Your Body This Month
You're likely feeling perpetually stuffed and slightly out of breath as your uterus relocates all your internal organs. The relief and energy felt in the second trimester can start to fade now. Just remember, you're almost there!
Your Body Changes
The top of the fundus is halfway between your bellybutton and your breastbone, displacing your stomach, intestines, and diaphragm. Your expanding abdomen has formed a shelf, handy for resting your arms on and balancing a cold beverage at the movies. On the down side, you'll be catching a lot of crumbs, and your napkin just doesn't seem to stay on your lap anymore.
Not only are your breasts heavier, but also they are more glandular and getting ready to feed your baby. In this last trimester your nipples may begin to leak colostrum, which is the yellowish, nutrient-rich fluid that precedes real breast milk. You may find the leaking more apparent when you're sexually aroused. To reduce backaches and breast tenderness, make sure you wear a well-fitting bra (even to bed if it helps). If you are planning on breastfeeding, you might want to consider buying some supportive nursing bras now that can take you through the rest of pregnancy and right into the postpartum period.
If you're picking up some nursing bras, be sure to test-drive the clasps for easy nursing access. Try to unfasten and slip the nursing flaps down with one hand. This may seem unimportant now, but when you're in a crowded shopping mall juggling packages and trying to discreetly put baby to breast single-handedly, you'll be thankful you had the foresight.
What You Feel Like
Your body is warming up for labor, and you may start to experience Braxton-Hicks contractions. These painless and irregular contractions feel as if your uterus is making a fist and then gradually relaxing. If your little one is fairly active, you might think that she is stretching herself sideways at first. A quick check of your belly will reveal a visible tightening.
Braxton-Hicks can begin as early as week 20 and continue right up until your due date, although these contractions are more commonly felt in the final month of pregnancy. Some first-time moms-to-be are afraid they won't be able to tell the difference between Braxton-Hicks and actual labor contractions. As any woman who has been through labor can attest, when the real thing comes you'll know it. Rule of thumb: If it hurts, it's labor.
Starting at week 20, the uterus has a basic rhythm. The smooth muscle of the uterus is similar to your intestinal tract in that both involuntarily contract in a wavelike pattern designed to facilitate movement of what's inside (be it breakfast or your baby). These early rhythmic and generally painless contractions are called
If your contractions suddenly seem to be coming at regular intervals and they start to cause you pain or discomfort, they could be the real thing. Lie down on your left side for about a half hour with a clock or watch on hand and time the contractions from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next. If the interludes are more or less regular, call your health care provider. And if contractions of any type are accompanied by blood or amniotic fluid leakage, contact your practitioner immediately.
The list is growing. Other symptoms that may continue this month include:
Tender and/or swollen breasts
Excess mucus and saliva
Increase in normal vaginal discharge
Mild shortness of breath
Lightheadedness or dizziness
Gas, heartburn, and/or constipation
Skin and hair changes
Round ligament pain or soreness
Mild swelling of legs, feet, and hands