Each trimester of pregnancy is 12 weeks, but the third is definitely the longest. When the fatigue and misery hit again around the 29-week mark, I found myself constantly Googling “self-care items for the third trimester” for ideas about how I could ease the slow drag of the end.
It surprised me that I couldn’t find a whole lot — and that most lists were geared toward postpartum items or things for the baby.
So, of course I ended up making my own
How To Practice Self-Care In The 3rd Trimester Of Pregnancy
Here is a — tried and tested — list of items for emotional, spiritual and physical self-care that you can feasibly get for yourself to alleviate the drag and discomfort of the third trimester of pregnancy. (A lot of these also make great gifts.)
1. Epsom Salt Baths
Baths on their own are great, but do not underestimate the added power of the humble Epsom salt! I have taken a salt bath almost every day of this pregnancy, and I can literally watch my feet unswell in the water. Blending them with essential oils just makes it that much more of a luxurious ritual. My tip for essential oils is to mix it with the salt first and then add the water, so the oil doesn’t just sit on the surface. (I just dump both into the bottom of the tub and mix before filling).
A 4-pound bag of plain Epsom salts are under $5 at Walmart or Target, and places like Whole Foods carry a wide selection of essential oils that are perfect for creating your own blend. I usually work back from my favorite perfume notes (you can find them in the perfume’s product description). Vetiver and bergamot are personal favorites of mine. If you are nine months pregnant, just waiting to go into labor, clary sage and lavender make an almost unreal relaxing combination.
Note: You should take some precaution when selecting essential oils — most of them are safe, but certain ones (like clary sage) can trigger contractions and shouldn’t be used prior to being full term. I always double-check each new oil with a quick Google search.
2. Tactile, Brainless Arts & Crafts
Look, I get why the grandmothers knitted and quilted during pregnancy, and if I had any skill or patience for it, I would absolutely be doing some kind of blanket project. However, I’m hopeless with needles of any kind (and pattern following). I’m just not a crafter, period. But that doesn’t mean crafts aren’t perfect for this end stage of pregnancy.
I have these Spencerian Penmanship books on my shelf from some impulse purchase years ago and have found them to be so soothing and wonderful to get me through this time. The copy books provide a relaxing, repetitive task that’s perfect to do while sitting on a yoga/birthing ball by my bed (I use a lap desk perched on the edge of the bed, since it no longer fits in my lap, and just my favorite regular pen, no fountain pen).
You could also do adult coloring books, a paint-by-number kit or even just basic watercolors. I dug out my daughter’s watercolors the other day and painted a random fish I saw on TikTok that gave me a boost of serotonin. It doesn’t have to be good — it just needs to keep you busy.
3. Luxurious Body Lotions & Oils
I would rub La Mer on my belly if I thought it would help relieve that tight, itchy feeling. I no longer get stretch marks (all the damage was done in the first pregnancy), but a good lotion still brings a lot of relief to sensitive skin. I’ve used Bio-Oil skincare oil and find it quite nice, but not any more effective than a simple sweet-almond oil.
But ultimately the very best lotion I’ve found for keeping that delicate skin feeling comfortable is a Korean product: Illiyoon Ceramide Ato Cream. I use the lighter version of this as an all-over body moisturizer and this cream on my face, but in pregnancy it’s also going on my belly. There’s no scent, it soaks in right away, and just keeps the skin supple and soft. I adore it.
A close second — but a sometimes polarizing option — is the classic cold cream, Nivea. (Shhh…it’s actually a pretty close dupe for La Mer). I’ve used Nivea for years because it’s one of the only products that really makes a difference for my dry, sensitive peasant skin. It’s best for overnight, and it’s got a “classic” scent, but it’s only a couple bucks and absolutely blows most other skincare out of the water.
Check out Biossance too if you haven’t already (it makes some great gift sets for the holidays). And if you’re concerned about ingredients, I suggest following @charlotteparler for great, no-bullshit skincare information.
4. New Books & Comfort Reads
Full disclosure: I’m an author, but I struggle to read during the end of pregnancy. It’s just hard for my brain to really function like normal. During those times I fall back to comfort reads. For me, romance is always an easy comfort read. Julia Quinn’s “Bridgerton” series is great, but if you like those, you’ll probably also really enjoy Eloisa James’ “Wildes of Lindow Castle” series or Alyssa Cole’s “Reluctant Royals” series. If you like fantasy, definitely try Hannah Witten’s “For the Wolf” duology, and despite the door-stopper size, I devoured R.F. Kuang’s “Babel.”
