As women enter the third trimester, labor and delivery are usually at the forefront of their minds. When will labor happen? How will it start, and will it be obvious? Also, entering the third trimester brings with it a whole host of new pregnancy symptoms and body changes. Sometimes, it can be confusing to tell the difference between real labor signs and simply third-trimester woes.
While waiting for labor to start, it is not uncommon to become hyper-aware of your symptoms and how your body feels. Paying extra attention to symptoms, and knowing exactly what to watch out for will help us to understand our bodies and will make it easier to recognize true labor symptoms once they do finally occur.
However, this can be a tricky thing to accomplish. Some labor symptoms are very similar to the regular pregnancy symptoms that are experienced in the third trimester. Being able to tell the difference will help to eliminate confusion and anxiety.
It will also save us an unnecessary false alarm trip to the hospital only to be sent back home. Let's examine 10 signs that labor is definitely on its way and 10 signs that are just third-trimester woes.
20 Cramps And An Aching Back Are Par For The Course
Two definite signs that labor is on its way? An aching back and cramps.
According to What to Expect, when your body is preparing for labor, it fstarts to produce something called relaxin. Relaxin is a hormone that is only produced during pregnancy. It works hard to loosen your joints, muscles, and ligaments in preparation for labor and delivery.
When relaxin begins its process, it causes those muscles, joints, and ligaments to start shifting position. Due to this realignment, it is possible to experience back pain and cramping in your abdomen. To relieve pain, you can take a pain reliever that is compatible with pregnancy.
19 An Achy Abdomen Comes With The Territory
Experiencing a really achy abdomen can very easily be confused with the intense pain and discomfort experienced when relaxin is released and gets to work. However, it is very common to experience other aches and pains in your abdomen during the third trimester that are not related to the hormone relaxin.
So what causes your abdomen to ache so much? As the third trimester progresses, the baby continues to grow, which causes the body to stretch. This action results in an achy abdomen.
The cramping associated with fetal growth is less painful and intense compared to what relaxin causes, and is said to feel like period cramps. Kinesiology tape and regular trips to a Webster-trained chiropractor can be a lifesaver during pregnancy.
18 Hey There, Energizer Bunny
Don’t be surprised if one day towards the end of the third trimester, and close to your due date, you feel an intense urge to clean your house from top to bottom.
Nesting is a common symptom of late pregnancy, AP says, and tends to occur in the weeks before your due date. While nesting is a totally normal symptom of pregnancy for you to feel, not feeling the urge is equally as normal.
Some women do not experience the urge to nest at all. Just remember to take it easy and slow, and to ask for help when needing to use a ladder or when needing to lift heavy items.
17 So... Sooooo Tired
Dragging your feet through the day and tossing and turning at night? AP notes that fatigue is a common and frustrating symptom of the third trimester. The extra baby weight that the body carries around all day takes a toll on fatigue levels.
At night, waking up to take care of the frequent need to urinate causes missed sleep and increases the sluggish, foggy feeling that is felt throughout the day.
Can anything be done to avoid fatigue during the third trimester? If available to you, take a nap or just sit down for a few minutes. Adjust your schedule if you find yourself too exhausted to carry out tasks throughout the day.
16 A Breath Of Fresh Air
Lightening—otherwise known as the baby dropping—is an event that usually happens in the last few weeks of pregnancy. However, the timing is different for every pregnancy, and each woman will experience lightening at different times.
There are many benefits that can be felt after the baby drops, according to Healthline. When you experience lightening, you will find that you are able to breathe easier and deeper.
This is because when the baby drops, pressure on your diaphragm is relieved. Breathing will become easier, and you will find that you do not become as winded as you did prior to the baby dropping.
15 Help Me Find The Air
On the other side of a deep, full breath is shortness of breath. As previously mentioned, your growing uterus causes the diaphragm to crunch upwards resulting in shortness of breath.
Unfortunately, in the third trimester, this is a symptom you will have to deal with until your baby drops, or you go into labor.
Until then, how can you cope with shortness of breath?
Parents.com says to practice standing and sitting up as tall as you can to relieve unnecessary pressure on the diaphragm. Also take things slow. Rushing around causes your heart and lungs to work extra hard which makes your shortness of breath worse.
