Today, I hit 32-weeks and am well into my third trimester. I have to say that with each week that passes part of me breathes an obvious sigh of relief. This relief signifies the obvious progress in my pregnancy, but also for being on the home straight and for being closer to meeting our boy. That said, the other part of me is a bit sad to realise that the relatively straightforward bouncy second trimester, is well and truly over.
For me, the second trimester is the beginning of the obvious bump, the you are packing on the pounds comments, the stronger nails, the thicker hair (I have proper haaaair !) the 20-week scan and the beginning of making excuses not to do something – “Daaaan, can you lift the guinea pig cage outside my back really hurts”… “Daaaaan can you bath the kids whilst I put my swollen ankles up”… “Daaaaaan I’ve been shopping and the boot is loaded up and I can’t be arsed to empty it” – you know the score.
The second trimester is my fave and with a hunger that matched my kids’ hunger at 4pm after school, I ate with gusto. Huge breakfasts, 11am snacks, a loaded lunch, cake o clock at 4pm with the kids and a man-sized dinner at 6pm. Not forgetting the other late evening snacks of cheese, biscuits, cereal, toast, fruit, yoghurt and honey, and whatever was in the fridge. I really enjoy the second trimester hunger. Real proper tummy-rumbling hunger.
The third trimester is a whole different kettle of fish, or should that be kettle of babies – actually no, that sounds wrong.
As a *cough* geriatric mum I was really keen to get to 28-weeks to find out if it would be harder and more knackering than before. When I say before, I mean 6-years ago with our second child. I remember feeling exhausted at the latter stages of my pregnancy and sleeping / not sleeping on the sofa just so that I wasn’t huffing and puffing all night next to my peacefully sleeping husband. I have to say at just 4-weeks into my third trimester, my sleeping has gone from dead-weight-nothing-will-wake-me-up status to nodding off at 9pm and waking up hourly and shuffling around into position whilst trying not to disturb the cat. Why do I even care if the cat jumps off our bed at 2am? I’m not sure, but it is always in my head and goes a bit like; Lucy, whatever you do, don’t disturb the cat.
Aside from slightly crappy sleep, I have made an effort to keep moving and I will until the due date in January. When I say moving, I mean lots of lovely long walks and doing my kegel exercises. Years ago, I clearly remember reading that a great way of doing kegel exercises is to pretend that the clenching of your pelvic floor muscles is like going up in a lift (elevator), do bear with me on this. You start with a mini clench as floor 1, then tighter for floor 2, then tighter as you go up in the lift. Go as far as you can and then totally relax. I liked this idea and do it when I remember, like RIGHT NOW! I got to floor 15 just now. Apparently, it helps to stop the wee leaking out and from wind passing unnecessarily after childbirth – which is obviously not nice and highly embarrassing – a friend said!
I recently spoke to Clare, a personal trainer here in Kent, who she has written her top tips for pregnancy fitness:
Pregnancy is not the time to take your foot off the pedal in terms of fitness, in fact the opposite is true. You’re asking so much of your body that keeping it in good condition, staying strong and active is the best way of coping with the inevitable aches and pains and ensuring that you’re in the best possible place, physically and mentally, to take on the stresses and strains of carrying, birthing and looking after a baby.
By the time you’ve reached your third trimester (T3) your body is under an increasing amount of pressure and the fatigue that you may have experienced in T1 is likely to be back. Additional weight gain, stress on your pelvic floor and increased blood volume, as well as the presence of relaxin (a hormone secreted by the placenta) mean that from this point any exercise you take should be really low impact and low intensity. It’s time to focus on managing the niggles that T3 can bring, as well as prepping your body for the birth and strengthening the areas that will set you out on a speedier post-natal recovery.
Your glutes are an important part of your core and help stabilise your hips and lower back – the stronger they are the more support you have here … and lets face it, this is where you’re going to need the most strength and stability over the coming weeks and months as you go from ‘Baby On Board’ status to Mama and carrier of baby/buggy/sibilings/shopping.
Examples of really simple and effective glute exercises that anyone can do at home include:
– Squats (use the back of a chair for stability if you need it) – stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Lower down, with your knees tracking over your feet, bum out behind you, head & chest up. Take 10-12 reps
– Side Laying Hip Abductions – laying on your side, using your forearm & hand to support you, take a slight bend in the leg that connects with the mat, and with control, raise and lower the leg that is stacked. Take 10-12 reps on each leg
– Donkey Kicks – come on to all fours, knees hip distance apart, wrists tracking directly underneath your shoulders, kick the leg back, taking the heel up towards to the ceiling, retaining the right angle of the leg. Take 10-12 reps on each leg
- Chest & Back Exercises
Now you’re in your third trimester your centre of gravity starts to shift even further forwards, which can cause your shoulders and upper back to round and in turn, your chest to collapse. With that in mind, it’s important to focus on opening out the chest and strengthening the upper back to counter these issues.
