Calling all my fellow natural mamas-to-be! This Third Trimester Pregnancy Survival Guide will provide you with tips, tricks and product recommendations (from books and holistic remedies to maternity must-haves, and advice on diet and weight gain, nausea, and pains) to help you get through the home stretch of your pregnancy!
Oh. my. God. I can't believe I'm writing this post right now. Full disclosure: I wrote it while I was 34 weeks pregnant, in the peak of the third trimester.
But it's actually published after my sweet baby boy, Henry Johnson, has arrived. I truly cannot believe it.
There were many moments where I was certain this day would literally never come. Sometimes you feel like you'll be pregnant forever. Like you'll never not be uncomfortable again. Like you'll never again have a flat or even semi-flat stomach. Like your throat will be perpetually on fire with burning acid until you die, if it's not what kills you in the first place (it's either that or constipation, amiright?!).
Ok that was a tad dramatic, but all my third trimester mamas can feel me, I'm sure.
It's such an exciting time–week 28 through week 40-ish of pregnancy–you're in the home stretch, you're undeniably, visibly pregnant and, if your baby is anything like mine, your nugget is boogying around in your belly all the time (it's still one of the coolest feelings in the world!). You've likely had a baby shower or two, the nursery may be starting to slowly come together and it's all just starting to feel so real.
Sometimes a little too real–third trimester pains and discomfort are not for the faint of heart (men would never be able to handle it, ha!).
For me, third trimester symptoms included severe rib pain known as intercostal neuralgia that basically made me feel like my ribs were broken and made it damn near impossible to get comfortable (more on how I dealt with that below!).
I also had horrific heartburn and, of course, some trouble sleeping (some amazing natural sleep aids and insomnia suggestions below, too!).
And around week 33, I started having pelvic pain where it felt like I had done that crotch machine at the gym one too many reps (though my midwife assured me it was just baby boy's head banging around down there, stretching me out and making me sore). Oh the joy!
The third trimester wasn't all bad though–I really did have that pregnancy glow (or was it sweat?) and my skin has seriously never looked better. Being able to really feel my baby moving inside of me never stops being amazing. My friends and family were such a huge support during this time and threw us two incredible baby showers filled with so much love. We took a super romantic baby moon to Lake Oconee.
And most importantly, my baby and I were both healthy and generally happy during the third trimester, which is much as I can really ask for.
So without further ado, let's do this thing. Here's what helped me get through the third trimester, with some fun and delicious tips and tricks thrown in to help you really enjoy this time!
MY THIRD TRIMESTER PREGNANCY SURVIVAL GUIDE
Much like in my first and second trimesters, there are a few staples that I’ve continued using regularly in the second trimester: Nutrigold Prenatal Vitamins. Midwife and Mum Tummy Butter. The Motherhood Full Coverage Back Smoothing Nursing Bra. The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth.
But a few new issues have reared their adorable heads during the third trimester, and a few new needs have arisen (the nesting instinct is no joke and I found myself in the nursery every day just puttering around moving things a quarter of an inch, straightening frames and refolding clothes, etc. So anything that helped me feel productive and clean, like my AMAZING new vacuum cleaner from Shark, were much needed during this time!).
So here’s what got me through the last three months of pregnancy:
Third Trimester Heartburn Relief: I mentioned in my 2nd trimester how bad my heartburn was–you can thank all that relaxin and progesterone for slowing down digestion and keeping your esophagus flap open (source)–and while club soda with bitters helped a lot earlier on in my pregnancy, I needed some more extreme relief come the third trimester.
I took a few Tums at first, but then I read the ingredients label and ran away screaming. A fellow mama at yoga told me to try papaya enzymes and holy cow, these things work like gangbusters! Bonus, they taste like candy and have a super clean ingredients label.
If I had heartburn on an empty stomach though, I reached for Tame the Flame, which also provided instant relief. The ingredients aren't perfect, but they're WAY better than Tums. My thoughtful aunt also got me this husband pillow, which I used when sitting on the couch or reading in bed, as lying horizontal always makes heartburn worse. It was a godsend!
Third Trimester Pains and Insomnia: I mentioned above that I had horrible nerve pain in my left ribs during the third trimester and the tips below (chiropractic care and yoga) really made the biggest difference.
I also highly recommend spending 15 minutes or so a day on a medicine ball, which is not only comfortable but really helps open your hips and pelvis in preparation for labor.