14 Oh No, Not Again...
There are more than one not so great signals that the body is gearing up for labor. According to Parents, one of the more unpleasant ones is diarrhea.
When you enter the early stages of labor, your body starts to release chemicals called prostaglandins. This chemical is indeed a hormone and it causes the uterus to contract. It also softens and dilates the cervix.
In addition to starting the prep work for labor, prostaglandins can also overstimulate the bowels causing you to frequently run to the bathroom to deal with a case of diarrhea. During this not-so-rosy time, be sure to drink plenty of water to replenish any fluids you lose.
13 Toilet Troubles Will Beckon You
On the other hand—AP warns—that during your third-trimester things may get a little stopped up. In the last months of your pregnancy, but prior to the arrival of prostaglandins, there is an increase in the hormones that cause the intestines to relax.
However, the growing uterus applies a lot of pressure to the intestines. So, you run to the bathroom only to be frustrated and disappointed.
In addition to what is happening inside your body, prenatal supplements rich in iron can also contribute to the problem. To relieve constipation, be sure to eat a balanced diet that contains plenty of fiber.
12 Where's My Puddle?
In movies, expectant moms are positive that they need to head to the hospital when they get that obvious sign. Their water breaks, leaving a puddle of water at their feet. For those of us in the real world, water breaking may be a little vaguer.
According to The Bump, only about 15 percent of pregnant women will experience their water breaking. Your water breaks when the fluid-filled amniotic sac that surrounds your baby ruptures due to it becoming weak over time.
This causes them to break and release the fluid that is contained in the sacs. When it happens, it could be felt as a gush of liquid or a slow trickle. Some leaks can even patch themselves back up and stop dripping altogether.
11 Gotta Go, Gotta Go...
During the third trimester, your water breaking can easily be confused with the frequent need to urinate or the leaking of urine. The Mayo Clinic says, as the baby grows and moves deeper into the pelvis, pressure on the bladder becomes much more intense and persistent.
All of that extra pressure can lead to the frequent trips to the bathroom with the urge to urinate. Also, because of this pressure and the intense urge to urinate it creates, leaked urine is possible.
Coughing, laughing or sneezing can exacerbate the urge and amount of leaking. If this becomes an issue for you, consider wearing panty liners or pads to save you from embarrassment and discomfort.
10 What Did You Eat?
Symptoms similar to morning sickness or food poisoning may emerge when you are nearing labor. According to Child Mags, women who are close to labor may experience nausea and vomiting.
This is caused by stagnant bowel mobility as a result of the uterus applying pressure on the intestines. In addition, in the third trimester, hormones relax the sphincter that usually holds the area between the esophagus and stomach closed.
Since the sphincter is so relaxed, food can come back upwards, occasionally leading to vomiting. Ways to combat nausea is to eat smaller meals and refrain from eating too close to bedtime. Also, be sure to stay hydrated to make up for any fluids that are lost.
9 The Ravenous Mom-To-Be
Some expectant mothers experience an increase in appetite during the third trimester, according to What To Expect. The increase in hunger is due to a growing baby who is demanding more nourishment from you.
While it is okay to indulge and take in the extra calories that the baby is craving, you should still practice healthy eating habits. Make healthy choices and eat smaller meals that consist of foods that are rich in nutritional value.
Be sure to carry a healthy snack around with you, like turkey jerky, so that you always have a smart choice within reach. Staying hydrated will help you with cravings since dehydration is commonly mistaken for hunger.
8 Ew, What's That?
Every expectant mother will eventually lose their mucus plug when they are close to going into labor, says The Bump—though some don't lose it until the process has begun. The mucus plug is the thick mass of mucus and cells that covers the opening between a woman's cervix and uterus.
Think of it like a cork.
The mucus plug begins forming when you first become pregnant and typically dislodges sometime after 37 weeks of pregnancy, although it can come out in bits during pregnancy. This is nothing to be concerned about as it regenerates.
Losing the mucus plug indicates a change in cervix size and is a pretty good signal that labor is near when the full plug releases. In terms of appearance, you will know it is your mucus plug and not just an increase in discharge by how thick and plentiful it is. That said, a mucus plug doesn't mean labor is imminent. Bloody show does, though!
