Everything To Know About The Third Trimester

woman waiting on baby during the third trimester

The third trimester is so exciting, you are getting everything ready to introduce your little one into this world. But with excitement comes a lot of prep and everything you need to know about the third trimester. 

Don’t worry. Don’t stress. 

We have it all outlined for you here, everything you need to know about the third trimester and more! 

Everything You Need to Know About the Third Trimester 

  • When does it start and end? 
  • Third trimester symptoms 
  • Body changes 
  • Braxton hicks contractions 
  • Baby development and milestones 
  • When it’s safe for baby to come 
  • Upcoming tests and appointments 
  • Things to do 
  • Things not to do 

So, grab that iced coffee or hot cocoa (depending on the season) and let’s sip our way through this thing! (cheesy, I know.) 

Not in the third trimester quite yet? Read our ultimate guides to the first trimester and second trimester of pregnancy, depending what stage you are in!

*Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

When Does it Start and End? 

The third trimester begins at the beginning of week 28 and ends at week 40. Then you are considered over-due as you have passed your due date.

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While there are some contradictions about how the weeks and months of pregnancy are calculated and counted, choosing the most common one and sticking with it is what’s best to do. 

Still confused on how the months and weeks are counted? Use this handy pregnancy calculator to see how far along you actually are! 

pregnancy trimester infographic, which trimester am I in?

Third Trimester Symptoms 

Braxton hicks contractions- you may feel irregular tightening of the abdomen that may be slightly uncomfortable but not painful. They may increase in frequency after physical activity, towards to end of the day, and if you are dehydrated. If they are becoming more and more frequent, time them and contact your healthcare provider. 

Back pain- due to hormones and increasing weight of the baby you may be feeling more back pain. Make sure to lay down frequently, sit in good supporting chairs, and wear comfortable shoes when out and about. 

Getting winded- due to growing baby, you may experience shortness of breath and getting winded easily. Don’t worry, it just baby pushing on your lungs and it will all settle once baby is here. Just take those stairs nice and slow.

Heartburn- pregnancy hormones causes your valves to relax and this may cause more acid to find its way up to your esophagus. Here are some helpful tips to help battle against heartburn and live more comfortably. 

Veins- You may find an increased number of spider veins, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids during the third trimester. This is due to increased blood circulation. Don’t worry in case you develop some, they tend to get better once baby is here. In the meantime, try preventing these things, drinking lots of water, and putting your feet up to help with blood circulation. 

Swelling- Lots of women experience swelling, especially in the feet and legs during the third trimester. Putting your feet up, wearing compression socks, and even massaging your legs will help ease the pain and discomfort. The good news? This is usually the very first symptom to disappear after giving birth! I’ve used these compression socks through both of my pregnancies and loved them, they sure have saved me some painful and swollen feet, especially in those last few weeks!

Urinating frequently- because baby is now heavier and lower, you may experience a more frequent need to urinate. In some instances, this increased pressure may cause you to pee a little every time you sneeze, laugh, or cough. 

Body Changes 

woman experiencing pain in the back, third trimester pregnant.

Your body is going through some tremendous changes in the third trimester. Everything is shifting, expanding, and changing to make room for baby. 

You will most likely find the second trimester happiness and comfy feeling disappear and instead feel achy, sore, in pain, and just wishing baby would come sooner so you don’t have to go through this any longer. 

However, it’s still a good thing to know about the third trimester what exactly may happen to your body. 

You may experience: 

  • tired and fatigued 
  • nesting instinct to clean house 
  • swelling 
  • varicose veins, spider veins 
  • hemorrhoids 
  • back pain 
  • pelvic and hip pain 
  • shortness of breath 
  • breast pain and growth 
  • rapid weight gain 
  • heartburn 
  • frequent need to urinate 
  • leg and stomach cramping 
  • stretch marks 
  • heartburn 
  • less fetal movement 
  • braxton hicks contractions 

What do Braxton Hicks Feel Like 

Braxton hicks contractions are very common in the third trimester and become more and more frequent the closer you get to giving birth. Some women have them, some don’t, but its good to be aware of them in case you do feel slight contractions! 

Basically, they are your uterine muscles contracting and relaxing, and they are completely normal and nothing to worry about! 

Braxton hicks contractions may be uncomfortable, but they aren’t painful. They may feel like mild period cramps or a tightening of a stomach area. Usually the stomach goes rock hard during these contractions. 

These contractions usually come near the end of the day and after some exercise. Laying down, taking a bath, and just drinking some water usually helps them go away. 

If you are experiencing contractions and they are becoming more regular so you can time them, painful, or experience any bleeding or your water breaking, contact your healthcare provider right away! 

Baby Development and Milestones 

Week 28: Welcome to the third trimester! Your baby is able to partially open their eyes and eyelashes have formed. Baby is now also able to control their body temperature which will be very useful out in the real world! 

Week 29: Baby is getting stronger and stronger and you may feel baby kicking, punching, and squirming more and more! 

