Active Pregnancy Guide 3rd Trimester

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Prologue

Whilst there is a lot of talk about postnatal exercise (which also drives me nuts for different reasons!), there seems to be a lack of guidance during pregnancy. My Active Pregnancy Guide will give you the low down as simply as possible and hopefully you will grab some tips and be motivated to keep active! Regular exercise and eating a balanced healthy diet will help the development of the baby AND equip the mother’s body to do it’s job as best it can pre and post birth. Each pregnancy is different so you need to listen to your body and follow its lead. Do not compare yourself to anyone else.

This is happening to you and it is your unique journey.

At this time in your life, many people will be telling you what is happening to your body and what you should or should not be doing. Whilst it is in general well meant, it can be extremely overwhelming. Providing you are listening to your body, be confident that YOU know best and follow your natural gut instinct.

 

3rd Trimester Context:

During the third trimester (28 – 37+ weeks) your baby triples its weight (or more!) due to the storing of fat in preparation for life outside the womb. One of the most fascinating things I find is that at this stage they begin to open their eyes! Nuts!

Their other senses such as hearing and taste also develop. Their lungs mature and their skeletal system begins to harden.

This fab video from the Baby Center shows you the development through the 3rd and final trimester.

 

Symtoms:

The increase in weight and size of the baby has very real physical repercussions on your ability to get comfortable and relax. Every day life becomes harder causing fatigue and then top it all off with not being able to rest as comfortably is draining and why you hear women say ‘I just cannot wait to get the baby out!’ by the end of the 3rd trimester.

Clearly the shape and shear size of your bump makes very simple movements more challenging or just down right impossible!

How the baby is positioned and how they move around within the womb can cause discomfort in the ribs, back and pelvis.

The swelling of the body, due to fluid retention, can cause pins and needles, carpel tunnel and severe stiffness. Breathing becomes increasingly more difficult and the urge to wee becomes more frequent and harder to control! (I know sounds great fun hey?!).

Combining all these factors with a steep peak in your hormones, it is no surprise this 3rd trimester, particularly the end weeks, can be a very emotional and draining period. It is the craziest emotional and physical rollercoaster I have EVER been on!

 

Exercise facts:

So there are no additional, specific considerations that have not already been covered in my 1st and 2nd trimester guides (click on the links to recap), however the symptoms which you are enevitably going to experience in this trimester will eventually slow you down. Just to note, there is often a huge difference from the way you feel at the beginning of this trimester to the end, so if you are fortunate, the symptoms which we talked about earlier might not happen until the later weeks. You should expect to taper right down the intensity of all activity and exercise during this trimester.

 

Tips and advice:

My personal advice for this trimester is to move/exercise your body as often as you can. Keeping your body active will help to release tension in both your body and mind. Do not underestimate the link between body and mind. It is an extremely powerful connection and in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum you experience it in its fullest.

Remember walking and climbing the stairs count as physical activity. Particularly at this point in your pregnancy, these everyday movements will probably get you out of breath. Along with your daily pelvic floor contractions and some light stretching, walking and climbing stairs is a great plan! Exercise in this final trimester should be geared towards the physical task of giving birth AND life beyond.

If you are feeling good, useful things to focus on are;

  1. continuing to strengthen your deep core (Core = pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, multifidus with diaphragmatic breathing. Pregnancy Pilates is great for this)
  2. practising your preferred birthing positions
  3. gentle cardiovascular exercise (brisk walking, swimming, recumberland bike, cross trainer)
  4. gentle short stretches for the body to open up tight and overused muscles (could do stretches at home or perhaps pregnancy Yoga)
  5. from 37 weeks practise postures and stretches which encourage space in your pelvic girdle
  6. a focus on stretching your psoas muscle to help you relax in the front hip area aiding labour

My exercise schedule IN the 3rd trimester gradually tapered down to gentle hill walking (daily), pregnancy Yoga class (x1 per week), swimming (x1 per week), pregnancy massage (x1 per week). 

All the exercise I did was appropriately adapted and in the later stages of the pregnancy tapered right back. In the later stages I walked a lot less as I was on maternity leave and therefore did not have to for work. Swimming was something I did right up to a week before the birth (41 weeks), however by the time I was at 39 weeks I stopped going to the Pregnancy Yoga class as I wanted to stay close to home in case I went into labour! I did a lot of stretches at home focusing on my lower back and legs as they started to ache with the increasing weight of my son! One thing which I would highly recommend if you can afford it is pregnancy massage. I went once a week for the last 4 weeks to a local massuese and it was in those moments I truly relaxed and felt my body positively respond to the warm touch and gentle pressure. I found it really healing for my mind and body.

As I said in the ‘symptoms’ chapter of this blog, simple everyday movements will gradually become a lot harder and rightly count as exercise in its self! I.e. walking, climbing stairs, looking after other children, housework etc. It is really down to a case of managing these symptoms as best you can and doing whatever works for you. If nothing works, take a big breath and aim to simply survive in one piece (just about!). It will feel like a constant struggle some days but you WILL not be pregnant for much longer, you will get your baby out of your body (somehow!) and into your arms. As soon as that happens, the the rest is literally history!

 

Summary:

I recently sent the below message to my sister-in-law who is currently pregnant. With all the talk about strength and being active whilst pregnant, it is very important to balance that message out with the following;

So I say this to encourage you and let you know that it is OK and right to feel overwhelmed. Don’t hold it in, let it out!

The vulnerability that hormones cause are obviously for a physical reason but they also draw you into a beautifully sensitive place where you are able to slot into a gentle tune and rhythm with your newborn baby. No one else will be able to do that as effectively as you, their Mum. Nature is amazing in that way.

 

 

 

Always seek professional advice from suitably qualified and experienced teachers on how to adapt exercises appropriately.

PLEASE NOTE YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE UNDERTAKING ANY CHANGES TO YOUR EXERCISE REGIME.

IF YOU FEEL DIZZY, UNWELL, BREATHLESS OR PAIN IN ANY WAY YOU SHOULD STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND IF THE SYMPTOMS PROCEED SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION.




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