Third trimester pregnancy: What to expect

The third trimester of pregnancy can be tiring and uncomfortable. Here's help relieving symptoms — and anxiety — as your due date approaches.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The third trimester of pregnancy can be physically and emotionally challenging. Your baby's size and position might make it hard for you to get comfortable. You might be tired of pregnancy and eager to move on to the next stage. If you've been gearing up for your due date, you might be disappointed if it comes and goes uneventfully.

Try to remain positive as you look forward to the end of your pregnancy. Soon you'll hold your baby in your arms! Here's what to expect in the meantime.

Your body

As your baby grows, his or her movements will become more obvious. These exciting sensations are often accompanied by increasing discomfort and other signs and symptoms, including:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions. You might feel these mild contractions as a slight tightness in your abdomen. They're more likely to occur in the afternoon or evening, after physical activity or after sex. These contractions also tend to occur more often and become stronger as you approach your due date. Contact your health care provider if the contractions become painful or regular.
  • Backaches. Pregnancy hormones relax the connective tissue that holds your bones in place, especially in the pelvic area. These changes can be tough on your back, and often result in discomfort during the third trimester. When you sit, choose chairs with good back support. Apply a heating pad or ice pack to the painful area. Get regular exercise and stretch afterward. Wear low-heeled — but not flat — shoes with good arch support. If your back pain doesn't go away or is accompanied by other signs and symptoms, contact your health care provider.
  • Shortness of breath. You might get winded easily. Practice good posture to give your lungs more room to expand.
  • Heartburn. Pregnancy hormones relaxing the valve between your stomach and esophagus can allow stomach acid to reflux into your esophagus, causing heartburn. To prevent heartburn, eat small, frequent meals and avoid fried foods, citrus fruits, chocolate, and spicy or fried foods.
  • Spider veins, varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Increased blood circulation might cause tiny red veins, known as spider veins, to appear on your face, neck and arms. You might also notice gnarled, enlarged veins (varicose veins) on your legs. Painful, itchy varicose veins in your rectal area (hemorrhoids) are another possibility. If you have painful varicose veins, exercise and elevate your legs frequently. To prevent hemorrhoids, include plenty of fiber in your diet and drink lots of fluids. To ease the pain of hemorrhoids, soak in warm water or apply witch hazel pads to the area.
  • Frequent urination. As your baby moves deeper into your pelvis, you'll feel more pressure on your bladder. You might find yourself urinating more often. This extra pressure might also cause you to leak urine — especially when you laugh, cough, sneeze, bend or lift. If this is a problem, consider using panty liners. If you think you might be leaking amniotic fluid, contact your health care provider.
April 14, 2017 See more In-depth