By the third trimester you might be feeling like you finally have the hang of this whole "being pregnant" thing. Plenty of the worst risks and symptoms you and your baby experience are already over, while that longed for due-date is approaching faster than ever. However, the third trimester might also bring with it some heightened stress. You're certainly uncomfortable as you waddle around on your swollen feet. Especially if you've been having a tough pregnancy you may begin to wish the baby would just pop out already! At the same time, worries about how the labor will go and how healthy your baby is are as pressing as ever. This mix of elation and worry can be hard to navigate.
You do need to know about some specific symptoms that plague mothers in their third trimester, and there are some new warning signs to watch out for. As your pregnancy makes way towards the finish line new conditions like pre-term labour, deep vein thrombosis, and placental abruption may start to feature in your worries more than the early-pregnancy thoughts of birth defects and miscarriage. Healthy knowledge of the risks is important, but try not to work yourself up over potential risks if you're not experiencing the symptoms.
Check through this list we've provided on the symptoms you should seek medical attention about, but remember to call your doctor or midwife and let them soothe you over any symptoms you're just not sure about. Trust your intuition if you feel that something's not right and don't let anyone shame you for seeking medical advice over something they feel is "minor". It's always better to know for sure what's going on, when its your life and your baby's that could be affected!
15 Baby Stops Moving
Lulls in movement are normal of course, as your baby is old enough to be sleeping now. However, a baby simply can't run out of room to move and so they should remain active in predictable patterns throughout your pregnancy. If the baby has significantly changed from this pattern or if you realize that you can't remember the last time your baby moved you might need to go to the doctor's office.
First though, you should try applying gentle pressure on your womb to try to get a reaction movement from your little one. If they kick at this point there's nothing to be worried about. However, if nothing results from this your second strategy should be to eat or drink something with simple sugar. Orange juice (preferably cold) or a chocolate cookie will do. Then lay or your left side and pay attention to any movement for thirty minutes. If the sugar hasn't encouraged your baby to move by now you should head to the doctors. It still may be the case that nothing is wrong, but you need to be sure.
It's normal to feel dizzy throughout your pregnancy, as your blood pressure is lowered and your brain may therefore receive less blood. If you have felt dizzy throughout your pregnancy you might not be surprised if you faint-- but you should still check in with your doctor anyway. If you've made it this far without any dizziness than passing out is even more likely to be a cause for concern. Fainting means that your brain isn't getting enough blood, so lay flat on your left side (the pregnant uterus shifts right, so gravity pulling it left will improve blood flow) after a fainting spell. Your doctor will likely recommend that you avoid exerting yourself until your labor if you faint. However, this fainting combined with other symptoms could be a larger problem, so you need to call as soon as you've regained consciousness so the doctor can assess you and the baby.
13 Vomit That's Red or Black
Your days of morning sickness are probably long gone (our apologies if you're one of the unlucky few who vomit the whole way through!). If you vomit again during the third trimester you're more likely to consider this a stomach bug than a serious problem with your pregnancy. If you're only seeing tiny streaks of bright red blood you're likely fine. Sometimes the esophagus gets a small cut in it that bleeds, especially if you've been vomiting frequently.
However, if your vomit is quite red, clumpy and red, black, or looks like dark coffee grounds, then something is seriously wrong with your body (although it may not be connected to your pregnancy). There's a variety of conditions that can cause this, including pregnancy-specific ones, so you need a hospital's attention immediately. The only exception to this is when you're taking a medication that you doctor has warned you about, some cause pregnant women to produce black bile. But, your doctor will have told you what to look for if you're on one of these medications.
12 Back Pain, Sudden Intense Contractions, or Both
If you have sudden and severe back pain and/or sudden and intense contractions you could be having a placental abruption. This is where the placenta that nourishes your baby breaks off from the uterus wall, or the muscle. This can cause you bleeding, along with the pain and contractions. For your baby this condition is even more dangerous. They may not be getting the oxygen or the other nutrients that they need.
Therefore, you need to seek emergency medical care immediately if you have these symptoms. It's also important to note that sometimes women don't bleed from a placental abruption, likely because their mucous plug is still in place, which blocks or reduces the blood's path to your vagina. So, seek medical care even if you're not bleeding. So you know, this condition is more likely to occur if you abuse substances, are pregnant with multiples, fell or took a blow to the stomach, or are over the age of forty.
