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Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

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Third trimester: Discomforts

Most of the discomforts from the second trimester are also part of the third trimester. Continue the suggested comfort measures from the second trimester that work for you. Ask your health care provider for other treatments if you are still uncomfortable.

In addition, you may need to cope with other changes:

Feeling lightheaded and being dizzy

The weight of your baby and uterus on your major blood vessels can decrease the blood flow to your head and make you dizzy and lightheaded at times. To reduce this effect:

  • Change positions slowly, especially if you have been lying down.
  • Drink eight to 10 glasses of fluids each day. (Try to drink at least five glasses of water.)
  • Avoid lying on your back. Use pillows or a rolled blanket to help stay side lying.

Rash on your abdomen

Pregnant women can get an itchy, red rash that starts on the abdomen and spreads to other parts of the body. It is called pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (or, PUPPP). This rash doesn't hurt the baby and can't be spread to others. It will go away shortly after birth.

For relief:

  • Use over-the-counter anti-itch medicines, such as Benadryl®, Aveeno®, and Caladryl®.
  • Take oatmeal baths.
  • Use a moisturizer or lotion to prevent dry skin, which makes the itching worse.
  • Put cool towels on the rash.
  • Wear cool, lightweight clothing.
  • Remove shoes and socks if the tops of your feet are affected.

Call your health care provider if you:

  • need stronger medicine
  • are having trouble sleeping
  • think your rash has become infected
  • have other symptoms.

Constipation

To reduce constipation, eat at least 25 grams of fiber each day. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and bran will all help you reach that goal.

Important

Call your health care provider if your vaginal discharge is watery, bloody or has a bad odor.

Vaginal fullness

The increased blood flow to your vagina and pelvic area can make the area feel full and swollen. You may also have increased vaginal discharge. To relieve some of this discomfort:

  • Do Kegel exercises to improve circulation.
  • Wrap an ice pack in a towel and sit on it for 20 minutes.
  • Put your feet up for several rest periods during the day.
  • Wear cotton underwear.

Important

Call your health care provider if the swelling in your ankles doesn't get better after a night's rest or if you have swelling in your hands or face.

Swollen ankles and feet

The size and weight of your uterus and baby make it hard to pump the blood out of your feet. That leads to swelling that increases during the day but goes away when you lie down at night. To reduce the swelling in your ankles and feet:

  • Avoid extra salt in your diet. Read the labels of processed foods. Canned soups and sauces can have a lot of salt. Pizza and Chinese food are also high in sodium.
  • Rest with your hips, legs and feet elevated (raised) on pillows to improve blood flow to your heart.
  • Rest with your feet up as often as you can.
  • When you have your feet up, do ankle circles and foot pumps. To do ankle circles, rotate your feet in a circle going toward the right for 10 circles. Then, rotate your feet to the left for 10 circles.
  • Go for a swim or stand in a pool with water at chest level for 45 minutes.
  • Soak in a warm bath. The pressure of the water around your body moves fluid out of your tissues. Have someone help you get out of the tub if you feel lightheaded.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables that are high in water content (such as cucumbers, cantaloupe and strawberries).

Difficulty sleeping

Achy joints and muscles plus a large belly can make it hard to get comfortable in bed. Try these suggestions:

  • Make your bed softer by putting an egg crate mattress or sleeping bag under your bottom sheet.
  • Soak in a warm bath before bedtime.
  • Do some gentle stretching while you take a warm shower.
  • Arrange pillows under your legs, belly and shoulders. Add a pillow between your knees.
  • Use a long body pillow to help keep you in a side-lying position.
  • Practice your relaxation technique or do slow, relaxing breathing after you are in bed.
  • Ask your partner for a gentle massage or foot rub.
  • If you wake up during the night, try resting in a recliner.

 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 08/22/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts