Your third trimester, weeks 28-42, is the home stretch -- and it often feels like a looooong one. That's because the third trimester is a time when physically, your body is being stretched and pushed the farthest in this last phase of pregnancy. Fatigue, back pain, sleep challenges, frequent urination, swelling, shortness of breath, round ligament pain, heartburn, and braxton hicks can all be part of your experience in the third trimester. The good news is that regular exercise in the third trimester is a great way to help alleviate some of the symptoms and discomfort.
Is it Safe?
Exercise in pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), is safe and recommended for people who have a normal, healthy pregnancy. It is important to consult with your OB or midwife before beginning an exercise routine to make sure it's best for you. There are certain high risk complications that make exercise unsafe.
What Are the Benefits?
Exercise can counteract many of the uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects of pregnancy, like back pain, constipation, fatigue, and swelling. It also can lower your risk of certain complications in pregnancy, like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean, as well as improve heart health for you and your baby now and in the future.
Types of Exercise
In general during pregnancy, it's not advised to start a high intensity exercise that you haven't tried before. In other words, it's not a good idea to start a brand new running or Crossfit regimen whether you're in your first trimester or your third. That said, you can start exercising at any time during pregnancy, even if you haven't previously been active. Start slow and easy, and with the guidance of your care provider. For your third trimester, considering your balance, belly size, and other physical changes, the following exercise routines will be ideal.
This is the simplest, most accessible exercise in pregnancy. Be sure to find a comfortable and supportive pair of shoes for walking. Visit a running shoe store to get a free consultation on the specific kind of support you need for your feet and how you walk. A trained sales associate will be able to tell you if you need more of an arch or a flat shoe. If you find that your lower back or pelvis hurts during a walk, try wearing a back or pelvis brace for extra support. For severe back or pelvic pain, see a prenatal physical therapist to determine what kind of support and strengthening exercises are needed.
Swimming or water aerobics
Swimming, besides feeling ah-mazing during pregnancy, is a great exercise because the water takes the weight and stress off your joints and ligaments, allowing you to move with little or no discomfort. Swimming laps or doing water aerobics, on your own or in a class, is a great way to safely and comfortably raise your heart rate.
Prenatal yoga or Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are ideal during pregnancy, not only because of the gentle pregnancy-friendly movements, but also because of their focus on strengthening your core and pelvic floor, which helps with stability, comfort, and labor and birth. If you're searching for a good class to attend, be sure to look for a pregnancy-specific class with instructors who are certified in teaching prenatal classes.
Body exercises and toning work
If you're looking to tone muscles and improve strength, simple exercises like squats, arm lifts with low-weight dumbbells, wall push ups, lunges, leg lifts, etc. are great because they are low impact and can be done easily at home.
Pelvic floor exercises
If you only choose to exercise one thing, make it your pelvic floor. While pelvic floor exercises may not provide a good, whole body workout, they strengthen your pelvic floor, which is important for pregnancy, labor, birth, postpartum, and many years down the road. For the best resources on pelvic floor exercises, check out Nutritious Movement by Katy Bowman, MS.