As doulas, we know babies come whenever they come. We know estimated due dates are just that, estimated. However, it can still be helpful to know about the varying stages and milestones in pregnancy as they’re often very important to our clients. A common question is when is the third trimester?
Our clients are trying to figure out their bodies, as well as all the lingo and definitions associated with pregnancy. They often wonder if they’re pregnant for nine or is it ten months? When does each trimester start and end?
Knowing when and what to expect during the third trimester can help alleviate anxiety about the unknown.
As a doula, the more questions you can answer with reassurance, the better you can support your clients.
When Does The Third Trimester Start?
Depending on where you look, the second trimester begins at either week 13 or week 14. This is just the beginning of our trimester, weeks and months confusion in pregnancy.
The third trimester is a bit less confusing as nearly every source cites week 28 as the beginning of the third trimester.
Clients likely find it helpful to which trimester they’re in, but you can reassure them that the definition with an exact week doesn’t mean too much. As long as they’re pregnancy is developing properly, knowing the exact day they’re at won’t necessarily impact when baby arrives.
We like to read all the books and know all the definitions, but our babies tend to grow within a wide range of normal and be born in a wide range of normal. Reassuring them of this can help alleviate a bit of anxiety that sometimes comes from living in the age of information.
What Are The Third Trimester Weeks?
As mentioned above, the third trimester begins at week 28. This means the third trimester weeks are weeks 28 to up to week 42.
The third trimester ends whenever the baby is born. A healthy full-term baby is born between 39 and 42 weeks. While weeks 37 and 38 aren’t preterm, they are now defined as early term. Weeks 41 and 42 are not overdue but are considered late term. Beyond 42+0 weeks, is considered postdates.
When someone gives birth before 37 weeks, they have a preterm birth and a short third trimester.
3 Things To Expect During The Third Trimester
Helping your clients understand what to expect during the third trimester is an important part of providing holistic support. The fear of the unknown can cause a lot of stress for some parents. Alternatively, ignorance never remains bliss in pregnancy as it can lead to unrealistic expectations – and then disappointment.
#1: Stomach Pain, Nausea and Braxton Hicks
Many experience nausea, vomiting and constipation during the first trimester. Rising progesterone causing slow digestion to increase nutrient absorption causes the increase in constipation.
Most experience a relief from morning sickness and even constipation during the second trimester. While not everyone experiences it, some women report an increase in nausea, constipation and even vomiting during the third trimester.
As baby grows, organs become displaced. This can lead to heartburn and reflux which can increase morning sickness like nausea. Baby begins to crowd the abdomen which can compress and move intestines worsening pregnancy constipation. Between the nausea and constipation, many of your clients will experience gastric discomfort and even pain.
Clients might also begin to feel Braxton hicks contractions. These aren’t typically painful, but they can cause tightening and pressure which can be uncomfortable.
Before 37 weeks, they should not feel strong or painful contractions lasting more than 45-60 seconds each and happening more than 6 times within an hour. If they are, instruct them to contact their midwife or OB immediately.
#2: Appetite Changes During The Third Trimester
Some women find themselves extremely hungry during the third trimester as the caloric needs increase with baby’s rapid growth. Others find themselves feeling full as baby is compressing much of the digestive tract.
You can assure your clients if they’re noticing an increase or decrease in appetite, this can be quite normal. If they’re feeling hungrier than before, it’s important to meet their body’s need for more nutrition.
#3: Swelling During The Third Trimester
During pregnancy, the blood volume increases by 50%. This alone adds to feeling a bit swollen but many pregnant people also experience edema.
This edema can get worse during the third trimester. Even if weight gain is in the typical range, one might find it difficult to fit your rings, shoes and other items. Staying adequately hydrated and watching sodium intake is a great way to manage edema.
If a client experiences a sudden onset of edema, especially in the face, it’s important they contact their maternity care provider to be sure there’s no other symptoms of preeclampsia.
These are just three common third trimester symptoms, among a potentially long list. As a doula, you may not remember every single symptom, but educating clients about common ones can help them feel prepared. Pregnancy is a time of many changes; you can make it easier for clients by helping them know what to expect.