These are best performed with a Resistance Band (RB) which you can pick up from Amazon for just a few pounds. These are worth the investment as they lend themselves to so many workouts you can perform at home.
– Chest opener: Take the RB out to chest height, and take your grip on the band so your hands are shoulder width apart. Keeping your hands at chest height, start taking your hands away from each other stretching out across the shoulders and opening out across the chest.
– Back exercises:
- Take the RB around a Table leg or bannister spindle, wrap the band securely around your hands and start take your fists shoulder distance apart then up & pull them back towards the shoulders in a rowing action, feeling the shoulders blade pick together at the back of the move. Release with control and repeat (12 reps)
- Take your foot in to the centre of the band, put a bend in that knee and straighten out the back leg for stability. Secure the ends of the band around your fists (tight enough to create a challenging enough resistance) and start to row the fists up towards the armpits. Lower back down with control and repeat (12 reps)
- Pelvic Tilts
Performing Pelvic Tilts at this stage of pregnancy can help reduce pressure on your hips, and lower back (they can particularly help reduce and pelvic pain associated with SPD) as well as strengthen your abdominals (which is tricky to do during pregnancy as many abdominal exercises involve flexion (the action of bending) which should be avoided pre and postnatally in order to safeguard against abdominal separation (diastatis recti)
Pelvic Tilts can be taken in varying forms so take the option that feels most comfortable to you:
- Stand Straight with your back against the wall and relax your spine
- Deep breath in as you press your lower back to the wall (here you’ll feel your glutes activate as you ‘tuck your pelvis under’)
- Exhale and release/relax
- Repeat for a minute or two (or for any many as five if you’ve got the time and standing for that long isn’t too uncomfortable)
If standing to do the Tilts feels uncomfortable take it down on to your knees, neutralise/straighten your spine and just rock the pelvis backwards and forwards.
Another good variation on the Pelvic Tilts are to come into a table top position (on hands & knees) and to work through what are almost like Cat Cows, but instead of arching the back as you push away and then dropping the belly & raising your sit bones, you just move with your pelvis, tilting it backwards and forwards.
Wow! I know what I am doing for the next few weeks – thanks so much Clare.
Most recently, I have been experiencing the good old acid reflux. It’s an acid-y kick-back that creeps up on me when I bend down to pick up a smelly sock off the floor. I am remedying it with Gaviscon at the moment, and am making an effort not to eat after 7pm – like they say in the books. I try, I really do, but that post dinner pang tends to get me every time. I am also sleeping on 2 plump pillows and a V pillow which is really helping with the acid burn in my throat.
The other thing the third trimester brings forth in one’s mind is… drum roll… the birth. THE BIRTH! Now, as a geriatric mum of 2 kids I do feel I’m more in tune with this one. I have more support, I have the experience of two very different births and I definitely possess more patience. I also don’t google as much.
Top Tip; Don’t google!
A few months ago, I met a gorgeous lady called Sophie, who is a mother of 4 and an experienced Birth & Baby Coach. She really is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to everything to do with pregnancy and birth so I asked her for her 3 tips for the third trimester and my goodness, this lady talks a lot of sense:
1: Invest in your birth. Prepare by educating yourself about birth and how you can have the best birth for you and your baby. Knowledge is power. It doesn’t solve any medical issues along the way but it can empower you to ask questions should you need to. Preparations for your mind and body now will help you to be less fearful or anxious or birth and your abilities beyond birth. Get into the habit of using breathing and mindfulness techniques to help you cope.
2: Make it Birth-Ball-Tastic! These reinforced rubber balls are so much more than you realise. Firstly, you can’t sit wrong on one. They help you balance, realign and if pumped up properly for your height, will gently tip your pelvis to allow that little bit of extra room for baby as it descends into your pelvis. Swaying, rolling, bouncing and general leaning are all encouraged! Many women grow so attached to their balls (!?!) that it’s the ultimate companion during birth too, both familiar and useful when it comes to being more active and positioned during labour and birth. No more sofa slouching ladies. Get on yer balls!
3: Take time for you: Self Care Time is essential now. Use therapies such as reflexology/massage and gentle movement like to Yoga, Aqua Natal and Walking. Take luxurious baths and listen to MP3’s designed to help you relax and feel confident in your body and it’s abilities. Hydrate and nourish yourself. Love the blossoming you and trust in your body. Use affirmations daily to reaffirm the positives and reframe the doubts.
I believe that any birth can be a positive birth if you invest in the experience and it suits you. Be aware that your beliefs may change as you learn about birth and most importantly that your fear of change and transformation should become more balanced and realistic. Give yourself time to be real. The material things can wait. It’s about your pregnancy and birth, then you and baby (and partner/family), and lastly the material things.
Thank you Sophie!
I now have 8-weeks left to bounce on my ball, take care of myself and to get my pelvic floor as strong as can be. In fact, is it possible to do all of that in just a few weeks? my answer is YES! As Sophie and Clare quite rightly pointed out, now is the time to get body and mind strong so that the next bit is, dare I say it, easier.