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15 Things To Expect In Your Third Trimester

15 Things To Expect In Your Third Trimester

Ah, pregnancy! The miracle of life! For those of us fortunate enough to experience it, we know it to be one of the most magical, difficult, surreal and challenging passages of life. Just as no two women are identical, no two pregnancies are the same: some women breeze through pregnancy, whereas others spend their 40 weeks trying to muster the strength to get out of bed every day.

By the time you’ve reached the 28 week mark, you and your baby have officially made it through two thirds of your pregnancy. Congratulations! But although the finish line may be in sight, your body and your baby’s body still have plenty of work to do preparing the both of you for what lies ahead: labor, delivery, and the rest of your lives together!

My pregnancy was a text-book study of (almost) everything that could possibly happen in those blessed 40 weeks. Seriously. Short of gestational diabetes and mood swings, I experienced every pregnancy symptom I (and my doctors) had ever heard of. Whilst most women usually experience a handful of these symptoms to varying degrees, for some women (like me) they can be more severe. Whereas, for others, they may be non-existent!

If at any time during your pregnancy you are concerned by what you are experiencing in your body, be sure to check with your health practitioner as soon as you can. Here are some of the things that can happen during the third trimester…

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Fatigue

Imagine carrying around a 4-5kg sack of potatoes for a day… no wait a minute- you don’t have to! That’s technically what you’re doing already, except it’s a sack of amniotic fluid with a baby inside. Although our bodies are designed not to calculate the extra weight of the rising bun in our oven, we are still under the strain of carting it about. Add to that the many changes and transformations still going on inside of you, the pressures of living your day to day life, and the fact that you might be having trouble sleeping (from the awkwardness of your bump or the need to use the bathroom every 45 minutes)- and you’ve got a sure-fire recipe for sleepiness! This is one symptom that will carry on, perhaps for a long while even after the birth, when you have a newborn to take care of, so it’s probably best to try sleep as much as you can, or at least put your feet up and relax at every opportunity.

Stretch Marks

It’s undeniable. People who previously hesitated before congratulating you now do so without restraint as your bump is more and more prominent by the day. In the last trimester, most of baby’s internal organs and systems are formed, so now your little one is mostly concentrating on growing. Stretch marks, basically stripes across parts of your body that have been stretched over a short period of time, affect roughly 80% of pregnant women, and can break out across your belly, thighs, arms, breasts and bottom. They can also appear overnight. I had a single little stretch mark under my massive belly, which I found quite cute. I woke up one morning and to my horror discovered seventeen more of them streaking their way across my bump. They aren’t painful, but can get a little itchy if your skin gets too dry.

Unfortunately, skin elasticity is mostly genetic, so there’s not much that can be done to truly avoid getting them. The good news is that they do fade with time and become barely noticeable after a year or so. Word to the wise- spending time in the sun can dry out your skin, increasing your risk of getting stretch marks and causing any marks you already have to darken and become more prominent. For this reason, it’s best to avoid tanning your belly, chest and thighs whilst pregnant. Read more about stretch marks here.

Varicose Veins

As your baby grows, their weight will put pressure on some of the major veins that carry blood between your legs and your heart. This can result in blood pooling, usually in your extremities, which can cause dark, spider-like veins, called varicose veins, to appear sprawling around your ankles, knees and thighs. Compression tights and stockings can help improve circulation. Otherwise, these veins usually disappear within a few months of giving birth. Should some linger, there are surgeries that can be done to get rid of them. Read more about varicose veins here.

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Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are actually a form of varicose vein that crop up in and on the outside of your rectum due to poor circulation. They can be very painful, and cause bleeding when you go to the toilet, but they too usually disappear within a few months of giving birth (although the pushing in delivery can make them worse). There are treatments that can help ease the discomfort they cause, as can special cushions. Read more about hemorrhoids here.

Heartburn, Re-flux and a Decrease in Appetite

Remember the days when you couldn’t keep anything down? And remember the days following that when there was no fridge big enough to hold all the food you were craving? Well, surprisingly, you might find yourself having come full circle in the third trimester. As baby grows and takes up more room in your belly, your expanding uterus will put pressure on most of your internal organs, especially your stomach and intestines. This may shrink the amount of food you feel like eating; you may even lose a few pounds in the last two months. This increased pressure is also partly responsible for other digestive troubles, such as heartburn, acid re-flux, and even bouts of vomiting. Read more here.

