Third Trimester Exercises

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Third Trimester: Week 26 to 40

A lot will happen towards the end of this trimester. Your belly will get a lot bigger, your breathing will be superficial and fast and you’ll probably notice that your belly is constantly in the way, making it hard to move your body as usual. The pregnancy hormone “Relaxin” is spiking again, preparing you for childbirth and making your joints, especially in your pelvis, soft and relaxed. Staying active is still very beneficial. You just have to make sure that your third trimester exercises are well adapted according to what feels right for you.

Third Trimester Exercises

When the belly grows, the straight abdominal muscles separate as the center of gravity moves forward. This change places high demands on your lower back and joints which makes it extra important to be mindful of, and to work on your posture. 

You may experience pain that arises suddenly and disappears as quickly. This is probably caused by the weight of the uterus that puts pressure on the pelvic nerves. It’s not dangerous but it might be wise to replace exercises and activities that cause this type of pain. 

There are many benefits from exercising during this trimester. Especially when it comes to avoiding posture related pains and learning how to activate and relax your pelvic floor muscles. 

Third trimester exercises

The general guidelines are the same as for the second trimester and as usual, it’s important to listen to your body and respect your body’s signals. Even more so during this trimester since your body is going through such a rapid change. 

A good advice is to keep your hips flexible, practice breathing exercises, strengthen posture related muscles and learn how to activate and relax your pelvic floor muscles.

A general rule for the third trimester is that it may be good to abstain from free weights and instead switch to machines to reduce the demand on the body’s stability. A good amount of exercises per workout are about 4-5 exercises. It’s better to exercise a short amount of time and often, than for a long amount of time and seldom. 

Suggestions for third trimester exercises:

  • Seated Leg Extension
  • Seated Leg Curl
  • Squats while holding TRX bands for increased balance and reduced load
  • Legg Press (light weight, breathing through the whole movement) 
  • Seated Row (close neutral grip and wide neutral grip) 
  • Standing Row with TRX bands 
  • Hip Thrusters 
  • Lat Pulldown 
  • Lat Pushdown
  • Shoulder Press
  • Incline Shoulder Press
  • Push Ups in TRX bands
  • Triceps Pushdowns
  • Exercises for inner abdominals and kegels (read this blog post to see instruction videos)

NOTE: In addition to strength training, I recommend 30 minutes of physical activity per day in the form of walking, biking, swimming or any other workout you think is fun!

Top 5 advices for your third trimester exercises 

1. Listen to the body

“Listening to your body” may sound diffuse, but if you have been exercising up until now you have probably gotten to know some of your strengths and limitations and noticed how these may have changed depending on e.g nausea, your energy level and/or discomforts. Pregnancy exercise is almost only about getting in touch with your body and learning how to listen to it’s signals. There is little you can do to harm your baby (as long as you don’t fall on the belly or get hit in the belly), the restrictions are solely to keep you from injuring yourself. 

2. Weight training is good! But reduce the load

You shouldn’t try to set personal bests during your pregnancy since that, even during a non-pregnant situation is associated with an increased risk of hurting yourself. Think of your third trimester exercises as something that will help you through the end of your pregnancy, your birth & recovery and as a mother. To gain results within these areas you should focus on some or all of the exercises mentioned above, with a load that feels safe for you. 

3. You might want to lower the intensity

Sweating is good, even if you are pregnant! However, it might be good to exercise with a reasonable intensity, making sure you keep a good form and balance. Having good stamina is a great advantage when it’s time for childbirth, so don’t be afraid of cardio training.

Down below is a paragraph from a research article released 2019:

“Findings from this meta-analysis indicate that vigorous intensity exercise completed into the third trimester appears to be safe for most healthy pregnancies. Further research is needed on the effects of vigorous intensity exercise in the first and second trimester, and of exercise intensity exceeding 90% of maximum heart rate.

Link to article

4. Shorten your powerwalks 

Pregnancy power walk

Many women get pain in their pelvis and/or contractions when power walking. Hence it might be good advice to shorten your power walks or lower the intensity if this applies to you. 

5. Introduce breathing exercises

Breathing exercises are exercises that help you breathe in a way that calms you down and collect your focus inwards. These exercises will help you through your labour, decreasing the risk of stress and hyperventilating. 

What to avoid or be mindful of when doing your third trimester exercises

Make sure your third trimester exercises are as stable as possible and free from all kinds of jumps and bumps. Since exercise is an extra burden on the body, the exercise intensity should be decreased if you are experiencing painful contractions. If you do, lower the weights, increase your rest and exercise at a slower pace. Usually it seems natural to regulate the intensity of the exercise yourself. Don’t feel that you have to push yourself to get the exercise done, you staying active is enough. It may also be a good idea to sleep a little extra if given the opportunity.

What signs to look for that tells you to slow down:

If you experience any of these symptoms, rest! 

  • Excessive fatigue. A good workout will probably leave you feeling a bit tired but you shouldn’t feel fatigue in your everyday life long after exercising. 
  • Irritability. If your workouts are leaving you feeling more short-tempered than usual, it might be a sign that it’s time to slow down.
  • Joint or muscle pain. Muscle soreness is common after exercising, especially if you are doing new movements. However, if you would feel acute pain in the joints and muscles every time you work out, you might need to take a step back. 
  • Trouble sleeping. Normally exercise makes you sleep better. But if you are exercising too hard you might get trouble sleeping. If you experience this, please rest and/or exercise with a lower intensity.

If you experience any of these symptoms, stop exercising right away and give your practitioner a call:

  • Very rapid heartbeat
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Unusual pain anywhere (hips, back, pelvis, chest, head and so on)
  • Severe breathlessness
  • Regular, painful uterine contractions
  • A cramp or stitch that doesn’t go away when you stop exercising
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Increased swelling
  • Amniotic fluid leakage
  • Sudden headache
  • A noticeable decrease or absence of fetal movement after week 28 (if the baby moves slower, a post-workout snack should do the trick — if it doesn’t, or if you have any concerns, get in touch with your doctor)

When you shouldn’t do third trimester exercises at all:

Exercise during pregnancy increases the wellbeing for almost all pregnant mothers and their babies. However certain conditions can make exercise during pregnancy risky. Talk to your doctor about whether you should avoid exercise if you have:

  • Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Chronic lung or heart conditions
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy
  • Severe anemia during pregnancy
  • Cervical insufficiency or cerclage
  • Risk factors for premature labor and are pregnant with multiples
  • Preterm rupture of placenta membranes during this pregnancy

Always get an all clear from your doctor before beginning any workout routine during pregnancy.

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