If you’re in your third trimester of pregnancy, congrats! Surviving the third trimester can be challenging, but you’re almost there.
Especially if you’re a first-time mom, the third trimester can be a tad overwhelming. First of all, you’re possibly dealing with a whole new set of aches and pains in pretty much your entire body.
On top of exhaustion, you’re supposed to get ready for your baby’s arrival. You know you’re supposed to get a birth plan together, learn how to feed your baby, set up a place for him or her to sleep…
And everyone from dear Aunt Sally to the random little old lady in the grocery store is telling you what to do. No wonder you may be stressed out!
But don’t worry, help is on the way! As someone who has been through the this process four times, I’m here to help you navigate how to take care of yourself during the third trimester. Learn gentle exercises you can use for back pain and pelvic pain during pregnancy.
Simple third-trimester self-care tips
As the old saying goes, every pregnancy is different. Some people feel fantastic during the third trimester, while some are absolutely miserable.
(By the way, still in the second trimester? Check out the article below.)
RELATED: Second trimester survival tips from a mom of three
Not only that, but you can have different aches and pains from one pregnancy to the next. For example, I was climbing the Etowah Indian Mounds at the end of my first pregnancy, yet I could barely walk through the grocery store in the weeks before my second baby came.
In my third pregnancy, the only thing that kept me from going to prenatal yoga one morning is that I gave birth instead, while with this fourth pregnancy, I’ve been specifically recommended to avoid much prenatal yoga due to joints that are already very loosened up.
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With that said, I’ll tell you several self-care tips I’ve learned from the medical and wellness practitioners I’ve worked with during my four pregnancies. I hope this info helps you.
Basic third trimester self care tips
Before I dive into specific exercises that can help during pregnancy, let’s make sure we cover the basics.
Stay hydrated during pregnancy
I know, you’re told that all the time, but you wouldn’t believe the difference it makes in how you feel. Ideally, you should be getting at least two quarts (or two liters) of water a day.
Rest when you can
It’s hard, especially when you already have other little kids, but as much as possible, find ways to make life easier for yourself. That might mean hiring help for a little while (which I know isn’t possible for everyone), relaxing your screen-time limits a little, or simplifying meal-prep, but sometimes that’s just what it takes.
Have you tried meditation and relaxation? it is a game-changer during pregnancy, and even during labor! I’ve worked with my dear friend, an E-RYT500 Professional Kripalu Yoga teacher and licensed massage therapist with prenatal expertise, to develop the perfect Meditations for Pregnancy and Birth. These meditations can help you stay calm throughout your pregnancy and even help you have a smoother, more peaceful birth.
Don’t overdo it
It’s okay to say no to activities if that’s what you need. The activities will all be there after baby comes, and you can jump back in at that time.
Plus, you don’t have to wear yourself out designing the perfect nursery. The APA suggests baby sleeps in your room for at least the first six months and preferably through the first year. So skip all the “stuff” and work recommended for a Pinterest-worthy nursery and stick to the essentials.
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Get help where you can!
Finally, be willing to ask for help with lifting/carrying objects. Hopefully, coworkers or family are understanding enough to help you carry some things when needed.
You can even enlist your other kids for help! All three of mine have been very willing to help me with little things like bringing me something I need. In fact, my two-year-old regularly brings me a cup of water just because he’s noticed I need water often right now. Your kids (especially if they’re younger) will likely enjoy the sense of accomplishment from helping you, and therefore, helping the new baby.
Enjoy the break you have before a newborn, or take the time to learn what to expect right after birth. You can even take 90 minutes to learn how to breastfeed from a certified lactation consultant.
RELATED: After childbirth – how to bond with baby and take care of yourself
Newborn breastfeeding – 12 tips
Milkology’s The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class review (by an experienced breastfeeder)
With all these basics out of the way, let’s talk about gentle exercises you can use to relieve common third-trimester pains.