11 Extreme Thirst, Hunger, or Fatigue
Don't be surprised if, during the third trimester, your doctor wants to test you for gestational diabetes (perhaps even again!). While most women will not have any symptoms, this pregnancy-specific form of diabetes can cause extreme feelings of hunger, thirst, and fatigue. It also poses a big health risk to your baby. They're more likely to be born overweight, have a difficult labor, and develop other health problems throughout their lifetime if you develop gestational diabetes.
On the other hand, the good news about gestational diabetes is that it's rarely an immediate medical emergency. Instead, it can usually be managed through eating and exercise changes. In the worst case you may need to take insulin in order to prevent you and your baby from any health problems. However, this form of diabetes won't persist in you or your child after they are born.
10 Blurred Vision, Dizziness, Headaches
The troubling experience of a headache that leaves your legs dizzy and your vision blurry is even more troubling in pregnancy. These three, alone or together, could be symptoms of preeclampsia. They may also go along with suddenly swollen hands, stomach pain (especially on the right side), and high blood pressure. If left untreated a mother with preeclampsia will develop eclampsia, which causes seizures, kidney failure, and the death of mother and baby.
Thankfully, hospitals are equipped to treat preeclampsia before it becomes eclampsia. You may be put on a variety of medications to bring down your blood pressure, prevent seizures, and improve your liver and kidney function. However, this serious condition means that the baby has to be born as soon as possible. You may need to undergo induced labour or a C-section, depending on how far you are into your third trimester. Doctors will do their best to keep a baby in a mother's uterus until it is completely viable, but sometimes doing so when the mother has preeclampsia is too high of a risk to the life of both mother and baby.
This is one of our biggest worries as pregnant moms, isn't it? The good news is that if you're in your third trimester the bleeding likely isn't associated with an ectopic pregnancy and its less likely to be associated with a miscarriage than it is in the first and second trimester. However, you still need to seek emergency medical care if you're bleeding at any stage in your pregnancy.
While it's possible that you simply have an irritated vagina or cervix, bleeding could be an indication of something much more serious. Don't feel embarrassed to walk into the emergency room over a "little" bleeding, the maternity ward staff understand that bleeding could be a very serious condition and they'd rather you come to get checked when everything's okay rather than you ignore this sign and end up in a serious condition.
8 Unusual Discharge
These two symptoms can indicate bacterial vaginosis. This condition is simply the over-growth of a usually perfectly normal and harmless bacteria. When this bacteria becomes an infection it can make your vaginal discharge look grey or white and smell like fish. It can also move up your urethra, causing a burning sensation when you pee. Normally this condition is simply uncomfortable, but when you're pregnant it can actually lead to low weight babies or even premature babies.
Researchers aren't quite sure why this is yet. Unfortunately, bacterial vaginosis is also a very common problem for pregnant women. Ten to thirty per cent of them will contract it during their pregnancy. So even when you can't really reach down there anymore keep these warning signs in mind. Don't worry, if you do develop this infection a simple course of antibiotics will remove the infection and if the infection is treated there seems to be no adverse effects on your baby.
7 Runny Nose, Cough, Congested Sinuses
If you're having these flu-like symptoms you may feel like they're just an inconvenience. However, getting the flu while pregnant increases your baby's risk for serious problems. At this stage in your pregnancy early labor is a risk, but if you're earlier on the flu can also contribute to birth defects. The Center for Disease Control recommends that pregnant women who contract the flu need special anti-viral flu treatment. While you're still likely to fight off the flu just fine your baby is in a vulnerable position, so you should contact your doctor. This is also why the CDC also recommends that pregnant woman get the flu shot.
Unlike actually contracting the flu, the flu shot is completely safe for pregnant women to receive. You might be worried that, like many routine procedures, there's some hidden danger in the flu shot for pregnant women, but studies have shown that there isn't. Some recommend that pregnant women with pre-existing conditions should get prior permission from their doctors before receiving the shot, however virtually all doctors and the CDC disagree! The flu is a much greater danger to you and your baby and its important that you both receive protection from it. Of course, if you have concerns you should always seek your doctor's advice.
6 High Fever
The moment that you notice you have a fever you may want to try a over-the-counter NSAID (Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, etc.) to lower it. While it is important that you try to lower any fever you get during your pregnancy, there has been conflicting research on the pros and cons of NSAID use during pregnancy. Therefore, you should call your doctor to determine if NSAID use is okay for you and your pregnancy, or if this fever is enough to warrant their use. While it's true that fevers are more dangerous for women in the early trimesters, they can still cause complications for women in the third trimester.
