How To Stay Active During The Third Trimester
- Staying physically active during your pregnancy not only improves your mood and posture but also ensures adequate birth outcomes for your baby.
- Moderate-intensity exercises suit almost all women in their third trimester.
- Exercising for at least 150 minutes per week is beneficial for pregnant women in the third trimester.
- Exercises like walking, swimming, stretching, ball exercises, and yoga are some of the best exercises to opt for in the third trimester.
- Before starting any kind of exercise, it is advisable to consult with your doctor for the same.
You are about to reach the finish line! Yes, the third trimester of pregnancy is that period of time when you are closer to welcoming your newborn. The baby continues to grow and mature, you continue to gain weight and all these new changes might make you more uncomfortable.
To prepare well for a smooth delivery, it is good to get started with various activities to stay active. But before we look at how to stay active in the third trimester, let us take a look at the ideal weight gain in the third trimester.
Ideal weight gain during the third trimester
Weight gain during pregnancy is normal. However, the amount of weight gained during pregnancy can determine the immediate and future health outcomes of a woman and her baby.
Population studies have shown that the age at which women become pregnant has changed dramatically over the past decade. In recent years, more women are overweight or obese at conception. Evidence suggests that there are associations between excessive gestational weight gain, increased birth weight, and postpartum weight retention but also between inadequate weight gain and decreased birth weight.
The guidelines on gestational weight gain aim to optimize the outcomes for the woman and the infant. In the year 2009, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published revised gestational weight gain guidelines that are based on pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). These guidelines range from underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese women and are recommended by the World Health Organization.
These guidelines are independent of age, parity, smoking history, race, and ethnic background. Other changes include the removal of the previous recommendations for special populations and the addition of weight gain guidelines for women with twin gestations.
The IOM recommended gestational weight gain for a twin pregnancy is as follows:
- For women of normal weight- 16.8-24.5 kg (37-54 lb)
- For overweight women- 14.1-22.7 kg (31-50 lb)
- For obese women- 11.3-19.1 kg (25-42 lb)
The IOM guidelines recognize that data are insufficient to determine the number of weight women with multifetal (triplet and higher-order) gestations should gain.
Why is weight monitoring crucial?
During pregnancy, it is essential to discuss the appropriate weight gain, diet, and exercise initially and periodically until delivery. Individualized care and clinical judgment are necessary for the management of the overweight or obese woman who is gaining weight or is trying to gain less weight than recommended.
The weight gain might not always have an effect on the appropriately growing fetus. However, balancing the risks of fetal growth, pregnancy complications, and maternal weight retention is essential. It has been challenging and will remain challenging until research provides evidence to further refine the recommendations for gestational weight gain.
Why is it important to stay active during the third trimester?
Staying active during pregnancy and especially the third trimester ensures that your heart and lungs are healthy, and are well prepared for the tough hour of labor and delivery.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate physical activity like brisk walking is good for the heart and lungs. Physical activity is also instrumental in improving your mood during and after your pregnancy.
After the baby is born, physical activity can aid in maintaining a healthy weight as well as weight loss, if partnered with a low-calorie diet. It is generally advisable for pregnant women to do exercise for 150 minutes, which means 30 minutes per day for five days a week. And this need not be a stretch, you can spread it throughout the week at your convenience.
Some additional benefits of exercise during pregnancy are fewer backaches and constipation, prevention of gestational diabetes, improved posture and muscle tone, etc.
If you are wondering whether this physical activity and exercise is good or bad for you, then science has some good news for you! According to scientific evidence, moderate physical activity like brisk walking bears very low risks to pregnant women.
Unless you are medically unfit to perform any physical activity and have been advised strict bed rest by your doctor, you can safely continue to exercise. Exercise during pregnancy does not put you at the risk of a miscarriage. It is always best to consult your doctor before beginning any form of exercise. Read on to know how to stay active in the third trimester!
Things to do in the third trimester
Pregnant women can perform brisk walking, swimming, low-impact aerobics, yoga, stretching exercises, ball exercises, etc.
1. Brisk walking
Walking is a good exercise for the third trimester and when coupled with jogging, it improves your mood and cardiovascular health. It is easy on the joints and muscles and provides a total body workout.
Swimming and water aerobics are great third trimester exercises for cardiovascular health and are also mild to your joints. The water provides support to your weight and prevents injuries. Swimming raises your heart rate but does not cause overheating.
Squats help stretch the entire body and prepare you well for delivery. You can try different types of squats.
Here's how to do sumo squats during pregnancy:
- Step out into a wide stance with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointing outward, make sure your knees are in line with your toes.
- Slowly lower yourself into a squat. Only go as far as you're comfortable while keeping your back straight. Keep your weight in your heels, and knees in line with your toes.
- Keep your legs evenly turned out throughout the movement, don't let your knees cave in toward each other.
- Now slowly return to the starting position, squeezing your glutes on your way up.
- Do 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Stop in between if you feel uncomfortable.
Pregnancy stretches help ease you as the pregnancy progresses; they help relieve backaches and improve posture.
Try out these stretches:
- The hamstring stretch: Stand up straight. Keeping the right foot flat on the ground, bend the right knee slightly and extend the left leg forward. Flex your left foot with your heel firmly on the ground. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each leg.
- The hip rotation: Stand with your feet apart and your hands on your hips. Start rotating your hips slowly in the clockwise direction. Rotate 3-5 times and then rotate in the anticlockwise direction. Feel the stretch in your lower back while doing so.
- The knee to chest stretch: Lay on your back. Now lift your right leg and slowly draw your knee close to your chest. Hold your right leg close to your chest with your hands and feel the stretch. Repeat on the other side as well.
