How To Navigate Third Trimester Emotions


So let's talk about the third trimester emotions. 


 Brain changes during third trimester

Did you know that pregnant women's brains actual go through a shrinking and growth period?  It's called the mommy brain. This transformation of the brain starts at conception and will literally change the way you think, feel and what you find important.  No wonder you're going through so many different emotions!  Not since puberty has your brain gone through such transformation.  These changes that happen in your brain are the most profound and permanent of a woman's life.  

Between six months and the end of pregnancy, MRI scans have shown that a pregnant woman's brain actually shrinks.  But don't worry it's not like you're losing brain cells.  In the final one to two weeks before giving birth, your brain will begin to increase again in size as it creates large networks of maternal circuits.  And it will continue to change during childbirth and once your baby arrives.  Pretty amazing! 

Don't forget about the hormonal changes you've been going through. Your hormones are at an all time high.  For example, progesterone spikes from ten to a hundred times its normal level during the first two to four months of pregnancy which has a sedating effect similar to the drug Valium. This is why you were so tired during the first trimester.  

The combination of increased progesterone and estrogen help protect against stress hormones during pregnancy.  Your baby (fetus) and placenta are producing large amounts of stress hormones like cortisol, which are flooding your body and brain.  By late pregnancy, the amount of stress hormones floating around are equivalent to as if your were doing strenuous exercise but it doesn't result in a feeling of stress. Thank god! They are there to make you more vigilant about safety, nutrition and your surroundings. 

So if you're experiencing a lot of different emotions.  Welcome to MOMMY-HOOD! 


How you may feel emotionally and what can help.

Excitement around preparations for baby:

Now is the time to prepare the baby’s room, shop for the car seat, stroller and all the other baby essentials.  Just be aware that many paints, carpets, furniture and toys are made with toxic substances.  It is best to avoid them.  Buy non-toxic paint, and a mattress made of wool and cotton.  Buy organic cotton or hemp clothing and blankets.  Look for non-toxic toys, etc. Remember, quality is better than quantity.  New babies don’t need much in the first few months.  

Check out:

I highly recommend planning for the actual arrival of the baby.  Make a list of friends and family who would be willing to help once the baby is born.  I'm not talking about visitors.  I'm talking about friends that will HELP by cooking a meal, doing some laundry, hold the baby while you take a needed nap or shower, look after your other children (if you have them).  People who will  actually help care for you!  This is a time to allow yourself to be nurtured and cared for by others.  Make a list of things that need to be done and any friend that comes over can look at the list and choose what they would like to help you with.  Most people want to help.

If you don’t want visitors right after the baby is born, ask your friends to drop off meals at the front door, go grocery shopping for items or prepare and freeze a bunch of meals so that you don’t have to worry about cooking.  Think about 2 – 3 weeks worth of meals. 

You may want to think about hiring a post partum doula (she provides postpartum care for the mother).  To find a doula in your area ask your local midwives, obstetricians, other moms, or check out DONA (Doulas of North America) for a list of resources. 

Here is a blog that you might find useful while making your baby plan.  How Making A Baby Plan Can Help Make Your Relationship Strong


The pregnancy high:

Hopefully you love the feeling of being pregnant and even better, feel euphoric.  You may realize your body is doing something amazing.  Enjoy it!  It's truly wondrous that the both of you together are creating a life. 

Here is my all time favorite video.  It is truly amazing how a human grows from a single fertilized egg cell to the trillions of cells that make up a new person.  Check it out.  It will blow your mind.  

Video- Conception to Birth by Alexander Tsiaras(TED)

Image-maker Alexander Tsiaras shares a powerful medical visualization, showing human development from conception to birth and beyond. (Some graphic images.)


Focused on labor or birth, anxiety about the unknown, fearful of pain:

Right about now women who have given birth will begin to tell you and your partner their personal birth stories.  Not all of them are good or helpful.  These stories can cause a lot of anxiety and fear.  You know's okay for you not to listen to their stories!  You can politely say, “We have decided not to hear other people’s stories because we want our birth experience to be our own.”  Or better yet, blame it on me!  Tell them your childbirth educator said……. “No bad birth stories, only information that is helpful”.  

Here is a blog I wrote specifically on this topic. Birth Stories - Should you listen to them?

