It was fun to conceive, get that BFP, and maybe even muddle through morning sickness (OK, maybe not), but as you near your seventh month of pregnancy, you might be wanting to speed things up. After all, pregnancy can be a loooong road and the second trimester can seem like forever. So, looking ahead, you might be wondering when does the third trimester start? 

Read on to find out:

  • When does the third trimester start?
  • How many weeks are in the third trimester?
  • What are third trimester symptoms?
  • Plus, some tips to prepare for birth

When Does the Third Trimester Start?

Sounds like such a simple question, right? But there is actually some debate about this question due to differences in which measurement is used for each trimester.

  • Some experts count weeks so they designate thirteen weeks per trimester, which would mean that the third trimester starts at 27 weeks.
  • Others count by months and consider the third trimester to start at the beginning of the 28th week.

Here at Mama Natural we consider the third trimester to begin at week 28.

How Many Weeks Are in the Third Trimester?

Given the debate over when the third trimester starts, you may be wondering how many weeks are in the third trimester.

There are thirteen weeks in the third trimester if you give birth right at 40 weeks, 0 days.

But, we all know that babies follow their own schedule and will arrive when they’re ready. A due date is just an estimate. 🤗

(image source)

What Are the Third Trimester Symptoms?

You’re in the home stretch! 💪 But with the more blissful second trimester behind you, you may start to experience some of the more uncomfortable signs of pregnancy again.

These include:

Headaches in the third trimester

There are many reasons for your body’s changes during the third trimester. Headaches during the third trimester can be caused by poor posture from weight gain, dehydration, hormonal changes, or sometimes preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy, is a serious condition. Your doctor or midwife should be monitoring your blood pressure during your appointments and will catch this condition, but if you’re suffering from frequent headaches, be sure to mention it to them.

See natural remedies for headaches in pregnancy.

Nausea and stomach pains in the third trimester

Third trimester nausea is caused by a decrease of movement or peristalsis in the intestines due to higher hormone levels and the increased pressure of the uterus on the stomach. Additionally, there’s a delay in your stomach emptying its contents, which can bring back first trimester nausea, lead to heartburn, and cause diarrhea. (source)

If you experience diarrhea during pregnancy in the third trimester it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water (at least 1/2 your weight in ounces), tea, and other healthy fluids like coconut water or naturally sweetened lemonade. Eating broths and soups can also help.

Constipation in the third trimester

Though some women experience diarrhea, it’s more common to experience constipation during the third trimester. When you’re pregnant, the progesterone your body produces causes the muscles in the esophagus and bowels to relax. Normally, these muscles contract to help expel waste. When the function of your intestines slows down, you experience constipation. (source)

To prevent constipation during pregnancy, eat small, frequent meals with plenty of fiber, drink plenty of water, and try gentle exercises for pregnancy (get your doctor’s approval first!). Fermented foods and probiotic supplements can also help.

Pelvic Pressure in the third trimester

Pelvic pressure increases during the third trimester as your growing baby’s weight puts weight on the nerves running from your vagina to your legs. As your body prepares for birth, the hormone relaxin surges, causing your joints to loosen and even separate a bit. This can cause pain near your pubic bone. Discomfort in the pelvic area may also be caused by Braxton Hicks contractions.

These same hormonal changes can also cause backaches, which worsen as your posture changes to accommodate your growing belly.

Try wearing a belly band for extra support, sleeping with a pillow between your legs, or seeing a chiropractor trained in the Webster technique.

Swelling, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids in the third trimester

Your baby’s growth can also cause other third trimester symptoms. Swollen feet and ankles may get worse. Your body is producing more blood and, coupled with your growing uterus, that puts pressure on the large veins. This causes excess fluid to pool in your lower limbs. The same pressure leads to varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

To lessen these third trimester symptoms, try to spend less time on your feet, elevate your feet when resting, or try compression stockings. Soothing ointments can help with painful hemorrhoids, and be sure to find ways to alleviate constipation, which only makes things worse.

How your breasts and discharge change in the third trimester

Your breasts aren’t done changing once the first trimester ends. They’ll continue to engorge, particularly closer to labor when your milk starts to come in. You might even start leaking a bit from your nipples. Your nipples protrude more and could become more sensitive, and the skin of your areola darkens.

