As I write this now, my beautiful 5 week old baby girl, April is lying in her crib beside me. We made it through the rollercoaster journey that is pregnancy!
This last trimester was by far my favourite and although it came with its usual ups and downs, the symptoms were a lot less frequent and a lot easier to manage than the others!
We didn't quite make it to the end of this trimester and as I'll go on to explain, I was a bit disappointed when we heard that the safest thing was to have my labour induced rather than waiting to find out when she was ready. However, now, as I stare into her crib, filled with an overwhelming love I didn't even realise was possible, I realise that this happening allowed us to spend even more time together.
If you'd rather watch my third trimester story, check out my IGTV.
Before we get into any of that though, let's start with the facts.
The third trimester of your pregnancy is from week 29 to week 40 - months seven, eight and nine.
Feelings at this stage of pregnancy tend to go from tiredness and worry to excitement about the baby.
Your baby continues to grow, and as the third trimester progresses they'll have a better chance if they're born early. You’ll have more checks with the midwife in the third trimester, because it’s important to keep an eye on your and your baby’s health. (Tommy's 2018)
Third trimester symptoms (Pampers, 2018)
You might experience a variety of pregnancy symptoms in the third trimester, such as leg cramps, heartburn, varicose veins, backache, fatigue, hemorrhoids, numbness in the legs and feet, and itchy skin. Because some of the most common pregnancy symptoms during this trimester include breathlessness, frequent urination, swollen feet, and Braxton Hicks contractions, we’ll take a look at these in a little more detail now:
Shortness of breath. As your uterus gets larger, grows higher in your abdomen, and presses on your diaphragm, breathing can be difficult. You might find that you can't make it up a flight of stairs without getting winded. The best thing to do is just to take it easy, move more slowly, and stand up or sit up straight so your lungs have more room to expand. If your breathing changes dramatically, or if you have a cough or chest pain, contact your healthcare provider right away. The good news? Once your baby “drops” down into your pelvis in preparation for being born, breathing will become a little easier as the pressure is taken off your lungs.
Frequent urination. When you enter the final weeks of your pregnancy, you may find yourself needing to pee more often. This is because as your baby moves further down into your pelvis, she may press on your bladder too. You may also find that you leak a little, especially when you laugh, sneeze, bend, or lift. If this bothers you, wear a panty liner. However, if you feel a gush or trickle of watery fluid, it could be your water breaking, in which case contact your healthcare provider as this is a sign that labour is beginning
Swollen feet and ankles. Many mums-to-be notice a type of swelling, called edema, in their ankles and feet because of extra fluid retention, hormonal changes, and weight gain. If you notice this, it could help to elevate your legs whenever you can and to soak your feet in cool water. To help you feel more comfortable, you may need to buy bigger shoes.
Braxton Hicks contractions. In the third trimester, and sometimes even earlier, you may experience false contractions. These “practice contractions” are useful for your body because they help your muscles prepare for labour. Braxton Hicks contractions may start out quite mild and feel like a tightening of your abdomen, but as your due date nears they can become more painful. You may be wondering how to tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and true labour contractions. Essentially, Braxton Hicks come irregularly and often go away if you move or change positions; true labour contractions get more regular over time and don’t go away.
Luckily, I didn't experience all of the above but as per the first and second trimester blogs, I've a few of my own to add so I'll go through all of the ones I experienced below.
Shortness of breath- I experienced this for quite a bit but it definitely eased off around 34 weeks I think and coincided with baby becoming engaged. I actually questioned whether something was wrong with me for a couple of weeks because I'd gone from feeling pretty good to basically not being able to do anything without taking a rest. Walking up stairs, emptying the tumble dryer and hoovering the living room all became tasks that felt like I'd done an endurance event. My bloods were checked and all was good so we put it down to the positioning on my diaphragm. Makes sense really when you look at how your anatomy changes!
Frequent urination- Didn't mention this in the video version of this I don't think but wow, it is real! I thought trimester 1 was bad but little did I know that if my bladder was the size of a pea in the first 12 weeks, it had shrunk to the size of a needle head in the last. With ongoing lockdowns, lets just say I became a pro at peeing anywhere I had to, including, and I'm not even sure I should admit this, the leisure park carpark before I ate my takeaway Nandos!
Braxton Hicks- If I'm honest, I'm still not even sure if what I felt was this or not I definitely had a few weeks of being stopped in my tracks with a cramp like pain in my lower abdomen which would pass just as quickly as it had started and I can now confirm that despite questioning every single time whether something was 'starting' or not, it definitely was NOT early labour contractions.
From the 'other symptoms' listed above, I think I was quite lucky. Heartburn, fatigue and backache featured but thankfully not for any prolonged periods.
Heartburn- After having the most horrendous heartburn in my second trimester, I spoke to my GP who prescribed something for this. From then on, I didn't experience any symptoms whatsoever. All hail omeprazole!