5. Ball exercises
Ball exercises can be done in the form of stretching, like a backward stretch with a fitness ball or a pelvic tilt with the ball. These strengthen the back muscles, pelvis, and thighs and improve posture.
Try out ball exercises like:
- Ball Squats: To perform this exercise, hold the ball with your back against a wall. Now perform a squat without dropping the ball. This helps with relieving muscle pain.
- Ball bouncing exercise: To perform this exercise, gently bounce on a birthing ball for a few minutes at a time. This exercise can improve stability and balance and strengthen your legs.
- V sit: Lie down on the floor on your back and your legs elevated such that your ankles are resting on top of the birthing ball. Slowly raise your upper body until you form a V-shape. Keep your hips on the floor. Hold this position for 5 counts and then slowly lower your upper body to the floor. Do not perform if you feel any discomfort while exercising.
Yoga is a popular and safe way of exercising during pregnancy. It reduces stress, improves your flexibility, induces stretching in the body, and helps you focus your breathing, which is a critical element during labor and childbirth. Various classes for yoga during pregnancy are available easily to pregnant women.
Try out these yoga poses for comfort during pregnancy:
To perform this aasan
- On a mat, get in a tabletop position on all four limbs.
- Bring your big toes together and spread your knees wide open.
- Go down and lower your hips back onto your heels.
- Stretch your arms in front of you.
- Breathe deeply and hold this pose for up to 1 minute.
- You can place a pillow under your forehead for support.
- Widen your toes if you feel discomfort.
To perform this aasan
- Stand with your feet wider than your hips.
- Turn your left foot ahead and right toes in at a slight angle.
- Raise your arms so they're parallel to the floor, your palms facing down.
- Move your left hand forward as you tilt your hip to extend your torso forward.
- Place your left hand on your leg.
- Extend your right arm up with your palm facing away from your body.
- Hold this pose for up to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
3. The Cat-Cow pose
To perform this aasan
- Get down on all fours and your back straight.
- Keep your knees hip-width apart and arms perpendicular to the floor.
- Inhale while raising your chin up and tilting your head backward.
- Lower your spine such that your back is in a concave position.
- Hold this pose for a while and exhale while dropping your head and chin down while arching your back.
- Stay in this position for a few seconds and come back to the normal position.
Apart from performing exercises that are safe and comfortable for you during your pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, you need to be careful about which exercises to avoid during this time.
Exercises to avoid in the third trimester
It is advisable to avoid all those tasks and exercises which put you and your baby at a risk. These include but may not be limited to:
- Contact sports - Sports where you are likely to be hit in the stomach, like ice hockey, soccer, basketball, etc.
- Skydiving - It is definitely not something worth trying in this period.
- Activities where you may be prone to falling - snow skiing, water skiing, skating, cycling, horseback riding, etc.
- Temperature-raising activities - Activities like hot yoga or hot pilates.
- Exercises that make you hop - Avoid jumping, hopping, bouncing, etc.
- Waist twisting movements
- Holding breath for an extended period of time
- Intense workouts followed by a prolonged period of no activity
Performing moderate-intensity exercises along with your pregnancy results in low cesarean section delivery rates, reduced occurrence of gestational diabetes and hypertensive disorders, decrease in the maternal weight gain, and they also do not negatively impact the birth weight of newborns. Also, vigorous-intensity workouts in the third trimester do not impact the birth outcomes for women who have a low-risk pregnancy, however, these exercises must be carried out after consultation with the experts.
In addition to selecting exercise regimes for yourself on the basis of your fitness levels and doctor consultations, it is highly recommended to keep a watch on the signs and symptoms to stop exercising and prevent any adverse events. These include vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, regular uterine contractions, amniotic fluid leakage, persistent excessive shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, severe chest pain, muscle weakness, calf pain, or swelling.
Pregnancy is a difficult, tiring, and long phase in the life of a woman. Along with the excitement to welcome your baby, feelings of anxiety, fear, and worry are normal. Having a suitable and positive workout routine is key to maintaining your optimum health , and is also crucial to maximizing benefits to your baby.
Moderate-intensity exercises are best suited to all pregnant women in their third trimester and include a variety of exercises in the form of walking, swimming, stretching, ball exercises, yoga, etc. You should opt for those which provide a full-body workout and at the same time, do not make you very uncomfortable.
Swimming and walking during pregnancy third trimester are great forms of obtaining a great cardiovascular workout and are also a bit sober on your body. Water also plays a key role in balancing your increased weight in the third trimester.
Along with how to stay active in the third semester it is equally important to note which exercises are to be avoided during this trying time. Contact activities like football, and basketball, where you may hurt your tummy, are a complete no-no. Similarly, bouncing, hopping, horse-riding, and all those activities which make you prone to a fall should also be avoided at all costs.
Exercises are meant to add some amount of stress to the body, so you should always connect with your doctor and convey any signs and symptoms of discomfort. It is imperative for you to keep a track of those signs and symptoms which might be a warning signal for you to stop exercising such as vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, swelling, muscle pain, weakness, etc.
Motherhood is a blessing and a trial at the same time. Try to relax and follow guidelines for maximum motivation to move through your pregnancy journey.
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- Kassia S. B, Courtney G, Michael N, Vicki C, Jacqueline C. Jones, and Geraldine N. The effects of vigorous-intensity exercise in the third trimester of pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2019; 19:281
- Maria Margarida R, Ana A and Inês N. Physical exercise in pregnancy: beneﬁts, risks, and prescription. Journal of Perinatal Medicine. 2022; 50(1): 4-17