A guide to third trimester exercise
Here you are, just one week away from crossing into the third trimester – you’re approaching the final lap, the home stretch. And regular exercise is just as important at this stage as it is at any other.
If you’ve been exercising regularly up until this point, you may be wondering why you need a refresher on safety advice at such a late stage. Of course, all of the safety advice that you read about and (hopefully) adopted in your first and second trimesters will serve you well into your third, but there are a few key areas which require special attention.
Common obstacles encountered in the third trimester
Every pregnancy is different. Although almost all women will be aware that they’re getting larger and therefore slightly more restricted in their movement, some may not be experiencing any other symptoms at all (and of course some mums stay very petite, right up to term). However, many mums will have some pregnancy symptoms in this final stage.
Go with the flow – Your expanding uterus is putting more and more pressure on your bladder, which means frequent trips to the bathroom, disturbed sleep, and ultimately leading feelings of tiredness during the day.
Taking your breath away – As well as your bladder, your baby is putting pressure on your diaphragm, meaning you might struggle to breathe easily while doing any form of aerobic activity.
A pain in the leg – Varicose veins are a common nuisance (harmless, yet a nuisance). They commonly appear on your legs and are very painful. Varicose veins can also manifest as haemorrhoids, causing further discomfort as you try to exercise. The good news is exercise should effectively combat these veins (otherwise soaking in a warm bath or, for haemorrhoids, applying a topical cream can help), and they should fade not long after giving birth.
Swollen feet and ankles can also become a problem later in pregnancy – make sure your training shoes are not too tight and remember to rest with your feet up whenever you can. Foot exercises, such as ankle rotations are also good for swollen legs and feet.
Instant toning from Braxton Hicks – Also known as practice contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions are likely to get slightly more intense as you move into the third trimester but shouldn’t be more than a cramping, tightening sensation. If you have a BH contraction while working out, stop for a moment to monitor it. Don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional if the contractions become uncomfortable or seem close together.
More serious pregnancy exercise issues
Stop exercising and contact your midwife or doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the following:
- Severe headache
- Blurred vision
- Dizziness and severe nausea
- Painful abdominal cramping
- Decreased foetal movement
Are you equipped for the final few months?
If you haven’t already, here are some great accessories to get hold of, as they can help you stay comfortable during third trimester exercise.
Belly band – to give the weight at your front a lift and take the strain off your back and pelvis.
Fitness ball – for exercises that will help relieve pelvic and back pain, and get your body ready for labour.
Compression socks – knee-high socks or stockings to help your circulation and prevent swollen veins (the ones on your legs, at least).
Comfortable, well-fitting shoes – swelling (oedema) is most likely to be a problem in the final trimester, so you may want to invest in new trainers that are one size bigger than your usual footwear. Shop for shoes when the swelling is at its worst, which is usually at the end of the day. You can also buy shoe inserts to give your arches extra support.
Lumbar pillow and body pillow – for support when you’re sitting, a lumbar pillow is a great buy and will help your posture. For sleep and rest, a body pillow can help you comfortably sleep on your side.
Third trimester exercise goals
In your third trimester, the focus of your exercise routine should edge towards preparing your body for labour.
Try to strike a good balance between rest and exercise. If you’re feeling fine and your doctor is happy with how you’re progressing, then you should be okay to continue your normal routine, but don’t feel bad about missing a day if you’re not feeling up to it.
Stay focused on doing key stretches (running through a simple set of stretches can count as an exercise session). Yoga and Pilates remain great choices for helping with flexibility, toning and balance, while walking and swimming remain firm favourites for accessibility.
As long as you stay safe and your doctor is happy, you can keep exercising up until you give birth. If you’ve been very active before pregnancy and have been carrying on with your regular routine up to this point, then it’s likely you’ll be able to continue with a few modifications, but you need to check this with your doctor. Elite athletes should seek specialist advice about maintaining training schedules through pregnancy.