Self-care for back pain in the third trimester
Back pain is pretty much a given during pregnancy. Obviously, your center of gravity is off and there’s a lot of new added pressure. Plus, many joints are misaligned from their usual position during late pregnancy. Fortunately, there are several gentle exercises you can use to relieve pregnancy back pain (at least some, anyways).
Have you gotten yourself a birthing ball (aka an exercise ball) yet? If not, now’s the time! A simple, well-made birthing ball (this one comes with a pump) can really help your back. Hint: Make sure your birthing ball is inflated enough so that your hips sit higher than your knees.
You can either sit on it and roll in circles while just hanging out or watching TV, or you can kneel in front of it to roll back and forth with it. Each makes a huge difference in how your back feels (plus, it can open your hips for labor!)
Another classic exercise for pregnancy back pain is cat/cow pose. However, you need to do a gentle version of this move to avoid putting too much pressure on your abdomen and potentially developing diastasis recti!
Here’s a great article that shows a version of cat/cow that’s much better for pregnancy.
Another option is pigeon pose, modified for sitting in a chair. To do chair pigeon pose, sit towards the front of your chair, with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Pick up one foot and cross your ankle over your other thigh, leaning forward only slightly until you feel a stretch in your hip.
Clam shells strengthen the glute muscles you need to support your back during pregnancy too! A great tip I’ve been given: Only open your knees about 6 inches during the clam shell. It’ll better target the muscles you’re wanting to work.
Of course, a reputable chiropractor can be a huge help for pregnancy back pain. And if they’re a good practitioner, they’ll often tell you some exercises to practice at home to take care of your specific needs.
Self-care for pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy
Many women suffer from pelvic pain during pregnancy. And I’m not just talking about the “bowling-ball-between-your-legs” pressure late in pregnancy. Some women have pelvic girdle pain, caused by a misalignment in your pelvic joints. It can make walking or even putting on pants really difficult and painful!
The most helpful tip I have for pelvic pain during pregnancy? If you haven’t yet, get yourself a pregnancy pillow, ASAP. Seriously, this is the other (besides a birthing ball) best investment in yourself you can make for pregnancy.
Use your pregnancy pillow to support not only between your knees, but make sure you use it to support your feet too. That will keep your hip and pelvic joints as aligned as possible.
And to help your back, also make sure your top arm (I’m assuming you’re sleeping on your side) is propped to keep your back aligned. I generally use the part of the pillow meant for my head to prop my arm, while my normal pillow is used for my head.
The second tip I have is to use stretches to loosen tight joints, while using other exercises to stabilize a hip and pelvis that’s loose from all that relaxin flowing through your body!
If you have tight joints, there are stretches perfect for the problem. For example, Warrior I pose can gently stretch the joints that need help.
And if you don’t feel strong enough to support yourself in Warrior I, it’s okay! It’s possible to use a chair to support your body while you still get the stretch you need. This video is a great example of how to do it:
On the other hand, if your joints are too loose, you may need some exercises to strengthen and stabilize your pelvis and hips. In that case, anything that strengthens the glutes can help, such as the clamshells mentioned before. Even just squeezing your butt together for a few counts while standing or sitting, multiple times a day, can help strengthen your glutes.
Conclusions on surviving the third trimester
Your body goes through rapid changes during this last trimester of pregnancy. The problems and pains you have during your 28th week may be totally different from week 36 of pregnancy.
In the midst of your current discomforts, don’t forget to prepare for labor! If you’re interested in hearing about my three very different labors, check out this article.
RELATED: Natural birth or epidural – which should you choose?
UPDATE: If you’re curious about what stalled out labor feels like (and how to get it moving again, check out this article I wrote about my fourth birth.
RELATED: Stalled out labor – what to do when your contractions stop
When you feel your worst, take it a week at a time. At this point, I keep telling myself, “I can do this one more week.” In a few days when I hit 36 weeks, I plan to tell myself again, “I can do this one more week.” Eventually, you know there’s an end of the line, and you’ll get to meet your new baby. You can do it!