Congratulations…you made it to the home stretch! Good news is you will have your little one in your arms & your body back to yourself very soon. Bad news is the symptoms of the Third Trimester can be very taxing as your baby continues to pack on pounds & your body adjusts for the final round of pregnancy. Sitting, Standing, Sleeping, Stretching & Sex…OH MY… it is hard to get comfortable with a watermelon inside of you. Here are some tips on tried & true methods to ease the physical discomfort as you wait to meet your little pumpkin! These are also important positions that can help your body meet the upcoming demands of delivery.
Here is a mini anatomy lesson to help you understand where the discomforts are coming from. As your little one grows, every other organ in your body has to shift and make room. Everything from your diaphragm to your bladder is being squished. Your intestines are pushed upward toward the diaphragm, with pressure on the colon in the back and the bladder in the front. The diagram below shows how this progresses through each of the three stages of pregnancy.
In the first trimester the uterus still fits snugly inside the pelvic bone. As you can see, there isn’t space for anything by the third trimester. That on top of the plethora of other symptoms:
- Shortness of Breath-Your baby is growing quickly now and competing for space with your lungs & diaphragm as well. This will ease in the 9th month as the baby engages and moves into position. Lift your arms when you feel out of breath. Use extra pillows to prop you up in bed and when lying down do so on your side. It is always recommended to lay on your left side because it is less taxing on your organs & the vein that supplies blood & nutrients to your little one.
- Fatigue-You are carrying an extra 20-30lbs around by this stage (more or less depending on your pre-pregnancy weight). That is very taxing on the body. It is great to take breaks and naps whenever possible. Light exercise such as swimming, prenatal yoga or even walking is beneficial to boost your energy. Be sure to eat small healthy snacks through out the day. Protein & complex carbohydrates are a must for both you and your growing baby. If your energy is really low you need to speak to your midwife or OB as you may have an iron deficiency.
- Back Aches-Your ever expanding belly along with the hormone relaxin will inevitably throw off your posture. Don’ fret…there are ways to make these adjustments more bearable. Go to the spa and get a prenatal massage. Visit a reputable chiropractor and get a prenatal adjustment. I’m excited to have my first chiropractic adjustment this week. I will get back with you and let you know how it goes. Stretching does wonders…see below in Stretching Positions for awesome back & hip stretches. Don’t lift anything, always get assistance…you deserve all the help you can get at this stage in the game. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, everyone will be happy to help a pregnant lady…if not they will do it anyways.
- Frequent Urination-I can’t tell you how tired I am of peeing….ahhhh, late night bathroom breaks are the worst. As you can see from the photo above, the uterus & baby’s head are pressing down quite a bit on your bladder. This is why you have to go so often and sometimes even leak a bit when you cough or sneeze. Make sure you avoid caffeine as it is a diuretic. It is very important to continue drinking the recommended eight 8oz glasses of water every day. It will be tempting to cut back but you cannot…hydration is very important for both you and the baby.
- Heartburn-This always seems to plague me between 1am and 3am in the morning. No matter what time yours hits it is brutal. I would almost rather just throw up than have it sit in my throat. TMI…The heartburn comes from the increased hormone cocktail in your body…it relaxes everything from your bowls to the flap that keeps everything in your esophagus. This allows the days meals to easily come up…yuck! Try to avoid fried, fatty, spicy or highly seasoned foods. Avoiding caffeine can help too. Eat small meals through out the day so your stomach has time to process the food. Be sure to sit up while eating and don’t eat too close to bedtime.
- Swollen Feet, Legs & Varicose Veins-Swelling is caused by fluid retention in the lower extremities….legs, ankles & feet. Swelling should subside but should also be monitored by your Midwife or OB. Varicose Veins on the other hand are blood vessel valves that become soft or weak and allow blood to pool and form bulges. These can be painful and permanent so it is best to try and avoid them all together. Change positions from sitting to standing and prop feet up often. Try not to cross your legs or ankles if you are experiencing swelling or Varicose Veins. A cobblers pose is a great alternative to sitting cross-legged and also a great hip opener. See Sitting Positions below. Baths are also a great way to reduce swelling. Add some Epsom Salt and/or Himalayan Salt for added purification & swelling reduction. Just be sure that the water is not too hot. Consult your Midwife or OB on safe bath temperatures.
When seated in a chair it is important to sit up straight with knees bent at 90deg angle and your pelvis tilted slightly forward. Do not cross your legs or ankles, it’s bad for circulation and can lead to swelling & varicose veins. Changing & adjusting positions frequently is imperative for good blood flow so try not to sit for too long. Try and stand up at least every hour to do a quick stretch & then resume what you were doing. It only takes a moment.
As comfortable as it may feel, do not slouch. Slouching in recliners or on the bed will only encourage the baby to lay in the posterior position. This is when the baby’s spine is closest to your spine. Anterior is the optimal position for labor and will help to avoid back labor and make your baby’s transition into this world easier. Remember birthing is like running a marathon for them too.