Fatigue- Ok, yes... this was real. Probably worse than the last two trimesters but didn't last very long at all and was more of an on/off symptom. Some days were great and I was really energised, other days I couldn't be bothered to get dressed! Nothing to worry about though; all to be expected considering the hard work my body was doing every day to grow our little human!
Backache- Not something that bothered me until the very end. I was quite lucky. I was being very careful in terms of my posture and I'm very grateful that I know what to do when it comes to exercising and moving safely.
So that's it. The third trimester symptoms...
If only... I'll cover everything else below!
Bleeding- Around 30 weeks, after sexual intercourse (a rare occasion in my pregnancy :P) I experienced some bleeding. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to panic us and call maternity triage. After a bit of reassurance from the midwives over the phone, I was told to wear a pad, monitor it and if any more to call back and go in. Thankfully, there was no more, however, the following week (not after sex!), I had another bit spotting. I was seeing my midwife that day anyway who advised the same thing, and again, no more. Apparently the further into pregnancy, we get, the changes in the cervix can cause a bit of bleeding. Obviously, this could sometimes be sign of a 'show' in pre labour but in my case, it seemed to just be the cervix changing and preparing.
Fanny daggers- Yep, you read that right. Also known as lightning crotch, is the nickname given to a sudden and often sharp pain deep in the pelvis or vaginal area. The severity varies but most women find that it's quite painful and feels like they're being 'punched in the crotch'. Again, very common. My midwife and I had a bit of a laugh at the names given to this but wow, when it happened, it happen. Worse than braxton hicks but over even quicker. Not often I'd say this but thankfully due to our lockdown normality just now, I didn't have to explain myself for clutching at my vagina in public and only had these at home.
Carpal tunnel- Another very common symptom of pregnancy, where a build up of fluid collects, placing pressure on the median nerve and causing wrist pain, numbness and tingling. I've had previous injuries which resulted in a similar condition affecting a different nerve so I kind of expected this to flare up and feel quite lucky that it only got bad in the last trimester, and only so bad that I had to stop doing certain things in the last 4/5 weeks. Luckily I have a very good osteopath (Gillian at Kingdom Osteopaths) who was able to treat it and get me to a point of being able to still do normal household tasks. It did affect my training but I will touch briefly on that later.
Nesting- Maybe not a symptom as such but wow, it ramped up! Housework, DIY and general baby prep took over and I think I probably got a bit obsessed with making sure everything was done. Mat couldn't walk through the front door after work without me getting antsy about him bringing dirt in on his shoes. I will say more about this in my 4th Trimester vlog but let me tell you this much. THIS BEHAVIOUR DOES NOT LAST ONCE BABY IS HERE!
Exercise- Again, not a symptom but always like to touch on it. Towards the end of Trimester 2, you may remember me sharing how I suddenly felt 'very pregnant.' This (obviously!) continued and although I trained right up until I was 36 weeks, it became less frequent and much lower intensity. Moving was the goal so walking and yoga featured a lot, along with some very light weight training.
Hypnobirthing- Another non symptom but definitely worth mentioning as without it, things would have been very different for us. We took the Positive Birth Company online course and it really helped when it came to making some of the decisions around birth (more on this in my birth story blog!) and during labour. I'd highly recommend anyone who's pregnant to take a course. It's not as 'hippy' as it may sound, and even if you think you're completely clued up about the types of birth, you have a birth plan and you're feeling confident, I am sure you will get something from it.
Birth plan- I wrote my birth PREFERENCES at around 34 weeks. I call it preferences because I knew that things might not go exactly how you want it and well, better to have a plan and preference for every eventuality. The below will begin to highlight why this was important, but again, more in my birth story.
Reduced movement- This featured quite a bit in trimester 2 and these periods of reduced movement continued all the way through this one too. This time, it got serious and led to us having to make a few decisions which I will chat about in the next few points. At 34 weeks, off we went once again to be monitored for reduced movements. Long story short but at this visit, we were told baby was measuring small and we would be monitored for the next few weeks with twice weekly CTG and another growth scan a fortnight later. If everything was ok, I could continue as planned. However, around 35/36 weeks, I woke up after about an hours sleep at around 11pm and couldn't sleep. I was very conscious that as I tossed and turned and then laterally paced around downstairs, that Bumpie wasn't moving very much at all.
I woke Mat at around 2am and we took another trip into the hospital. After 3 CTG (baby heart rate and movement tracings) and 2 developmental scans (checks of the placenta, fluid around baby etc), the doctors weren't happy with the lack of movement. Everything else was absolutely fine, in fact, perfect, but Bumpie just wasn't moving much at all. The doctor we'd been seeing all night came in around 7am and said they wanted to do another scan before making a decision. We waited on her coming back and she never did. Instead, another doctor came in and abruptly said these words, "We are sending you for a full growth scan and you'll be monitored until then. We are admitting you to the ward so you'll need to do a covid test and your partner will have to leave and can't come back til visiting at 1pm. We don't know when the scan will be but depending on your monitoring, we might have to deliver your baby today." Then she left the room. Cue my cool, calm and collected, rationale hypnobirthing breathing self going from 0-100 in the space of 3 minutes and now standing in the room with Mat crying uncontrollably. Mat was straight into hypnobirthing mode, reminding me to breathe and that whatever happens, it would be ok.