The pain, and just general pregnancy insomnia did make it difficult to sleep, as well. I found that using this magnesium spray oil on my feet before bed helped me fall asleep more easily, and the most amazing pregnancy pillow known to man kept me so comfortable throughout the night.
On the rare occasion that no matter what I did, I couldn't sleep, the NY Times Crossword puzzle app was a lifesaver. I think I've completed well over 300 puzzles during this pregnancy.
Another trick for falling asleep: The Expectful Meditation app. I loved doing these meditations during times of worry or just to decompress and really be mindful about my pregnancy, but they also have two sleep guided meditations that I wish I could say were amazing, but I never got far enough to listen to them all the way through because I always fell asleep. So I'll just say this: they clearly work!
That said, overall I wasn't the biggest fan of their meditations and prefer using the Headspace app for more targeting meditation. In hindsight, I also wish I did more hypnobirthing because those labor pains were NO joke!
Webster Chiropractic: Ok the rib pain. Here's the deal: I was going to the affordable chiropractor at The Joint a mile from my house because it's cheap, it helps and it's so convenient. But I'll be honest–I got to a point with the all-male chiropractors there where I felt like they weren't equipped to handle adjusting an 8-month pregnant woman.
And as my pain and discomfort became more intense, I decided to look elsewhere. I am SO glad I did because Vital Life Chiropractic in Atlanta has been the best thing that's happened to me during this pregnancy (you know, besides the baby itself!).
I came across Vital Life as I was looking for a chiropractor who was Webster Certified, which is a technique that enables chiropractors to establish balance in the pregnant woman’s pelvis and reduce undue stress to her uterus and supporting ligaments. Why is this important? Not only has this balanced state been clinically shown to allow for optimal fetal positioning (i.e. no breech), but it's always proven to speed up and improve labor itself. Dr. Bryna Waters is my chiropractor now and she has been so helpful, thorough and thoughtful in her care with me.
**Update: Jackson came out in one push, which I have to attribute to both Dr. Waters' chiropractic care and the Spinning Babies yoga and massage I did during the last month of my pregnancy. Even if your baby isn't breech (mine wasn't!), optimal fetal positioning is so key for having a smooth labor and delivery.
Not only does Dr. Waters perform the Webster technique at every visit, but my tailbone pain was gone after 2 sessions with her and as the nerve pain in my ribs cranked up she tried multiple therapies to help me find some relief, one of which worked SO well I couldn't believe it. Using this tuning fork, Dr. Waters eased my nerve pain after just 1 session, taking it from an 8 to a 3 on the pain scale in a week. And she showed me where to buy it on Amazon so I could do it at home myself, too. After 2-3 weeks of using the fork, my rib pain was completely gone. It's a miracle!
Vital Life is actually located in the Atlanta Birth Center, which is awesome as it means they're super familiar with holistic prenatal care! And if that weren't enough, they also happen to be covered by my insurance (which NEVER happens!) AND for your first visit you can get an evaluation, adjustment and 60-minute massage for just $21 (no insurance required)! Like I said, this place is amazing and if you're in the Atlanta area, I can't recommend it and Dr. Waters enough!
Prenatal yoga: I continued practicing prenatal yoga through my third trimester, and I'm so glad I did. It's been such a great way to connect with other moms, clear my mind, and get some much-needed stretching and light exercise in during this time.
I go to Cherished Life + Wellness Prenatal Yoga with Vanya, the sweetest woman in the world! That said, I have missed my hot yoga practice perhaps more than anything else during pregnancy. And when I entered the third trimester, my OB/midwife confirmed that so long as I could keep my body temperature below 100F and my heart rate below 150 bpm, I would be safe to practice warm yoga (she recommended avoiding rooms that were heated above 95 degrees).
So I bought these Cold & Hot Therapy Wraps and this cooling towel to help me keep my body temp low. I also relied on my Fitbit Alta watch to track my heart rate, and made sure to stay super hydrated with this insulated tumbler.
But guess what? Once I finally got the permission I had been hoping for for so long, I didn't feel the need to go. And I actually started enjoying my prenatal yoga classes more.
