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Pregnancy: Third trimester changes and challenges

Congratulations! Baby's almost here.

Welcome to your third trimester.

Do you feel like you've been pregnant forever? Take heart: You're now in the home stretch. In a matter of weeks, you'll be meeting your baby for the very first time.

In the meantime your baby—and your belly—continue to grow. As a result, this third trimester may hold a few new challenges. Here are some of the typical ones:

Hemorrhoids. This painful problem is common during the third trimester, especially if you are also constipated (another common pregnancy problem). The uterus puts pressure on your veins. In addition, certain pregnancy hormones make the veins relax. Together, these factors make veins swell. Straining (as when constipated) can add to the problem and make the situation more painful.

You can help prevent hemorrhoids by:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids, including fruit juice (think prunes).
  • Eating high-fiber foods such as fresh fruits, veggies and bran cereals.
  • Getting regular exercise.

You should also avoid both sitting and standing for extended periods.

If you do get hemorrhoids, the March of Dimes suggests that you:

  • Ask your doctor about using a hemorrhoid cream.
  • Use moist towelettes or wet toilet paper to wipe. And use unscented, white toilet paper.
  • Soak in a warm tub a few times a day. Make sure the water's not hot.
  • Use an ice pack or witch hazel pads to help relieve pain and swelling.

Swelling. These last months of pregnancy will likely include plenty of fluid retention. That fluid is needed for the body to support your growing baby and to prepare for childbirth. In addition, changes in circulation can cause extra fluid to build up in the legs and ankles.

You can try to keep swelling to a minimum by:

  • Propping up your feet.
  • Lying down, particularly on your left side.
  • Not getting overheated.
  • Avoiding tight clothing.

Swelling can sometimes be a sign of a serious problem, warns the March of Dimes. Let your doctor know immediately if you notice:

  • Sudden, severe swelling in your hands, in your face around the eyes or in your feet.
  • A severe headache.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Dizziness.
  • Severe pain in the abdomen.

Frequent bathroom breaks. These days it might feel like you spend a lot of time making trips to the bathroom. You may also find that you leak urine when you cough, laugh or exercise.

That ever-growing uterus is pressing on your bladder. This can make it feel like you need to urinate even when your bladder is practically empty. Plus, you probably do need to urinate somewhat more often, since your kidneys are working overtime during pregnancy to keep waste products flushed out.

A few steps can bring some relief:

  • Drink fewer fluids in the evening so that you don't have to get up so often during the night. Just be sure to get plenty of fluids earlier in the day. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine too, as it can have a diuretic effect.
  • Don't try to hold it. Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the need. And empty your bladder as completely as you can—leaning forward a bit may help.
  • Wear a sanitary pad to take care of any leaks.

Almost there

Some women make it through pregnancy relatively easily, while others experience many of the common pregnancy challenges. Whatever your situation, you're probably looking forward to the end of these nine months with great anticipation. Of course, then you'll have parenthood to adjust to...but that's a whole separate story of its own!

Reviewed 4/18/2022

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