Week 30: Baby’s head of hair is in and they can fully open their eyes. They even start noticing when it is light outside the womb and dark. 

Week 31: By now, most of the major development baby will go through is done, wohoo! Now it’s time to gain weight, super fast! 

Week 32: Baby’s soft downy hair covering the body starts to fall off and the toenails are really becoming visible this week. Baby is also practicing breathing in and out, strengthening those lung muscles for the real world! 

Week 33: Baby’s bones are starting to really harden and take on their final shape. The skull remains flexible and soft to make giving birth a lot easier!

Week 34: Fingernails have fully formed and are looking super adorable at the moment! 

Week 35: By now, the fat under baby’s skin is really starting to accumulate and fill out those chunky arms and legs. This smooths out the skin so baby won’t look all wrinkly once they come! 

Week 36: It’s getting super tight in there and baby may start to move less and less. You may not feel any kicks or punches, but definitely some squirming and stretching in there! 

Week 37: At this stage, baby is ready to come. If they come after 37 weeks they are considered full term, so be on the look out for early labor contractions! Baby is most likely head down and starting to descend into your pelvis to get ready for its big arrival! 

Week 38: Baby is still cozy in there, but ready to come out soon. At this point, baby is just gaining weight and enjoying their last moments in the warmth and comfort of the womb. 

Week 39: Again, baby is just gaining more and more weight and waiting for that perfect moment to arrive. But no rush, baby will come when they and your body are good and ready for labor and delivery! 

Week 40: You may be super anxious to get baby out by your due date, but don’t be scared, baby is doing fine and some just need a little while longer in there! 

When is it Safe For Baby to Come? 

pregnant woman laying in hospital bed, waiting for labor in the third trimester

After 37 weeks, your baby is considered full-term, this means they are done all of their major development and are just gaining weight at this point. 

Some babies decide to come around 37 weeks, while others stay in there until 42 weeks. You just got to wait, be patient, and trust that baby will come when they are ready to make their big reveal. 

If a baby is delivered before 37 weeks it is considered pre-term. This may mean that baby needs some extra monitoring to make sure everything is good and alright before you head home. So, the longer baby bakes in there, the better! 

Test and Appointments 

There are a few tests and scans you may receive during the third trimester depending on your health history and baby’s development.

Ultrasound: You may have a 32-week ultrasound to check back on baby if there were any concerns during your last ultrasound. If you don’t have one, perfect! There is nothing for you to worry about then! 

Group B Strep screening: Around 35-37 weeks, your health practitioner may order a vaginal swab to determine if you are Group B Strep positive. Around 30% of healthy women have this, so don’t be alarmed if it comes back positive. 

It’s not dangerous to you or to the baby if treated. However, if left untreated and undiagnosed, baby can catch it during delivery and it may cause threatening life conditions. 

If you are positive, most likely you will get a course of antibiotics in labor which prevent baby from any infections during labor and delivery.

Non-stress test: If you are considered a high-risk pregnancy, you may have to go in for weekly non-stress tests during your last few weeks. This just measures baby’s heart rate when it moves to determine how well there are doing inside the womb. 

Things To Do 

pregnant mom doing online shopping

Take regular kick counts 

How often baby moves is often the first tell-tale sign if they are doing well or not. So, if you haven’t felt baby move much, drink a glass of cold water, lay down, and start counting. 

The average is around 10 movements in an hour or less. This includes any stretching or slight flutters. If you haven’t felt that many, get up, move around, and try again later, baby may just be sleeping! 

Take a childbirth class if you haven’t yet 

Being informed about labor and delivery is often one of the best things a woman and her partner can do. It helps both go into the whole process calmer and more confident. 

If you haven’t yet, make sure to take an online childbirth class to prepare yourself for this humongous turning point in your life! If you are considering breastfeeding, taking this quick 90-minute course is going to turn you into a nursing pro and make your breastfeeding journey so much smoother!

Prepare everything for baby 

Set up the baby gear, install the car seat, and stock up on diapers and all of your baby essentials before baby gets here. You do not want to arrive at the hospital with no car seat to take baby home in and search high and low for those diapers you bought a few weeks ago after giving birth. 

So prepare everything ahead of time to minimize the stress during and after labor. 

Write a birth plan 

Writing a birth plan is so important, even if it’s just for yourself. Knowing your choices, your decisions, and what you would prefer to have happen will be super helpful during labor. Sharing your birth plan with your partner, midwife, doctor, and nurses also lets you get the type of care you want during childbirth. 

Don’t know where to start? Head on over to our post on writing a birth plan, download our simple birth plan pdf and quickly fill it out! 

Prepare yourself for labor 

There are a few things you should consider doing before going into labor. Preparing yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally for whats to come is the best prep an expecting mom can do. 

This may include doing specific exercises to help the labor go smoothly, informing yourself on labor and delivery practices, preparing everything for baby at home, or even reading up on what to expect for postpartum life. Doing these things now will leave you more confident in your ability afterwards. 