Admission to pre natal ward- About 10 mins after this news and a lot of tears later, Mat and I were stood outside the doors to the ward. The midwife from triage that had accompanied us up had gone in to update the ward staff and gave us a bit of time to chat things over before Mat would have to leave. He said he'd wait in the car until I gave him an update. Eventually the midwife came and took me into the ward, admitted me into the dingiest little room and hooked me up to the CTG and left. At this point I was questioning everything. Could I do this? Was I strong enough to cope with this. In normal times, Mat would have been with me, but ya know... covid! After crying on the phone to my sister and then Mat again but being reminded by both to use my hypnobirthing, I went onto my Calm app to find a meditation to listen to. I'd only just pressed play and I was taken off the CTG abruptly and whisked down to the scan department.
Growth scan- I'd had a few of these throughout the pregnancy and from about 24 weeks, they said baby was measuring a bit small. They then told me around 32 weeks that growth had 'tailed off.' This essentially meant that baby was growing but not at the rate you'd expect. I was being monitored anyway but I was never convinced that anything was actually wrong. They use a chart and at each scan except for the 24 week scan, every single one showed the baby was slightly below average but not, as they always told us, anything to worry about. However, at the 24 week scan, the baby was measuring above average and I was convinced that this was the anomaly. However, the medical professionals knew best and obviously we took their guidance. However, with this one looking big and the following scans looking much smaller, this is where the theory of growth tailing off came from.
Anyway, just a wee back story and back to being whisked down to the scan department after being told I could be delivering my baby that day! I walked into the scan room and was so pleased to see it was the same doctor I had been seeing throughout. She was lovely and managed to bend the rules for Mat to come in and be there for the scan. Everything once again was great; placenta, fluid, baby heart beat and even movement this time. However, due to 'measuring small' (according to that chart again!) and the reduced movement for the prolonged period, we were given a list of 'could be's' and had some decisions to make. We were informed of the risk of still born and potential need for induction and even section. She explained that she'd speak to her senior but did not see any need to deliver our baby that day and therefore a section wasn't needed. We grabbed a coffee and went to meet her in the ante natal clinic where she said her senior had agreed but that they would both advise early induction of labour to prevent any potential risks. The downgrade from "you may deliver today" to induction, despite not wanting either was like being told we'd won the lottery.
Induction booked- We were told we weren't deemed emergency. Because everything else seemed normal, although we were now high risk, we were not immediate high risk. My first question therefore, was "Is it necessary?" I won't go into this too much because every single situation is different but after weighing up the pros and cons, my next question was "What's the latest date you would feel happy to induce?" to which we were told a week. This made me so happy. By next week, I'd be deemed full term at 37+5 and I figured there would be a small chance that baby would decide to make their appearance on their own by then. I'd been having a few tightening's and had been fully effaced although not dilated when they'd checked me internally earlier on. I could only hope. For now though, induction was booked for a weeks time.
Early labour- Or not in my case. From around 36 weeks, while all of this was going on, I'd been experiencing some tightening's. Over the next week in the lead up to that induction date, these became stronger and more frequent at times, but then would just disappear again. Every time I thought something might be happening, it would ease off again.
Mindset shift- I'll talk more about this in my next blog; 'my Birth Story' but touching now on how much of an important part having a positive mindset played on the overall experience. Despite having a birth preference to every eventuality, knowing that I wouldn't get the water birth I wanted and that I would have some intervention hit me hard. I was anxious, stressed, not sleeping and generally in panic mode. I knew I had to remain calm or things wouldn't go well. Our bodies rely so heavily on oxytocin during labour and when birthing a baby and I knew I had to snap out of this mindset. I allowed myself the day to mope around feeling sorry for myself but from the next morning (6 days til booked induction), I figured that for anything to happen naturally or if that wasn't to happen, for me to have the best possible induction experience I had to be positive. Cue feelgood films, music, good food, lots of ball bouncing, chats with family and friends, lavender and clary sage in the diffuser, long walks and daytime naps. Trust me, it made such a difference!
Maternity leave- I was able to do all of this because I decided to start my maternity leave. My intention was to work until the very last minute but when we'd been in a few weeks prior and induction was still just a possibility, I decided to start earlier than planned. Given the lockdown restrictions meaning gyms were still closed and the bad weather meaning outdoor sessions weren't the most motivating, I prioritised rest and relaxation which my clients fully supported!
So there we have it... trimester 3. The end was in sight.
Read My Birth Story to find out what happened next!