Don’t overlook the Young Adult category — it’s always full of great gems. Renee Ahdieh’s “Beautiful” series is a perfect Historical New Orleans Vampire story. “An Arrow to the Moon” by Emily X.R. Pan is a beautiful contemporary retelling of a Chinese Romeo and Juliet myth. Can’t handle prose? (I get it.) Try these tender novels in verse: “A Funeral in My Brain” by Will Walton as well as “Nothing Burns as Bright as You” by Ashley Woodfolk.
5. New Pajama Sets
I love splurging on new pajamas at the end of pregnancy. You just know you’re going to get so much mileage out of them, and a little matching set makes me feel so much better about how I look. I’m short with a big, round belly, and I’ve found even just sizing up normal pajamas works — no need for maternity only.
If there is ever a time to look at the fabric content of your favorite pajamas and go buy more, now is it. I personally love the feel of light, crisp cotton, and I’ve been wearing these cotton pajamas from Gap all this trimester. These ribbed jersey sets from Old Navy have also been great for the end and will transition into postpartum easily, thanks to the nursing-bra component. After reading other moms’ reviews, I did also grab a bamboo-blend nightgown from Kindred Bravely for my hospital bag.
6. A Pregnancy Pillow
Personally, I hate giant pillows when I’m heavily pregnant. It’s hard enough to get out of bed! Plus, I hate clutter and things I won’t use for a long time. But after a prenatal massage where they used a small wedge pillow under my hip (on my back) or under my belly (on my side), I was convinced to go home and buy a similar one.
It’s worth every penny. Pretty cheap, doesn’t take up a bunch of room, and is such perfect belly support when sleeping (or even during side-lying sex, lol). I even use it as back support sitting up watching TV. Just all around a great little purchase.
7. Tarot Cards
If you’ve never learned how to read tarot cards, now is a great time. The fun of selecting a deck and learning how to use the cards is the perfect activity for those last uncomfortable months. I encourage people just to buy a deck that speaks to them in some way, but my favorite practical, everyday deck is the Golden Thread tarot deck from Labyrinthos. (I haven’t used the optional tarot journal that corresponds with this deck, but I ADORE the look of it.) I also really like, for beginners especially, the Wandering Star tarot cards. They have a really friendly, warm energy, and since this deck has no reversals, it makes it easier to read.
During the last trimester, I’m using different spreads than normal. One of my favorites has been a simple three-card draw, but instead of the typical past/present/future (asking about the future worries me in pregnancy), I have used, “What do I need to leave behind?” and “What do I need to focus on?” and “What do I need to embrace?” Especially when looking toward labor and navigating the emotions of the end.
Note: You can’t use tarot to predict when you’ll go into labor, not even the Lenormand ones — I’ve tried even though I know better, lol. Regular tarot just tells me I’ll deliver once I progress (thanks), and Lenormand said the dog and a tree, which could be anything. (I decided this meant my dog would alert me on the 5th of October, both of which remain to be seen).
8. Nourishing Comfort Foods
This is more the concept of nourishment and emotional self-care, and it’s something my therapist encouraged. But simply allowing yourself the indulgence of going to the grocery store and buying the pre-cut fruit when you want fruit. Or good cheese and bread. Or whatever. The concept. I will walk into the fancy grocery store and ask myself, “What feels nourishing to me right now?” And nourishing does not mean “healthy.” It’s the emotion, not the macro count.
Weirdly, I find myself eating more hasty convenience food when I’m denying myself the option of choosing something indulgent. I’ve also been selfish with my comfort-food choices. With three older children already, someone is always eating my snacks, and I typically let them. But this pregnancy I’ve come home with my $15 cut fruit and just unequivocally told them to keep their hands off. I do not feel bad. It does, in fact, feel nourishing.
9. New Bed Linens
Similar to pajamas, new bed linens are a special treat during the discomfort of the last trimester. I think I walk through Target’s linen section even more than the baby clothes. Again, I like to pay attention to the fabric blends: Percale cotton or linen sheets will keep you cooler in the hot months; flannel is perfect for that cozy nesting vibe. (I have a set of all these, lol.) I prefer 100% natural-fiber sheets for the best airflow.
Depending on your budget, it’s a great time to refresh all your blankets and make your bedroom feel like a peaceful sanctuary. It’s not like you’re leaving anytime soon — even after the baby arrives.
10. Maternity Clothes
I know, I know — what is the point of buying maternity clothes when you have only a few more weeks? Hear me out. You’re so uncomfortable, why make it more so trying to yank down your shirt for another month? Also, the third trimester is when you are the most…shall we say…distorted? in size. I’m always on a budget, but I’ve never regretted buying at least one new outfit in the third trimester that I know fits and doesn’t make me even more uncomfortable.
