Weeks 27 through 40
The third trimester of pregnancy is very taxing on your body. Toward the end of your pregnancy, your pelvic joints feel loose, your back aches and your movements are cumbersome. Even getting out of a chair takes a little time. It is one of nature’s great designs that by the end of nine months, most women are tired of being pregnant and looking forward to delivery. Here are some of the common side effects that occur in the third trimester and ways you can relieve any discomfort you are feeling.
Get your rest
In the meantime, whenever possible in these last few months, try to take a nap or at least a short rest period during the day. Many women find it helpful to cut back on work hours in the last few weeks. Eating well-balanced meals, taking iron supplements, and getting daily exercise can also help maintain your energy.
Braxton-Hicks prepare your body
During this trimester, you will probably start to feel some mild contractions. Your abdomen will get hard and tight, then relax and soften. These irregular and mild contractions, called Braxton-Hicks contractions, help prepare your body for labor. Changing position, increasing fluids and resting on your left side can help if these become bothersome. If you still have painful contractions after trying these measures, be sure to call your doctor.
In the last weeks of pregnancy, most women have difficulty sleeping at night. It’s hard to find a comfortable position, and just about the time you do, you have to get up to go to the bathroom again. Your baby may be on a different schedule than you are, merrily kicking when you are trying to sleep. Increased anxiety about the birth and your abilities to be a good mother may also be keeping you awake. Lying on your left side with a pillow between your knees and more pillows under your head, back and abdomen can help you be more comfortable. Taking a warm bath or shower, drinking warm milk and practicing relaxation techniques before you go to bed can also help.
You may be experiencing heartburn – a burning sensation in your lower chest or upper abdomen. During pregnancy, it is caused by the pressure of the baby on your stomach and by hormonal changes. To minimize heartburn, eat frequent, small meals and try to avoid fatty, spicy foods. Avoid lying flat right after eating, and take antacids between meals if recommended by your doctor.
A slight swelling of the lower legs, ankles and feet is common in late pregnancy. Hot weather and long periods of standing or sitting can make swelling worse. To help minimize swelling, get moderate exercise and wear loose clothing. Wearing support stockings and resting periodically with legs and hips elevated on a chair or sofa can also help. If swelling is sudden and severe, especially if you gain more than 2 to 3 pounds in a week, contact your doctor immediately.
Relieve leg cramps
Leg cramps can be caused by the pressure of the growing baby on the nerves in your legs, and by normal changes in the calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood stream. Massage, heat over the affected muscle and pointing your toes toward your knee can help relieve a leg cramp. You may also want to talk to your doctor about taking calcium supplements or other medications.
The normal hormonal changes of pregnancy, pressure from the growing baby on the intestines, and iron supplements all contribute to constipation. If you are suffering from constipation, try drinking more water and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, bran and whole grains. Moderate exercise such as walking can help improve regularity. Your doctor may also suggest a fiber substitute or stool softeners. Hemorrhoids, which are varicose veins around the anus and rectum, are caused by pushing hard and bearing down for bowel movements. The best way to avoid hemorrhoids is to prevent constipation.
Be sure to let your doctor know if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms: unusual vaginal discharge, itching or sores; severe vomiting or continued morning sickness; a temperature higher than 101 degrees; pain or burning with urination; sudden weight gain and/or swelling of the hands, feet, face or ankles; a marked decrease in urination; severe or persistent headaches; or dizziness or blurred vision.
You should also be aware of signs of premature labor, and contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
Vaginal bleeding (except spotting after a pelvic exam)
A gush or uncontrolled leaking of fluid from the vagina
Sharp, constant abdominal pain
Cramps combined with a low, dull backache that lasts more than one hour
What is happening with your baby?
This is the period of greatest growth for your baby, who is starting to gain about one-half pound every week. Her organs are continuing to mature. She sucks her thumb, looks around her snug little world, and has definite periods of activity and rest. By 36 weeks or so, she will start settling into her birth position, which is head-down for most births.
Hear from two Swedish OBs and find out everything you need to know if you’re planning to get pregnant or just found out you already are!
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