Enjoy a healthy 3rd trimester


Emotional changes

Dr Priya Israel, specialist obstetrician at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, says emotional changes in the third trimester of pregnancy vary according to each person. How you are feeling depends largely on your social, financial and personal circumstances. Your emotions will be influenced by the people surrounding you such as your partner, parents and friends.

“For some women the third trimester will be a happy period, as you near the end of your pregnancy and prepare for the arrival of your much anticipated baby. However, in the case of unplanned pregnancies you may experience feelings of sadness and worry over not being emotionally or financially prepared for motherhood,” says Dr Israel.

Carolina Cardosa-Leach, mother of two-month-old Alexia, says that with her baby’s birth day approaching she felt anxious and insecure. She says questions such as “What if something goes wrong during birth?” or “What if the baby is not healthy?” were always on her mind.

Read: 100 amazing facts about pregnancy

Getting support and encouragement from your partner or family is really important at this time. Talk to your partner about your concerns and clear up any labour day concerns with your doctor.

Physical changes

Dr Judith Carter, an obstetrician at Netcare Park Lane Hospital, says there are many physical changes during the third trimester and aches and pains are very common during this time.

The growing uterus pushes up the diaphragm, which decreases lung capacity, causing shortness of breath. Your increasing size and shortness of breath may also cause sleep difficulties during this trimester.

Another notable change may occur in the breasts. “Breast size may increase because your body is getting ready to welcome your baby and is producing milk,” says Dr Carter. Breast enlargement may be accompanied by backache. Colostrum, a yellow fluid, may leak from the nipples in preparation for breastfeeding. Make use of breast pads.

Changes “down there” are also to be expected. Loss of bladder control may occur when laughing or sneezing (because of increased pressure on your bladder) and you might also notice more vaginal discharge. Varicose veins may appear on the legs as the growing uterus exerts pressure on the veins in the legs. You may experience Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as false labour.

How to: Time contractions

Keeping comfortable during this trimester

To ensure your comfort during the third trimester, you should have adequate back support. “Back strain can be reduced by using cushions to support the back and wearing well fitted bras. Massaging the back and feet may help to relieve strain,” says Dr Israel. You should also regularly elevate your feet to reduce ankle swelling.

Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance when getting out of bed, moving from sitting to standing and bending down
to lift things. Dr Carter recommends taking short breaks at work and if possible taking a few minutes to close your eyes. Keep up your healthy eating plan. Eat small, frequent meals and snacks and consult with your doctor about what exercise you should be doing.

If your energy levels feel low, check with your doctor because you might be suffering from anaemia. An iron supplement can correct this.

Also read: How to deal with low blood pressure during pregnancy

Healthy weight gain in the third trimester

  • During the third trimester you should gain approximately half a kilogram each week, which is about five kilograms in total.
  • Each woman’s weight gain will be different, so you should discuss with your doctor what is right for you and your baby.

Importance of gaining weight in the third trimester

  • It is important to put on this weight during this trimester as it is the period when the baby gains fat (which is important in the early weeks of life outside the uterus), and for the last stretch when the mother gains the necessary fat to breastfeed.
  • The extra weight provides nutrients to the baby, the placenta, breast tissue and blood supply.

Exceeding average expected weight by third trimester

  • Women who are overweight or obese at the start of a pregnancy should only gain between five and 10 kilograms during pregnancy. If this has already occurred by the third trimester, then care should be taken not to gain more weight.
  • Pregnancy is never the time to diet, but healthy eating is a must.
  • Keep your weight in check by avoiding junk food and exercising regularly (30 minutes a day).
  • Women of average weight who have gained more than expected in the first two trimesters should also maintain a healthy diet, take antenatal vitamins and drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
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