My suggestion? These Pact maternity joggers are actually a purchase I made at the start of this pregnancy and are still completely comfortable and easy to wear. I would 100% buy them right now, especially because I see myself wearing them for much of the fourth trimester as well. I like that they aren’t super-tight like leggings, but they’re still tailored and shaped enough to not add to my overall feeling of sloppy.
For shirts, you can just buy a larger-size maternity top, but I actually really love giant men’s T-shirts at this stage. They’re so comfortable, and the belly gives them a drape and shape enough to seem chicer than normal. Plus, you get great arm coverage!
I gravitate toward graphic tees like these from Uniqlo (in the biggest size), and I even got a compliment from a real-life youth on this Fleetwood Mac one. I try to stick to neutral colors and minimal details to help it land on chic rather than just giving up. (To be fair, I have also given up.) If you’re on a budget, splurge on the pants, then head to the good thrift store for the men’s shirts.
11. Cute Hair Accessories
This one is from too many postpartum bang decisions I regret. Schedule yourself a haircut in advance, around eight months, with enough time to crowdsource your choices from the group chat, and I promise, you’ll save yourself some sorrow, lol. This is the time where you can get the cut and color ready to not see a hairdresser for a year. I also love stocking up on cute accessories to get me through the end and into postpartum.
For self-care one week, I assigned myself the task of buying a new headband. I love these satin scrunchies because they’re inexpensive and look great, but if I had the money to splurge on a silk set, I absolutely would. I also have these hairpins stashed around because they’re so chic and so easy, but claw clips are great as well. I recommend buying an extra item specifically to match your hospital pajamas and stashing it in your bag for then. It’s the little things.
12. Binge List
Toward the end of the second trimester, I made a list of television and movies I wanted to either catch up on or re-watch specifically for the third trimester. Your choices may look different, but for me this is the perfect time to revisit longer, well-loved series. And as your pregnancy progresses, the lower the stakes of the plot, the better (cortisol is not your friend when going into labor).
I re-watched all the extended editions of “Lord of the Rings,” all the seasons of the Kardashians, “What We Do in the Shadows,” and a good chunk of “Naruto: Shippuden.” Now that I’m 39 weeks, all I can handle is back-episodes of “Fixer Upper.” Whatever it is that brings you peace — and you can take a nap and wake up without losing track of much — now is the time.
Note: If you don’t have pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel, this is also a great time to play endless rounds of Mario, Animal Crossing or a game like Runescape.
13. Nonalcoholic Sparkling Rosé
My job gifted me with a prenatal massage, and at the end of the massage, they gave me a glass of sparkling, nonalcoholic rosé, and it was the most beautiful treat. The key is to find the sparkling kind. This list from the New York Times has some great options. Despite being in a state that sells wine at the grocery store, I ironically had to go to an ABC liquor store to find the nonalcoholic kind.
14. Ethical Smudge Sticks
After you’ve finished the cleaning and putting together all the baby stuff, a great way to complete the ritual of preparation and the nesting phase is to burn herbs in the house. (I don’t come from a culture or tradition that “smudges,” but I’m using that word here so you know what I’m talking about.)
I had great plans this summer to forage for the herbs I wanted to prepare and use, but in the end I was too exhausted, lol. One of my friends sent me a bundle of dried lavender and regular sage from her garden, but you can definitely find reputable companies, like Ritual Cravt, to order some from.
If you are new to this, I’d stick to the plain bundles of rosemary, pine or mugwort — all three are lovely to burn, accomplish the goal, and can be used by anyone. Lavender is also lovely. If you have other children in the house, don’t burn eucalyptus.
After cleaning and organizing, I waited until I was alone and opened all the windows in the house to burn the herbs. As I went through each room with the smoke, it gave me a lovely moment to reflect and meditate on the clearing out of the past and the welcoming of new life — spiritual self-care, if you will.
15. Fake Plants
I love real plants in the house, but I’m a realist — everything alive is currently in danger. Not just from the next year of neglect but also from the future exploratory toddler. Now is the time to be surrounded by green and life, but not the time to care for anything new. I have my little jade plant and split-leaf philodendron, and God willing, they will make it. But when I want new green for my bedside or desk, I choose to go with faux plants.
Look for bendable stems and natural greens for the best effect. I love this artificial eucalyptus plant from Target, but if your budget allows, I’d go with something like this trailing String of Hearts from Pottery Barn or this bowl of green baby’s breath from West Elm.
Alternatively, you can invoke the spirits of your French great-grandmother and the ancient OBs and countless midwives who say this is fine, and sit your full-term ass in the tub sipping on a small pour of an excellent Côtes du Rhône — just take it from me, and don’t tell the internet.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas for what to do to take care of yourself through the dirge of the last trimester. If you have any other suggestions, let me know in the comments. I will probably still be 39 weeks pregnant six months from now.