Well done! You are now on the home stretch having reached the third trimester of pregnancy! The third trimester is a very exciting time as you get prepared for labour and of course, meet your baby for the first time. You might be thinking about decorating your baby’s room and deciding on what baby items you might need. You might be thinking about what to pack for the hospital and making that final decision on your baby’s name. Unless of course you are like me and you will do this all at the last minute! Either way, it is not long now until your world is changed forever.
All this excitement, planning and anticipation however also coincides with your body changing yet again as your baby grows significantly during these final weeks, and your body starts to prepare itself for labour.
What are some of the common symptoms of the third trimester?
Muscular aches and pains
Backaches are a common complaint in the third trimester as your baby grows and your uterus further expands (just when you think it can’t grow any more), putting extra pressure on your back, particularly your lower back. In addition, because of the change in your centre of gravity, your gait (the way you walk) can also result in other aches and pains in your hips and knees.
The hormone relaxin is also at work during pregnancy and plays an important role in softening the intrauterine ligaments and cervix in preparation for childbirth. It also loosens up other joints which may lead to a feeling of instability, so your walk might turn to a waddle. Still, during labour, you will be grateful for the good work of relaxin!
The pressure of your growing baby, as well as the changing position of your baby to a ‘head down’ position means there is a lot of weight pressing on your bladder. Frequent urination day and night is often the result! Whilst it is annoying, I’m confident the frequent night waking is just nature’s way of preparing you for the arrival of a newborn. Gone are those nights of ‘sleeping through’ but don’t despair they do eventually return.
Indigestion, bloating, the inability to eat large meals and constipation are all common complaints of the third trimester. Most of these issues are the result of your uterus leaving little space for your other organs along with changes in hormones that can slow down peristalsis (the muscle contractions of your digestive tract).
It’s really no surprise that during the third trimester your energy levels start to wane. Carrying around all that extra weight alone can make you feel tired. Your expanding uterus may also result in a shortness of breath as it pushes up into your lungs.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions are sometimes referred to as false labour pains. They can feel like contractions, however are often milder. Braxton Hicks contractions may lead to labour or they may come and go through the final weeks of pregnancy. Braxton Hicks contractions are different to labour pains in that the contractions do not get more intense or closer together. If they do, you need to contact your health care provider.
All the changes you are experiencing, the excitement and anticipation of pending labour coupled with all the advice and information you might be receiving from others around you may play havoc with your emotions. Feelings of anxiety, stress or depression are all common experiences of women during pregnancy, particularly as the big day gets closer. However, if these feelings persist and you are feeling concerned about how these emotions are impacting you, contact your health care provider.
Of course, like all trimesters during pregnancy, each woman’s experience of pregnancy is unique. Unfortunately, some women do experience all and more of the symptoms I’ve described here and others will breeze through. If you are one of those women count yourself lucky and enjoy!
What can you do about these common third trimester complaints?
Participate in a pre-natal yoga class or other gentle exercise program
If you don’t have a pre-natal yoga class near you, don’t worry, you can attend any yoga class provided the teacher is aware you are pregnant (by the third trimester nothing usually needs to be said) and you can be guided through your practice with appropriate variations.
By practising yoga or other gentle exercise, you are gaining strength and flexibility which will be useful come labour and also aid your recovery post birth. These exercises can also help to ease muscular aches and pains, and help your digestive processes to relieve issues like constipation.
Find a meditation or relaxation practice you enjoy
Meditation and guided relaxations are a great way to practise deep and rhythmic breathing. This can help to ease the shortness of breath you might be experiencing as well as benefit you emotionally if you have feelings of anxiety. Practising deep breathing can switch on your parasympathetic nervous system which signals to your body to ‘rest and digest’ – sounds good doesn’t it?
Rest when you can
This might seem like a simple suggestion, however it is often one women tend to ignore because ‘there’s so much to do’ in those final weeks. This may be true, however when your little one arrives you will be told to ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’ which can also seem impossible. So, my advice is to take the time you have now and rest. Your body and mind will thank you.
Eating well goes without saying, particularly coming from a naturopath I know. However, it is so important to eat well during the last trimester to keep things moving through your digestive system and support your energy levels. Eating well also supports a healthy mood and of course the growth and development of your baby.
What do I mean when I say eating well? In the third trimester you can:
- Eat small meals often
- Choose wholefoods such as wholegrains, fresh vegetables and fruit
- Try to eat protein with each meal and snack such as nuts and seeds, legumes, beans, seafood and lean meat (limit seafood and meat to twice per week)
- Limit sweets and high sugar foods as they won’t give you sustained energy
How can a naturopath support you through the third trimester of pregnancy?
Whilst some of the pregnancy symptoms are outside of your control, a naturopath can support you with the following issues:
- Digestive complaints
- Anxiety, depression or just general low mood
- Fatigue and energy levels
- Preparing for labour
A naturopath can evaluate your diet and lifestyle choices and provide suggestions to help you get all the nutrients you need throughout the third trimester and beyond.
A naturopath can also use herbal medicines and nutritional supplements that are safe during pregnancy, which are particularly beneficial to help reduce your stress levels, promote restful sleep, support your energy levels and support a healthy mood. If, however you have debilitating symptoms of anxiety or depression it is important to contact your health provider as soon as possible. You can also contact Lifeline on 12 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
Preparing for labour is an exciting time for some and a stressful time for others. A naturopath can support your body as it prepares for labour with herbs used traditionally to prepare the uterus for childbirth.