White discharge is also common during pregnancy and often increases during the third trimester. As you get closer to labor, your mucus plug loosens. Thick, clear, or slightly bloody discharge is a sign that your cervix is dilating. It’s perfectly normal, but you should consult with your doctor or midwife if you experience any bleeding or spotting.

If the amount of discharge is uncomfortable, you can use a panty liner, but refrain from using tampons, which can introduce bacteria.

What Else to Expect in the Third Trimester

  • Your doctor or midwife appointments will increase in frequency. You’ll likely see them every two weeks between the 28th and 36th weeks, and then switch to weekly visits until your baby is born. They’ll check your blood pressure and weight gain, and begin checking your pelvic dilation closer to your due date. If you have gestational diabetes or are a high-risk pregnancy, you may need to be monitored more frequently.
  • Baby will be monitored more closely. They will be monitoring your baby’s heartbeat, growth, and position to make sure that everything is normal and on track. If your baby is in a breech position, they may still turn headfirst, but your healthcare provider could try to turn them to improve your odds of a vaginal birth.
  • Group B Strep (GBS) Testing: Though some doctors will look for GBS during routine urine tests, most women will receive a GBS screening between weeks 35 and 37. Your doctor will swab your vagina and rectum, then send it off to the lab to be tested. If the test is positive, antibiotics may be recommended during delivery to prevent baby from being colonized, which can cause serious infection.
  • Weight gain slows: Many women gain the bulk of their pregnancy weight during the second trimester. During the third trimester, some mamas don’t gain any weight at all and others may even lose a pound or two. (source)

How to Prepare for Birth

Onto the fun stuff! Now that you’re in the third trimester of pregnancy, you can double down on preparing for birth. Make sure that your birth plan is complete. (Check out Mama Natural’s free birth plan template if you’re not sure what to include.)

1. Gather the Stuff You’ll Need

Now is the time to pack your hospital bag. Don’t forget to include:

  • Birth plan
  • Insurance card
  • Comfortable clothes and layers
  • An outfit to leave the hospital in
  • Toiletries
  • Breastfeeding supplies
  • Postpartum supplies

Go here for a more detailed list of what to pack.

2. Nurture your body

Make sure that you’re getting plenty of rest and sleeping safely. Your body is about to perform an amazing feat, and you don’t want to be tired going into it. Continue eating right, especially dates, and drinking red raspberry leaf tea.

3. Do pelvic exercises

Pelvic exercises are especially important as the weight on the pelvic area increases as your baby grows. In addition to doing your Kegels, I recommend pelvic tilts, or cat/cow exercises, three times a day for up to twenty minutes. Butterflies are also a good stretch. Sit with your feet together, knees open to the side, and pulse your knees up and down.

4. Do birth affirmations

Positive birth affirmations have been shown to shape your world and lead to better birth outcomes. Do them daily, and if you’re looking for ideas Mama Natural has natural pregnancy affirmation cards to guide you.

How to Prepare for Baby

Most baby showers are held in the third trimester. If you’ve started a registry, double-check that you have all the baby gear you need (without going overboard). Check out our baby registry checklist if you’re unsure of what to include or overwhelmed by all the options.

Do you have a baby first-aid kit? Don’t forget, many common products recommended to help with baby’s acid reflux or teething aren’t necessarily safe, and definitely aren’t natural, so you’ll want to spend the time putting together a natural kit.

If this isn’t your first child, you’ll need to arrange for childcare for other children. Reach out to your support network—friends, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and see if you can put together a list of people available to help out. It’s best to have people with different availability, since you don’t know when baby will arrive.

How to Prepare for Postpartum Recovery

With all the focus on preparing for birth and bringing your baby home, don’t forget about taking care of yourself postpartum. Stock up on all the supplies you’ll need for recovery; sitz spray and bath supplies, maxi pads, a water bottle, belly support, and more.

Think ahead for the weeks postpartum and start making meals to freeze, too. Focus on nourishing meals that will help you recover. Reach out to your support network and arrange for childcare for your older children and possible meal delivery.

A Note of Encouragement About Birth

There’s a lot to think about during the third trimester weeks leading up to birth. Don’t worry, you’ve got this! You’ve been planning for a healthy and natural pregnancy all along, now you just have to stay the course. Giving birth won’t just bring a new life into the world, it will be a life-changing and empowering experience for you, too.