7 Love Those Liners
As per WebMD, an increase in discharge can easily be mistaken for a dislodged mucus plug. Women in their third trimester usually experience an increase in their discharge.
As the due date gets closer, the discharge can be thick, clear or slightly blood-tinged. This is all caused by an increase of blood flowing to the cervical area, which stimulates the cervix, resulting in more discharge being released.
It is nothing to worry about as it is more of a nuisance than it is harmful. Be sure to stock up on extra pantyliners at the beginning of your third trimester to help get you through.
6 My Burning Heart
Heartburn is an uncomfortable symptom that women experience in their third trimester. In fact, as per WebMD, more than half of women report experiencing severe heartburn during their pregnancy.
Heartburn occurs because pregnancy hormones cause the sphincter muscle to relax which allows stomach acids to enter the esophagus, resulting in heartburn. Also, the uterus squishes the abdomen causing stomach acids to slosh upwards instead of staying put.
Furthermore, indigestion is actually commonly caused by too little stomach acid—not too much. Hence why remedies like pickle juice and apple cider vinegar can work wonders. You can also try eating smaller meals, avoid eating before lying down and taking papaya enzymes with meals.
If severe heartburn persists, talk to your provider about more effective remedies you can employ to treat it, keeping in mind that antacids could cause the placenta to calcify and stop working too soon, and many contain artificial sweeteners that are known to cause birth defects.
5 Little Lazy Baby
The closer you get to your due date, the less active your baby will be, says Family Doctor. As the baby grows, the uterus becomes cramped.
The baby will still move, but the moves will be more restricted. You may feel more elbow jabs and knee kicks than the somersaults and rolls that were felt in the second trimester.
While a decrease in movement is not uncommon, if baby's movements seem sparse, you can do a kick count. Count all movements that the baby makes in one hour. If the amount is below ten movements in one hour, you should immediately contact your doctor.
4 What's Going On In There?
What To Expect says, as the baby gets bigger and space becomes more limited, you will feel stronger and more precise movement from your baby.
Most babies are lulled to sleep by your movements and will be very quiet during the day. But once you lay down to go to sleep, the baby will start to move around quite a bit.
As the baby's space becomes more limited, they may start digging their feet into your ribs which can be uncomfortable. You can try to get baby to move by gently pushing on your stomach. This helps when the baby is causing you discomfort and can also be a really fun game to play with your baby.
3 Ow, It’s Time
There is intense pain in your lower back and abdomen that is causing you to take pause. Are they real contractions or Braxton Hicks? Here is how to tell the difference, according to Medicine Net.
Real contractions are felt in your abdomen and radiate to your back. As time ticks on, the contractions start to become much more intense, and they do not go away with movement.
When you start to experience contractions that make you pause, be sure to start timing them. Over time, true contractions will start to come closer together and will be predictable to the minute. When this happens, it is time to call your provider.
2 Ow, Is It Time?
On the other hand, the pain you are experiencing could be Braxton Hicks contractions, as per Medicine Net. Braxton Hicks contractions are practice contractions. They can still be painful and are also felt in the abdomen.
However, there are some differences between these false alarms and real contractions. Braxton Hicks contractions are felt in the abdomen and not in the back. Also, they can be relieved by moving around. They are not as intense in pain as actual labor contractions.
Lastly, Braxton Hicks contractions do not occur at regular intervals and are very unpredictable. If you are unsure whether you are experiencing Braxton Hicks or real contractions, you should contact your provider for advice.
1 Drop It Like It's Hot
Lightening, or the baby dropping, occurs when you are close to your due date. When it happens, according to Mom Loves Best, the baby moves lower into the pelvis and settles into a position to descend down the birth canal.
One of the many plusses to the baby dropping is that the baby consumes less space in the upper area of the torso, and puts less pressure on your internal organs. This can help you breathe easier, and become more regular in the bathroom. You will also be able to eat and sit down comfortably. This is why the baby dropping is called "lightening."
When it happens, it feels as though your load has become lighter.
References: What To Expect, American Pregnancy, Healthline, Parents, The Bump, Mayo Clinic, Child Mags, WebMD, Mom Loves Best, Family Doctor, Medicine Net