Here is a book with lots of real birth stories with helpful information - Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

Education is by far the best FEAR buster.  A lot of expecting moms and dads believe labor and birth is this dramatic, screaming, emergency situation just like in the movies.  Ummmmm, sorry to say it's usually not.  Remember that movies want to make money, so they often depict labor and birth to be either funny or scary.  Truly, it can be rather uneventful and boring.  I never get tired of attending a birth.  It's one of the most amazing and beautiful things I've ever had the honor to be a part of.

Whether you're planning on doing a medicated or natural birth, I highly recommend a childbirth education class so you can get the facts as well as learn comfort measures that you can use with your partner throughout labor.  Trust me, there is a lot you both can do to minimize discomfort and avoid high drama!!  

If you are having a cesarean birth, I wrote a great 3 part series that you will find informative and helpful. How to Prepare for & Recover from a Cesarean Birth,  part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Bottom line, a laboring woman actually needs very little!  Here is what you will really need:

  • A quiet, dark, warm room. 
  • To feel safe. 
  • The people around you believe in your natural ability to give birth.  
  • To be hydrated and nourished (drink and eat easy-to-digest foods during labor) although in late stages you may not want to eat.  Ice chips may be better than liquid at that point. I wrote a blog called What Every Pregnant Women Should Know About Eating And Drinking During Labor
  • The freedom to move around. 
  • Feel like you’re not being observed.
  • Trust that your body and baby know exactly what to do whether it is your first birth or not. Just like you didn’t have to think about how to “build” your baby, you won’t have to “think” about giving birth.  Your body knows what to do.  Just allow it.

Here is a blog I wrote for expecting dad - Real Labor Tips for Dads From A Doula - Childbirth Educator


Nervous about responsibility of being a parent:

Talk with your partner about how you both would like to raise your child.  Remember you’re a team.


Can’t wait for pregnancy to end:

This is very common especially toward the end of pregnancy, as you get more uncomfortable.  Take this time to go out on dates, go to the movies, visit with friends and do things together as a couple.  Because once the baby arrives, your life will change and it will be all about the bundle of joy.  

Trust that the baby will come when he/she is ready to come.  Lots of important things are happening in the last weeks of pregnancy.  For example, important organs, like your baby’s brain, lungs, eyes, ears and liver are still developing and growing.  Your baby is learning how to suck and swallow.  They are still gaining weight.  Staying pregnant till at least 39 weeks gives your baby the time he needs to grow. 

Check out March of Dimes: Why 39 weeks is best for your baby.  


Variety of feelings about body image:

It’s not easy to gain 25 – 35+ pounds in 9 months.   Your body has never been this way, and sometimes it takes an effort to get used to it.  And it's okay if you never get used to it.  Every woman is different and no two pregnancies are the same.  But remind yourself that your body is doing an incredible thing every second, every minute and every hour.  It’s creating a human being.  It truly is a miracle!  


Feeling clumsy:

Your new body is naturally off center.  You just need to be a little more cautious.


Difficulty focusing attention and forgetful:

The pregnancy brain is real!  You'll probably have trouble focusing and/or forgetting things.  So use a calendar, sticky notes, a smart phone or something else that can help you remember things.  I do and I'm not even pregnant. 


Increased dependency on others:

If you need a little more assurance then ask for it.  Journal writing will be very beneficial to you.  Pregnancy is a time of growth, physically, emotionally and mentally.  You'll have tremendous insight.  Write what you’re feeling, ask yourself questions.  I guarantee you will know the answers.  


Desire for protection:

You may need to feel that you are not alone in this adventure called pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood.  Who will your team be?  Who will be your support?  Unfortunately, modern times have caused many women to feel that they have to do everything.  All throughout history a woman who gave birth had a support team of many women around them.  It is perfectly okay to ask for help when you need it.  You are and will be learning a lot once the baby arrives and so will the baby. 


Feeling like you are bonding with other pregnant women and moms:

It will be important for both you and your partner to have support before and after the baby is born.  Join pregnancy groups, mommy groups and mommy and me classes once the baby arrives.  It may also be helpful for your partner to join a daddy’s group.


Decreased sexual interest:

As you become further along and closer to your due date/estimated date, sex may begin to feel uncomfortable or painful.  It is super important to talk about this and make adjustments so that both of you feel pleasure.  For many women, orgasms are better than ever during pregnancy and some even orgasm during labor.  FYI…orgasms can get labor moving; plus it helps release feel--good hormones throughout your body!!  So if intercourse isn’t working for you… there are other ways to be intimate and achieve orgasm. 