When sitting on the floor is more preferable it is best to sit in cobblers pose. Simply sit straight up with your sit bones on a mat or blanket. Bend knees & put bottoms of feet together. Adjust for comfort and relax. This pose is also great for readying the hips for labor. It will help keep you nice and flexible for birth.
Sitting cross legged or indian style is a great hip opener too. Though it may be more comfortable to sit in cobblers pose. Either way don’t over stretch. Remember those hormones already gave your tendons & joints a chill pill and it is easy to over stretch so move slowly into positions. Most importantly listen to your body.
My most favorite sitting position is any position that involves my balance ball. It is my favorite must have pregnancy comfort item. You can purchase them online or in stores easily. Just make sure that you get one that is right for your height.
The balance ball is great for core strength and stabilizing your pelvis. It is recommended to spend as much time sitting up on a balance ball as possible in the third trimester. It will help to prepare your pelvis for labor & even help the baby get into just the right position. If you have to sit at a desk you should replace your chair with a balance ball. Some employers will even cover the cost, though it is well worth the expense to just buy on your own if they will not.
Standing for long periods of time during the third trimester is not recommended for circulation reasons. Your body is circulating over 50% more blood than normal & it is hard work on your body. So as much as possible you want to be in an upright seated position. Elevating your feet as much as possible is great for circulation too. When you do need to stand, here are some tips to keep your body in alignment.
In the first two trimesters it is a lot easier to find comfortable sleeping positions, but by the third trimester sleeping can be near impossible. Your belly is way to big at this time to sleep on your front. Besides the baby will definitely be kicking and punching if you put too much pressure on him. Sleeping on your back is also a no-no. The extra weight of your uterus will put pressure on your spine, back muscles, intestines & vena cava-a major artery that runs in between your spine and your placenta. This can lead to muscle aches and impaired circulation, see diagram below.
Laying on your left side, some say, is the optimal position for most mommy’s in every trimester but is especially useful in the third. You will however need to switch from your left to right side. If you spend too much time in one position you will cause undue aches. Sleeping on your left side will help babies in the posterior position to re-position the mothers left side facing toward the right hip. This is the easiest position for the baby to be in for labor. I will further refer you to an authority on this, Spinning Babies. This site is full of information & they have classes you can attend too.
Placing a pillow behind you will help stabilize you. Use either an extra firm pillow or body pillow to place between your knees. This will help keep your hips in alignment and avoid unnecessary aches.
You can find specialized pillows for pregnancy but I have found that they tend to be super expensive and extra firm pillows work just as well. I didn’t buy anything fancy but if I had…here are some that have gotten great reviews & I would have loved to try…maybe I will get them for the next pregnancy.
The Holo-Lilo allows you to get some tummy sleeping in. I also think this would have been very comfy for lying on the beach or by the pool. http://www.holo-lilo.com/
The Mumanu is another one that I would have liked to try. http://www.mumanu.com/
What better time than pregnancy to adapt a new, positive & wholesome approach to life? Yoga is an awesome way to do that. Smooth pregnancy and a natural childbirth are just some of the benefits of yoga. But more importantly, yoga does wonders on the physical and mental development of the fetus. Below are some yoga stretches that are generally considered safe in the third trimester. Do these poses slowly, there is no rush. If you feel any discomfort, ease out of the pose slowly and try one that is more comfortable. Make sure you consult with your Midwife or OB before trying any new stretches or exercises during pregnancy.
HALF BUTTERFLY is an excellent practice for loosening of hip and knee joints, which shall enable faster delivery.
Sit with legs outstretched. Bend the right leg and place the right foot as far up on the left thigh as possible. Place the right hand on top of the bent right knee.
Hold the toes of the right foot with the left hand. While breathing in, gently move the right knee up towards the chest. Breathing out, gently push the knee down and try to touch the floor. The trunk should not move. Movement of leg should be achieved by the exertion of the right arm. Repeat with left leg. Slowly practice about 10 up and down movements with each leg. DO NOT STRAIN.
FULL BUTTERFLY helps remove tension & tiredness from inner thigh muscles and legs.
Sit with legs outstretched. Bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet together, keeping the heels as close to the body as possible. Fully relax the inner thighs. Clasp the feet with both hands. Gently bounce the knees up and down, using the elbows as levers to press the legs down.
Do not use any force. Repeat up to 20-30 times. Straighten the legs and relax.
SLEEPING ABDOMINAL STRETCH removes constipation, improves digestion. Relieves stiffness and strain of spine caused by prolonged sitting.
Lie in the back. Interlock fingers of both hands and place hands beneath the head. Bend knees, keeping the soles of feet on the floor.
At the same time move the head towards the left, giving uniform twisting stretch to the entire spine. Repeat on the other side by bending legs towards left, and head towards right. If this is too deep of a stretch, you can look in the direction of the bent knees.
SQUATTING All over the world, women give birth squatting. It is the most natural and beneficial posture. This posture widens the pelvis and, with the help of gravity, encourages the descent of your baby in the birth canal. Squat exercise mobilizes the entire pelvic region, widening it as much as 25%! That being said, if your baby is not in the correct position do not do deep squats. Once the baby has engaged it is hard to back them up so don’t over do the squats. Speak to your Midwife or OB about the baby’s position in relation to your squats.
