Your third trimester of pregnancy is exciting, but can also feel very, very long. Sometimes, similar feelings and symptoms that you experience in your first trimester can return in the final weeks leading up to labour. Mentally and emotionally, feelings of tiredness, nervousness and a sense of anxiety of what’s to come can creep in now that you’re so close to meeting your bundle of joy. However, like we have said in The Pregnancy Diaries: First Trimester and Second Trimester, focusing on yourself through exercise can really help sustain a healthy pregnancy whilst curbing negative feelings. Here at Tone and Sculpt, we are here to help with your wellbeing and with you every step of the way!
More physical changes
At some point during your pregnancy, you will notice that your bump just ‘pops’ (not literally, I mean it becomes the shape of a baby bump, just to be clear!). This happens at different times for different women and has little to do with the frequency of exercise pre and postnatally. Many women love their bump (and so they should), but for others it can be a cause of distress as their body shape changes. As your baby bump grows, you may find yourself purchasing clothes to suit and fit your changing body. This can cause a variety of vulnerable feelings, however be aware that it is completely normal, natural and wonderful to watch your baby grow.
The growing bump will lead to an altered sense of balance and may also cause backache, heavy legs and swollen ankles (exactly what you need!). You will also feel very tired – remember your body is working hard and using a great deal of energy to grow the baby – however may also find you are not sleeping so well during the night. This is common and is associated with your mental and emotional wellbeing along with hormonal changes within your body. You might also say it’s your body’s way of preparing you for interrupted sleep once baby is here!
You may feel more breathless too; as baby grows and kicks, your body is changing shape and there is an increase in blood supply for you and baby too – hence the need for more oxygen. Unfortunately, heartburn and constipation are also likely causing you to feel uncomfortable.
Basically, you are a superwoman, because not only are you growing another human being, you’re also managing to cope with all of these frustrating ailments whilst living your normal life too!
How can exercise help me in my third trimester?
The good news is that exercising or continuing to exercise regularly and consistently help a great deal with all of the above. Exercising in your third trimester can:
- Help you sleep better;
- Help curb feelings of anxiety and depression;
- Encourage you to drink more water (preventing bloating, heart burn and constipation);
- Help maintain energy levels during the day;
- Ease back pain;
- Build stamina and strength which can help with feelings of breathlessness.
No matter what stage of your pregnancy, you are able to keep physically fit and active as long as you feel able to and your doctor has agreed to it too. In these later stages, the type of exercise you do will change, however it will still help you work towards an ‘easier’ labour – exercise can help speed up labour and learning to engage and activate your deep core, which we looked at in the second trimester (insert hyperlink) can help when pushing baby out, along with recovery.
What exercise can I do?
Whereas in your second trimester you are likely to feel really energetic, your third trimester may slow you down a little, especially as your bump grows. Remember, you are naturally carrying more weight around, therefore your approach to exercise will change too. Be mindful of your growing bump as your balance and spatial awareness shifts; some people describe this as feeling clumsy when pregnant. In a nutshell, just be careful and try and workout with others or somewhere where there is help nearby if necessary. It can be frustrating, however you are in your final stage of pregnancy and one where your wellbeing and health is of the utmost importance. I’d say to take advantage and let everyone treat you like the queen than you are!
Power walking and walking in general is really beneficial and a great form of cardiovascular exercise at this stage. You are staying active, working your lower body and preparing well for labour! Plus, walking outside is a great way to get fresh air and to prevent feelings of lethargy too. It’s a lovely way to spend time with your friends and family before your imminent arrival!
If you’re still able to, do it! Another great form of cardio and a great way to get blood and oxygen pumping around your body. Just reduce the tempo and try to avoid too much ‘jumping around; on the bike. We know several instructors try to ‘spice things up’ in a spinning class (totally acceptable), however you take it at your own pace.
If the temperature is ok and you feel able, keep swimming. It’s fantastic for your muscles, joints, mobility and relaxation too.
Pilates and Yoga
These were mentioned in the previous blog post on The Second Trimester: Pilates, barre, yoga and mobility workouts are perfect in these later stages. Depending on the prenatal classes you go to, all three should help activate your deep core muscles, preparing for the active stages of labour whilst helping you prepare as much as you can for recovery postnatally too. Taking care of your deep core is so important in pregnancy and your third trimester is not too late. However, we do advise seeking professional help with Pilates and yoga core exercises just to be mindful of form and technique in pregnancy.
There is no problem continuing with weight training, however it is advised to use lighter weights and perhaps take longer rest periods. Remember, you are carrying more weight with the baby, plus you are more likely to feel tired too. As your muscles relax and continue to adapt your developing pregnancy, it is important to be mindful of injury and excessive DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness).
A great alternative to dumbbells! You can almost manage the ‘resistance’ as you use resistance bands, plus they can help with knee alignment during lower body exercises – especially if you are new to exercises like squats, lunges and glute bridges.
The exercise ball is a great for back pain, core exercises and lower body exercises too. If you do feel tired from standing and your legs feel heavy, you can complete upper body dumbbell exercises on the ball, whilst working your core muscles too. Side note: bouncing around on it during labour really helps!
Squats, Lunges and Full Body Rotations
As long as you feel able to, continue with these standard body weight exercises. The more you are able to rotate your bump, whether that be through stretches in yoga or a squat and rotation move, the better. Bump can often feel tight and uncomfortable now, so try keeping it moving as much as possible.
Side Lying and Wall Exercises
You may not be able to continue with crunches or pressups anymore, however you can adapt these by completing mat-based exercises against the wall (wall press ups), or things like side lying clams and leg raises. However, if it feels too uncomfortable getting down onto the floor, don’t.
What Exercises Should I Avoid?
As we always say, do what feels right and comfortable for you, however there are certain exercises that should be avoided, especially in your third trimester:
High Intensity Cardio Workouts
A great deal of jarring and jumping around
Heavy lifting (whether that be household loads or Heavy deadlifts and squats at the gym)
Exercises that involve a great deal of balance work
Standard core exercises, such as crunches or full body press ups and planks
There is still so much you can do and plenty to keep you fit, healthy and active. The ACOG and NHS continue to advise 30 minutes of exercise around 5 times a week. However, you can manage this time frame in a way that suits you and your body best. If there are weeks you feel particularly energetic, fantastic. However, if there are days that you just need to sleep and recover, do just that. Your health and feeling calm and in control are important for you and the baby.
As your pregnancy draws to a close, use these last few weeks to spend time on you. Before you know it, your life will be immersed in nappies, feeding and one wonderful baby bubble! Reflect and enjoy time to relax, sleep and put your feet up! Of course, keeping active is important but, just like with a marathon, you need time to rest before the big event: labour. Spend time with your loved ones, book a massage or a facial and eat well too! Meditation can help you feel calm and in control, ready to welcome your baby into this world.
We hope the pregnancy series has helped guide you with exercise choices over the 9 month period. We hope you have managed to find the time to keep fit, active and happy! You’re now doing this for you and your baby: such a wonderful feeling! If you have any other tips for getting through the third trimester or any questions, please feel free to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you along with everything you’re doing to support your own wellbeing.