gain." American Pregnancy Association. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/pregnancy-weight-gain/
- "The Third Trimester." Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-third-trimester