Water Retention

In these last few months, you may find yourself packing on the pounds, even though you might be not be increasing your food intake. It’s probably due to your body retaining more water and, once again, poor circulation is to blame. Oedema, the official term for swelling, usually occurs in the feet, ankles and legs, but can happen all over your body, especially in hot weather. Compression tights, sitting or lying down with your legs raised above your heart, and massaging your feet in icy cold water can all provide relief. Reminding yourself that it doesn’t last forever, and that you’ll deflate within a few days of giving birth can also help.

However, should find yourself swelling up suddenly and drastically within a matter of days, contact your medical practitioner so that they can keep an eye on you, as severe oedema is also an early symptom of pre-eclampsia. Otherwise, be sure to drink plenty of water and moisturize your skin regularly to avoid the appearance of stretch marks. Read more about oedema here.

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Incontinence

It’s not just your digestive system that’s under pressure from baby, your bladder is too! As gravity does its thing the entire amniotic sac/baby combo weighs down heavily on your pelvic organs, causing you to rush (or waddle at high speed) to the nearest bathroom at every opportunity. You might also find yourself having a few little ‘accidents’ when you cough, sneeze or laugh. This is due to the stretching and subsequent weakening of your perineal muscles- the hammock like muscular system between your legs that holds up your internal organs. Kegels exercises can help strengthen this area, and are crucial for getting your entire body back into shape postpartum. Read more about kegels here.

Aches and Pains

That growing baby can also take its toll on your back, hips and other joints. The sheer weight of carrying an extra 4-5kgs can lead to some seriously uncomfortable muscular tugs and pulls, usually between the small of your back down to the bottom of your spine. Pains in and around the bottom of your bulging belly are also caused by ligaments being stretched to accommodate your growing bump, and are officially (and appropriately) called Round Ligament Pain. Luckily, your body is secreting the hormone relaxin, to relax tension in your joints and make it easier to carry such a heavy burden. Alternatively, you can relieve some of your aches and pains by soaking in a warm, but not too hot, bath, having a massage from a certified, prenatal masseuse, or wrapping your belly to take the pressure off your back. This YouTube tutorial shows how.

Nesting Instinct

Weirdly, amidst the sleep deprivation, heartburn and back pain, you may find yourself buzzing with energy- sometimes at the weirdest times. The nesting instinct is basically just that- an irresistible urge to ‘nest, or make your environment (and yourself) ready to receive baby. Some women wake up in the middle of the night to get through piles of ironing, others rearrange their homes every week for two months. Repainting, reupholstering, cleaning, sorting, scrubbing… I personally disinfected every kitchen cupboard and appliance with a fine toothbrush, and scrubbed my sinks and bathtub within an inch of their lives! This instinct, while surreal to you and anyone living with you, is perfectly natural and a good sign that all is in order with your hormones as baby is on its way.

Leaky Breasts

Your tummy isn’t the only thing expanding in preparation for baby’s arrival into this world- your baby’s first (and favorite) food source is also getting into gear. Your breasts may have deflated somewhat in the second trimester, but they will most likely be back at their biggest and bulkiest in these last few months. You might even find them squirting or leaking a little milk when stimulated or squashed. If your breast don’t leak before the birth, there’s nothing to worry about, as most women’s milk only comes in after the baby has been born. Read more about changes in your breasts here.

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Impatience and frustration

I have yet to meet anybody who loved every minute of being pregnant. All of the women I talk to admit to it being a long, loooooong process. Especially towards the end, when the thrill and novelty of the experience has worn off, and you find yourself too heavy to move around, too uncomfortable to sleep, and too nauseous to eat. Just remember: this too shall pass, and within a matter of weeks!

People’s remarks

An interesting pregnancy phenomenon: when a women is with child, her body seems to become public property- to be discussed, scrutinized and even touched, sometimes by complete strangers! I cannot count how many passersby stroked or patted my belly, each with a piece of advice or prediction about my baby’s gender. Many people also seem to lose all sensitivity, so be prepared to field comments on your weight gain: “You look like you’ve swallowed a beach ball!”, or inability to birth the baby soon enough, “You’re still here? What are you waiting for??” Cultivate a standard ‘smile and nod’ reaction, or feel free to tell people when they’re bothering you. You’ll find that most people won’t take offence. You’re pregnant, you can get away with quite a bit!