Normal human body temperature is 98.6 degrees F (or 37 degrees for you Celsius fanatics). If you hit 103 degrees F (41.1 C) its definitely time to call a doctor or seek emergency care. This high of a temperature can cause hallucinations, irritability, convulsions, and are generally a sign that something is very wrong with you. Because there are so many conditions that can cause this problem try to keep track of any other symptoms you've been experiencing, if there are any. As you know, even simple problems for adults may be serious for pregnant women. The sooner your doctor can pin point the cause of your high fever the sooner they can start treating you and your baby, preventing more complications.
5 Being Generally Tired
It's no surprise that pregnancy is a strain on the body and so some amount of general fatigue is to be expected. However, if you're suddenly more tired in your third trimester, or if you feel like the first trimester sleepiness never really went away, something more serious could be afoot. Your doctor will likely want to double-check your iron levels when you tell them about this problem. It's possible that you have develop pregnancy-specific anemia.
Pregnant women have to take iron supplements because their body needs to supply enough red blood cells to support the baby, as well as their own function. If your supplements aren't enough your doctor will recommend more, or some changes in your diet that will help you get more iron. Don't worry too much, this condition is easily corrected and your body will prioritize the iron needs of your baby. While you may be feeling exhaustion your baby is unlikely to be effected unless the anemia goes untreated.
4 Emotional Distress
You may recognize these two symptoms as signs of abuse, from a partner or another family member. It's unfortunate, but any abuser is a pregnant women's life is likely to escalate their abuse during pregnancy.
The women's need of support during this time, and her physical and emotional strain, make it less likely that she will recognize the abuse and/or take the necessary steps to protect herself. It may sound unconventional, but a doctor is actually an excellent person to seek out if you're experiencing abuse. Every doctor will be equipped to direct you to community resources that can help you escape abuse, or to remove your abuser from your home, even during this difficult period.
They can make sure that your baby gets any help it needs to overcome the stresses that abuse puts on them. Unfortunately, there are many of these stresses. Not only is there risk of physical injury to your fetus if this abuse is physical, but emotional abuse can also result in a low-weight baby who has trouble breastfeeding and/or sleeping.
If you don't want to contact your doctor about this, you can find the National Domestic Abuse Hotline here. It is anonymous to call and their website has plenty of resources to help even if you aren't ready to talk to someone.
If you're feeling cramps, pressure in your vagina, back pain, or you have fluid leaking, you could be in preterm labor. The third trimester begins in week 28 and your baby isn't quite viable, or ready to live outside of your womb, until week 37 to week 39. Therefore, preterm labor is something you need to watch out for during the first weeks of the third trimester.
Sometimes women have harmless contractions called Braxton Hicks during their third trimester and these are nothing to worry about. However, if these Braxton Hicks stop being erratic, get closer together, and/or don't stop if you move around, they aren't Braxton Hicks contractions anymore! If your water breaks, or simply leaks, this is also a huge sign of preterm labor. Obviously, having a preterm labor is a danger for you and your baby and so you should get yourself to a hospital immediately. Sometimes doctors can use medications that can slow down or even stop the preterm labor. Even if a preterm labor becomes inevitable hospitals are very well equipped to help you and your baby through this circumstance.
2 Swelling or Pain in One Leg
If you have a swollen leg that hurts, especially if this pain gets worse as you walk, you could have deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This condition is where the body accidentally makes a kind of scab, a gathering of blood, specifically platelets, in your veins. The body is trying to keep you safe during pregnancy and is on high alert to stop any kind of bleeding, but it may make these scabs where they aren't really needed, or it may make them so large they disrupt blood flow. Therefore, this problem is six times more likely to occur during pregnancy than without it.
About one to two pregnant women in a thousand will experience DVT. It can be very serious, effecting your heart, lungs, or your baby's supply of blood, so you seek emergency care of you think you may have it. Fortunately, the usual medications to treat this problem is perfectly safe for pregnant women to use. Additionally, if you're worried about your risk for this condition, know that your doctor can recommend simple prevention techniques, like more exercise, to reduce your risk.
1 Unusual Bulge
During the third trimester, the pressure on your organs is very uncomfortable. In fact, such pressure can cause a hernia, where an organ pushes out between muscles. This results in a small bump where the organ has dislodged and usually some degree of pain. If it was your intestines that slipped between your muscles you may also experience sudden nausea as well.
This condition will likely necessitate surgery, but your doctor will want to examine the hernia to see how immediate that need it. Depending on what organ has been dislodged and how large the hernia is it could be more immediately serious, so you should call your doctor right away if you suspect you have one. Even if the bump is small and painless you should still get it checked out, as the new gap in the muscle may begin to widen.