Fearful water will break in public:

This is a common one.  Good news is that only 10% - 15% of women experience the rupture of their membranes (water breaking) before labor begins.  But if it does happen, labor will most likely begin within 24 hours!  If it doesn’t, the doctor will want to get labor started.  The other good news is that if it does rupture, it will most likely be a trickle, slow leak or small gush rather than a huge tidal wave.

What to look out for:

What color is it?  

  • Clear is good.
  • Yellow may be urine.
  • Green or brown - call your healthcare provider immediately.  It means the baby has gone to the bathroom (poo), the proper name is meconium and it’s not like adult poo, don’t worry!  

How does it smell? 

  • No odor is good, probably amniotic fluid.  
  • Ammonia smelling may be urine, 
  • Foul smelling, again call healthcare provider!

How much?

When your membrane ruptures before labor the doctor will want to know how much came out.  Just take note!


Love the extra attention from friends and family:

Enjoy it. The more you feel loved the more your baby feels loved. 


Fear of harming baby during sex:

Talk to your healthcare provider about your fears.  Ask questions!  For the men who think they're going to poke the baby with their's not happening :) I've actually had fathers ask me this very question.  There is also a great book by Lou Paget called Hot Mamas: The Ultimate Guide To Staying Sexy Throughout Pregnancy. 


Overwhelmed by all the things that need to be prepared for the baby:

Make a list of all that needs to be done, decide which ones are priorities, which ones can wait and which ones don’t really need to get done.  If you need help getting things done then ask for help. 

Here are some blog posts that you may find helpful.  They have downloadable PDFs. 


Please don't forget to do some postpartum preparations for yourself. Here are some helpful blog posts:


Obsessive about a clean house:

This is called NESTING. It is very common among pregnant women.  Just don’t over do it.  If you do, your body will let you know. 


You may feel fearful you may die in labor:  (Some moms secretly fear this)

In Canada and the United States, maternal death is extremely rare.  If you find yourself worrying or dreaming about the death of you or your baby, it is important that you talk to someone about it that will be supportive.  Such dreams are not portents. They reflect anxiety about the transformation you are undergoing and your fears for the health of the baby.


Fearful that you will not know when you are in “real” labor: 

I wrote a whole blog on just this subject.  I even included a PDF that you can download.  - Signs of Labor - What You Should Know If You're Pregnant


How do you feel emotionally right now?  What do you need? 

  • _____________________________ - (fill in the blank)

The truth is...

Ambivalent feelings are part of parenthood and of life itself.  There will be days that you love being a parent and days when you wonder why you got yourself into this.  You may even sometimes think that it is awful!  But there will also be days or moments that you will love and treasure!  You will get through it!!!  Parenthood is a very long process, not to be defined by any particular experience.  And children are quite resilient.  Know that other parents are going through the same things as you are!  Your parents went through it with you too!

Going through pregnancy and childbirth together can actually make the bond and love between you and your partner feel all that much stronger, but couple time is still important.  Once things settle down a bit at home, you and your partner will need a break from the parental role, so get a babysitter, go out and focus on one another.

Above all remember to just ENJOY your baby.  Life’s most delightful moments are ahead of you!  CONGRATULATIONS!!!

For more relationship tips from our relationship expert, Rhona Berans, PhD., CPCC, check out the relationship archive.

You will probably find some great tips in the following blogs!

If you find this information useful please feel free to share it with your friends and loved ones.  


William Sears, M.D. & Martha Sears R.N. The Pregnancy Book. Little Brown Co. New York, NY, 1997.

Chopra D., M.D., Simon, D., M.D., and Abrams, V., C.C.E., I.B.C.L.C. A holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth, Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives. Published by Three Rivers Press NY 2005

Roman, A., M.D., The Natural Pregnancy Book, Published by Celestial Arts, Berkley Ca. 2003

Nicholas, F., and Humenic, S., Childbirth Education, Practice, Research and Theory 2nd Edition. 2000

Simpkin, P.T., Whalley, R.N, B.S.N., Keppler, R.N.,M.N, Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn, Published by Meadowbrook Press, New York, 2001

CAPPA Childbirth Education Course

Brizendine L., M.D., The Female Brain . Published by Broadway Books, New York, 2006