Dropping

As your due date approaches, you might feel and notice your bump hanging lower than usual. This is, very simply, because that’s exactly what it’s doing. In anything from a few weeks to a few days before labor, baby will realize that it’s time to make its grand debut, and will engage its little head in preparation for birth.

A Few Trips to the Hospital or Birthing Center

If this is your first baby, chances are you’ll make a few wrong calls about when it’s on its way. Outside of emergency symptoms (such as your water breaking or bleeding), first time mothers can spend many hours, even days in labor. Labor pains are easily confused, especially if you don’t know what they feel like! Gas, indigestion, an upset tummy or even just a vigorous kick from your little munchkin can all be mistaken for contractions. Hospitals advise that parents only come in when the contractions are regular and at a certain interval, usually 4-5 minutes apart. As soon as contractions start, it’s best to call your doctor to see what they advise, otherwise you risk making the journey just to be sent back home which, even in the stages of early labor, is very frustrating and disheartening. Read more here.
Best of all, at the end of this long journey, when your body has worked hard crafting a living being inside of you, the greatest thing you can expect is the moment that makes it all worthwhile: when you hold your beautiful, squidgy little baby in your arms for the first time!

Featured photo credit: Juanedc via flickr.com

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Published on December 14, 2018

14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 27% of children under the age of 18 are living with a single parent.[1] That’s over 1/4th of the U.S. population.There is a common misconception that children who grow up in single parent homes are not as successful as children living in two-parent homes.

One crucial detail that was often left out of studies when comparing single and two-parent homes was the stability of the household. There is a correlation between family structure and family stability, but this study shows that children who grow up in stable single-parent homes do as well as those in married households in terms of academic abilities and behavior.

But providing stability is easier said than done. With only one adult to act as a parent, some tasks are inherently more challenging. However, there are a few helpful things you can do to make the parenting journey a little easier for yourself and stay sane while doing it.

1. Don’t Neglect Self-Care

Before anything else can be done, you must be caring for your own needs adequately. Only when you are feeling well-rested and healthy can you be at your best for your children.

Many parents tend to put their kids’ needs first and their owns last, but that will result in a never-ending cycle of exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy. Make time to eat regularly and healthfully, get plenty of rest, and squeeze in exercise whenever you can. Even a short walk around the neighborhood will help your body get much-needed movement and fresh air.

Your children depend on you, and it’s up to you to make sure that you are well-equipped and ready to take on that responsibility.

2. Join Forces with Other Single Parents

At times, it may seem like you’re the only person who knows what it’s like to be a single parent. However, the statistics say that there are many others who know exactly what you’re going through.

Find single parents locally, through your kid’s school, extracurricular activities, or even an app. There are also numerous online communities that can offer support and advice, through Facebook or sites like Single Mom Nation.

Although single moms make up the majority of single parents, there are more than 2.6 million single dads in the U.S. A great way to connect is through Meetup. Other single parents will more than happy to arrange babysitting swaps, playdates, and carpools.

Join forces in order to form mutually beneficial relationships.

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3. Build a Community

In addition to finding support with other single parents, also build a community comprised of families of all different types. Rather than focus solely on the single parent aspect of your identity, look for parents and kids who share other things in common.

Join a playgroup, get plugged in at a church, or get to know the parents of the kids involved in the same extracurricular activities. Having a community of a variety of people and families will bring diversity and excitement into your and your kids’ lives.

4. Accept Help

Don’t try to be a superhero and do it all yourself. There are probably people in your life who care about you and your kids and want to help you. Let them know what types of things would be most appreciated, whether it’s bringing meals once a week, helping with rides to school, or giving you time to yourself.

There is no shame in asking for help and accepting assistance from loved ones. You will not be perceived as weak or incompetent. You are being a good parent by being resourceful and allowing others to give you a much-needed break.

5. Get Creative with Childcare

Raising a child on a single income is a challenge, with the high cost of daycares, nannies, and other conventional childcare services. More affordable options are possible if you go a less traditional route.

If you have space and live in a college town, offer a college student housing in exchange for regular childcare. Or swap kids with other single parents so that your kids have friends to play with while the parents get time to themselves.

When I was younger, my parents had a group of five family friends, and all of the children would rotate to a different house each day of the week, during the summer months. The kids would have a great time playing with each other, and the parents’ job becomes a lot easier. That’s what you would call a win-win situation.

6. Plan Ahead for Emergencies

As a single parent, a backup plan or two is a must in emergency situations. Make a list of people you know you can call in a moment’s notice. There will be times in which you need help, and it’s important to know ahead of time who you can rely on.