Third Trimester Support Wear: I feel like a broken record here, but things start to get pretty uncomfortable in the third trimester and having proper support from your clothes is key. A few of my favorites:
- Blanqi's Maternity Overbust Tank Top and Belly Support Leggings. I loved how seamless they were (read: no irritation!), and how supportive without feeling like you were wearing Spanx. The sewn-in belly belt subtly lifts your belly, helping with back pain and encouraging good posture. Dress up or down–this support wear is stylish enough to be worn on its own and doesn’t need to be covered up. I lived in their leggings!
- Belly Bandit’s Thigh Disguise. These support shorts provide maximum support, while somehow still being breathable, for expanding bellies and thighs, while minimizing chafing and stretch marks (thanks to the medical-grade compression). Great under dresses, too, for smoothing things out!
- Mama Strut’s Pregnancy Care System. Made from Bamboo, Nylon, and Spandex, this supportive short system comes with a wearable soft brace for ice/heat therapy for the perineum, vagina and hemorrhoids, another for the lower back and another for your abs to help with all the discomfort that growing a watermelon-sized human comes with (think pain, swelling, and pressure).
- These Compression Socks are great for circulation and swelling, too!
Third Trimester Personal Care: I'm about to get real honest–if talk of constipation and hemorrhoids weren't enough for you, that is 😉
By the third trimester, I needed to wear a pad almost every day–there's just such much fluid happening down there. Sorry, but it's true. I went with theseorganic Cora panty liners–they got the job done, but they are almost too thin (comfortable, but maybe not THE most effective).
If I were to do it again, I'd go with these Rael 100% Organic Cotton Menstrual Pads.
On a lighter note, Mineral Fusion's Gradual Self Tan Lotionsaved me at many a baby shower when I realized just a few hours before how pasty I was looking! I know it's summer and I should be nice and tan naturally, but when it's 95 degrees out and the humidity makes your front porch feel like a steam room and you're 8 months pregnant, all you really want to do is lie naked under a fan in the glorious A/C. Hence the pastiness.
Third Trimester Cravings + Indulgences: Alright let's have some fun. What did I crave during the third trimester? What indulgences did I allow myself? What were my favorite foods during pregnancy?
Chick-Fil-A (#sorrynotsorry), all the organic gummy candy, all the ice cream and popsicles (these molds helped me at least make healthy versions at home!), Paqui Chips (aka healthier Doritos), Tangerine La Croix. And iced tea. Oh man, how I craved iced tea.
Thank God for Pique Tea, which dissolves in cold water so there's no steeping or heating and then cooling required. Their hibiscus tea was my jam!
Here's the thing–I did not eat as healthy as I expected to during this pregnancy, and certainly not as anti-inflammatory as I did pre-pregnancy. And that's okay. As my doctor told me,
“many women smoke crack during pregnancy, they binge drink, they don't take care of themselves, they eat exclusively fast food, they never exercise, they gain way too much weight or not enough. And they still have perfectly healthy babies all the time. You're doing way better than you think, your body is telling you what it needs and you just have to do the best you can.”
I liked that advice. I still eat mostly healthy. I still practice yoga and self-care and take my pup for long walks. I don't do drugs or smoke cigarettes or drink more than a glass or two of wine per week. I go to therapy and meditate to manage my stress. I get plenty of sleep. I use almost exclusively non-toxic, organic, eco-friendly makeup, personal care, cleaning products, and the like.
So you know what? If I'm craving me a chicken biscuit one morning or a bowl of ice cream after dinner, I'm going to eat it, dammit. And I'm not going to feel bad about it. Neither should you!
Third Trimester Books: I did quite a bit of reading (and Audible listening) in the third trimester, primarily books to help me prepare for birth and what happens after the baby is here. Here are some of my faves:
- Strong as a Mother: A super empowering and insightful look into motherhood with great ideas for how to get to a place of support with your partner and actually co-parent.
- Mindful Birthing: This is a long one and I listened to it off and on throughout the third trimester. Main takeaway: pain is in your mind, you can control your thoughts, your body was made to do this, YOU CAN DO THIS!
- Brain Rules: A clever evidence-based look at what you can actually do to help your baby's brain development and turn your kid into a little genius (and which trendy techniques are bogus, too!).
- BabyWise: All of my friends who have kids who sleep great and babies who slept through the night before 6 weeks swear by this book and Moms on Call. Sign me up!
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth: Another labor prep book from the quintessential midwife who helps women trust in their bodies and themselves to have an unmedicated birth. Inspiring and uplifting!
There you have it–my third trimester survival guide. What helped you get through the home stretch of pregnancy? Share in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser
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