CHAIR SQUATS-Stand upright and relaxed while facing the back of a sturdy chair. Step your feet slightly farther than hip-distance away from each other with your toes pointed out. Hold the chair back and tighten your abdominal muscles, loosen your shoulder muscles and lower your body down as if about to sit down on a chair. You will feel the tops of your thighs putting in a lot of work. Push back up through your legs to stand back up. Repeat as often as you comfortably can.
GODDESS SQUAT-Begin standing in Mountain Pose athe top of your mat with your arms at your sides. Bring your hands to rest comfortably on your hips. Turn to the right and step your feet wide apart, about four feet. Turn your toes out slightly, so they point to the corners of your mat. On an exhalation, bend your knees directly over your toes and lower your hips into a squat. Work toward bringing your thighs parallel to the floor, but do not force yourself into the squat. Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder-height with your palms facing down. Then, spiral your thumbs up toward the ceiling, so your palms face forward. Bend your elbows and point your fingertips toward the ceiling; your upper arms and forearms should be at a 90-degree angle. Tuck your tailbone in slightly and press your hips forward as you draw your thighs back. Keep your knees in line with your toes. Soften your shoulders. Gaze softly at the horizon. Hold for up to 10 breaths. To release, slowly return your hands to your hips. Keeping your spine upright, inhale as you press firmly into your feet and straighten your legs. Step your feet together and come back to the top of your mat in Mountain Pose.
This pose can be difficult if you have not practiced it before. If you find squatting very difficult, you can put your buttocks on a bolster or on a block or two! You can also do a squatting pose with your back resting against a wall.
- Rest both hands on the back of a chair.
- Rest one hand along a wall to the side of the body.
- Do the pose with your back against a wall.
EXTENDED TRIANGLE strengthens the legs, knees, ankles, arms, and chest. It also stretches and opens the hips, groins, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine.
Stand upright, then exhale and step your feet about 4 ft. apart from each other. Lift your arms out to the sides, making them parallel to the floor below and turn them palm down. Slightly turn your left foot toward your right foot, turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right, then tighten your thigh muscles and turn your right thigh until the right knee cap aligns with the right ankle. Lean your torso right, over the right leg, bending your body at the hip rather than at the waist.
Keep your balance by strengthening the left leg muscles and planting the heel onto the floor. Place your right hand on your shin or ankle, depending on what feels comfortable and turn your torso to the left. Extend your left arm straight above at the shoulder and follow it with your eyes, gazing up at your hand. Hold for 30 seconds, inhale and return to standing. Reverse foot positions and repeat on the other side.
These are only a few of the beneficial yoga poses for the third trimester. Remember that each persons body is different so you may need to make adjustments to make sure that you are comfortable and not over stretching. Pregnancy Yoga Resource is an amazing website that will give you tons more poses & information on yoga and its pregnancy benefits.
Let’s be honest, sometimes you won’t feel like doing anything, let alone having some sexy time with your partner. However; there will be those times that you start feeling frisky. As long as you are not high risk and you are up for it, sex in the third trimester can be awesome!! It is also a great way to get labor moving since orgasms create the hormone Oxytocin and semen contains prostaglandins which are known to soften the cervix. Finding a position a comfortable sexual position in the First and Second Trimester was easy…Third Trimester…not so much. But let me tell you, it is totally possible and is just as hot and steamy as when you were making the babe in the first place.
As you can see from the graphic below the most important thing to remember is to leave plenty of space for your baby. The baby will most certainly make adjustments so he/she is more comfortable too. It is fine, you are not hurting him he is just readjusting to your position just like when you turn from left to right while sleeping. My tried & true favorites are A, B & C below. My little man doesn’t like D so he moves like crazy and it is super uncomfortable for me…may work for you though, so try ’em all.
The best position for all three of us seems to be with my bottom to the side or foot of the bed and lie back with your knees bent and feet perched at the edge of the mattress. (After your first trimester, wedge a pillow under one side so you’re not completely flat on your back.) Your partner kneels or stands in front of you.
If your partner is scared that he may hurt the baby, simply inform him that no penis is large enough to dislodge a baby. His ego may be touch a little bit so tell him how endowed he is first and how much you love his penis. Then he will probably be all too ready to go. So get to it…why not end the pregnancy with all the love & affection that got you all here in the first place…Especially since you have to wait 5-6 weeks after the baby is born to have sex again.
While sex is generally considered safe, there are some conditions or complications with pregnancy that may impact having sexual intercourse. Your health care provider may advise you to limit or avoid sex if you have one of the following conditions:
- A history of miscarriage
- A history of pre-term labor
- Vaginal bleeding or cramps
- Leakage of amniotic fluid or breaking of water
- Incompetent cervix (the cervix or opening of the uterus is weak and opens prematurely, which increases the risk for miscarriage or premature delivery)
- Placenta previa (the structure that provides nourishment to the baby is in front of the cervix or in the lower part of the uterus, instead of the usual location at the top of the uterus)
- Pain with intercourse