Look into whether or not your area offers emergency babysitting services or a drop-in daycare. Knowing who will be able to care for your child in the event of an emergency can relieve one potential source of anxiety in stressful situations.

7. Create a Routine

Routines are crucial for young children because knowing what to expect gives them a semblance of control. This is even more important when in a single parent home.

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If the child travels between homes or has multiple caretakers, life can seem extremely chaotic and unpredictable. Establish a routine and schedule for your child as much as possible. This can include bedtime, before/after school, chores, meal times, and even a weekend routine.

Having a routine does not mean things cannot change. It is merely a default schedule to fall back on when no additional events or activities are going on. When your children know what to expect, they will be less resistant because they know what to expect, and days will run much more smoothly.

8. Be Consistent with Rules and Discipline

If your child has multiple caretakers, such as another parent, grandparent, or babysitter, communicate clearly on how discipline will be handled. Talk to your ex, if you are sharing custody, as well as any other caretakers about the rules and the agreed-upon approach to discipline.

When a child realizes that certain rules can be bent with certain people, he/she will use it to their advantage, causing additional issues with limits, behavior, and discipline down the road.

This article may help you to discipline your child better:

How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

9. Stay Positive

Everyone has heard the saying, “Mind over matter.” But there really is so much power behind your mentality. It can change your perspective and make a difficult situation so much better.

Your kids will be able to detect even the smallest shift in your attitude. When the responsibilities of motherhood are overwhelming, stay focused on the positive things in your life, such as your friends and family. This will produce a much more stable home environment.

Maintain your sense of humor and don’t be afraid to be silly. Look towards the future and the great things that are still to come for you and your family. Rediscover and redefine your family values.

10. Move Past the Guilt

In a single parent home, it is impossible to act as both parents, regardless of how hard you try. Let go of the things that you cannot do as a single parent, and instead, think of the great things you ARE able to provide for your children.

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Leave behind the notion that life would be easier or better with two parents. This is simply not true. There is a multitude of pros and cons to all family dynamics, and the one you are providing for your kids now is the one that they need.

Don’t get bogged down by guilt or regret. Take control of your life and be the best parent you can by being present and engaged with them on a daily basis.

11. Answer Questions Honestly

Your kids may have questions about why their home situation is different from many of their friends. When asked, don’t sugarcoat the situation or give them an answer that is not accurate.

Depending on their age, take this opportunity to explain the truth of what happened and how the current circumstances came about. Not all families have two parents, whether that is due to divorce, death, or whatever else life brings.

Don’t give more detail than necessary or talk badly about the other parent. But strive to be truthful and honest. Your children will benefit more from your candor than a made-up story.

12. Treat Kids Like Kids

In the absence of a partner, it can be tempting to rely on your children for comfort, companionship, or sympathy. But your kids are not equipped to play this role for you.

There are many details within an adult relationship that children are not able to understand or process, and it will only cause confusion and resentment.

Do not take out your anger on your kids. Separate your emotional needs from your role as a mother. If you find yourself depending on your kids too much, look for adult friends or family members that you can talk to about your issues.

13. Find Role Models

Find positive role models of the opposite sex for your child. It’s crucial that your child does not form negative associations with an entire gender of people.

Find close friends or family members that would be willing to spend one-on-one time with your kids. Encourage them to form meaningful relationships with people that you trust and that they can look up to.

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Role models can make a huge difference in the path that a child decides to take, so be intentional about the ones that you put in your kids’ lives.

14. Be Affectionate and Give Praise

Your children need your affection and praise on a daily basis. Engage with your kids as often as possible by playing with them, going on outings, and encouraging open dialogue.

Affirm them in the things that they are doing well, no matter how small. Praise their efforts, rather than their achievements. This will inspire them to continue to put forth hard work and not give up when success is not achieved.

Rather than spending money on gifts, spend time and effort in making lasting memories.

Final Thoughts

Being a single parent is a challenging responsibility to take on. Without the help of a partner to fall back on, single parents have a lot more to take on.

However, studies show that growing up in a single parent home does not have a negative effect on achievement in school. As long as the family is a stable and safe environment, kids are able to excel and do well in life.

Use these tips in order to be a reliable and capable parent for your kids, while maintaining your own well-being and sanity.

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Featured photo credit: Bruno Nascimento via unsplash.com

Reference

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