Prepare meals for postpartum life 

Postpartum life is rough, especially those first few weeks where you are trying to get a hold of things while dealing with the recovery of giving birth. Cooking will be the last thing on your mind. So preparing a few meals now will be a huge game changer! 

My favorite hack? Doubling recipes in the weeks leading to labor and freezing half of it. This saves me so much time in the long run! 

Don’t have the time to cook? Using a meal courier such as hellofresh is sure to take a lot off of your mind! They deliver everything you need right to your door, and all you need to do is follow their simple and quick recipe to create a gourmet dinner or lunch right at home! No planning or shopping required! Its so simple even husbands are able to cook. 

Take a maternity photo shoot 

It took 9 months to grow this beautiful belly, something you will never get back. So remembering the beauty of pregnancy through a maternity photoshoot is such a wonderful idea.  

Look at local photographers who would be open for maternity shoots and spend that hour or so on the photoshoot, trust me, you won’t regret it, and the photos are always so stunning! 

Pack your hospital bag 

It is recommended to start packing your hospital bag at the beginning of the third trimester and have it done between 32 and 35 weeks. This is just in case you do go into preterm labor and baby comes a little bit early. This does happen in 10% of pregnancies so is something to be aware about! 

Not sure what to pack? Head on over to our hospital bag packing post to find tips and tricks to packing, and everything you will need during your stay! 

Stock up on essentials 

This includes toilet paper, toiletries, your favorite snacks, some drinks, everything for baby including diapers and wipes, and all postpartum essentials for a smooth recovery. 

Getting these things now will save you a ton of time of sending somebody to the store while you are stuck in bed with your newborn! 

Slow down and rest 

Don’t feel guilty taking that extra nap or two. Your body is going through a lot of changes, and baby is demanding a lot of attention and calories now as it is gaining more weight now than in the last two trimesters. 

So, take it slow and easy, rest when needed, and make sure to take care of yourself. If you are worn out and tired when you go into labor, it can bring up many more complications and interventions than necessary. 

Things not to do 

Pregnant Woman with Contractions

Sleep on your back 

It is actually highly discouraged to sleep on your back during pregnancy. This is because sleeping on your back actually may cause some blood circulation to be cut off to baby. Which could lead to dizziness and interference with blood flow. 

Because of this, doctors recommend sleeping on your side during pregnancy. Sound impossible? Getting a pregnancy pillow to support your back, or wherever your problem area is, is the best investment a pregnant woman can make. 

Not sure which one to get? Quickly completing our pregnancy pillow quiz will let you know which type of pregnancy pillow is the best fit for you! 

Avoiding exercise 

Resting too much and not spending time exercising is actually not doing you any favors. Your muscles and joints will have a harder time adjusting to the hardships of labor. This could lengthen your time in labor and recovery.

So spending those 10-15 minutes going for a walk, or doing third trimester exercises are really going to benefit you in the long run. 

Not drinking enough water 

Dehydration is actually the number one cause women experience braxton hicks contractions. So don’t let not drinking enough water be the reason you are in pain and uncomfortable. 

Drinking at least 2 Litres a day is the minimum you should be taking in right now. Even more, even better.  

If you are having a hard time drinking water, try adding fruits to your water, for heartburn lemon water is great, or try drinking coconut water! Coconut water actually has tons of electrolytes which increases your water absorption. Meaning, you need to drink less to rehydrate if you drink coconut water than regular tap water. 

Avoid taking vacations 

Your third trimester will zoom by incredibly fast. Take it from a woman who is stressing about packing her hospital bag because she didn’t realize how far along she is already. Aka, Me. 

Taking a nice mini vacation (preferably something close to home) to relax for a weekend before the whole newborn craziness starts is a great way to enjoy those last moments. 

Reading too many birth stories 

While it is good to be informed about labor and delivery, it is never good to be overly informed. This will just cause too many expectations, confusions, and miscommunications during labor and delivery. 

Plus, reading too many birth stories, especially horror birth stories where everything goes wrong may cause more fear than anything else. So, if you are interested in reading birth stories, make sure they are positive birth stories! 

Heavy lifting and chores 

Heavy lifting is always discouraged during pregnancy, however, during the third trimester even more. This is because lifting something heavy incorrectly will cause so much more strain and pain on your body while it is already going through so much. 

Also doing chores that require any form of heavy lifting or physical strengths and endurance should be put on hold. So no moving furniture or that heavy plant, leave that for later or somebody else to do. 

However, regular household chores such as washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. Are still okay and safe to do until you go into labor! 

Eating too much 

Overeating is a huge cause of bloating, discomfort, and heartburn in pregnant women. So, if you are experiencing these things, stick to more frequent but smaller meals. 

What Can I Expect From The Third Trimester? 

There are a lot of things to know about the third trimester, and everything is so exciting! You are in the last leg of the race, and soon pregnancy will be done and you will be holding your little one in your arms. 

Have we answered all of your questions? Do you need more answers? Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments below! 

Other than that, make sure to grab our free hospital bag packing list and birth template by entering your email below, and get ready to birth that beautiful babe into this world! 

Until next time, 

Celina 

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