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Trimester Three - Changes to your body, how it might make you feel and how to adapt exercise

Physiological changes to your body, how you might be feeling and how to adapt your exercises

Changes to your body & how you might be feeling in trimester three

Like anything in pregnancy, if it doesn't feel right speak with your doctor or maternity nurse. I am not a doctor and will stay firmly in my lane of personal training, however I hope I can shed a bit of light on WHY you might be feeling the way you do.

Along with all the other changes discussed in trimester one and trimester two, there are a few further changes your body goes through in this final trimester.

Baby bump & breasts REALLY begin to grow - if you haven't already got a fairly visible bump or enlarged breasts, panic not, now is the time it really ramps up a notch! You may also begin to notice some abdominal separation if you look in the mirror, this is normal and 100% of women get this as your body makes way for the baby to grow - keep up gentle core engagement exercises to keep the core strong. With this increase in weight on the front of the body, you may be feeling a little off balance as your centre of gravity shifts and your posture changes slightly.

Weight gain ramps up a notch in trimester three - The baby really packs on the pounds in this trimester so again it's normal to see week to week increases in weight. Speak with your health professional about what is normal for your height and weight if you’re concerned, but remember most full term babies are around 6-10lbs+ in weight, so add that on top of all the other fluids, placenta, blood (which can double in volume from trimester one) etc. its going to weigh a fair bit!

Tiredness begins again, sorry - This can be down to ‘pregnancy insomnia’ (definitely not a medical term by the way) a colloquial term I use as it's definitely the way it feels! Be is anticipation, excitement, a bit of anxiety about the next many reasons may cause you to wake. You may find you’re waking often at night to visit the toilet, or to just lie awake and stare at the ceiling for no reason whatsoever, maybe its hormones again? Either way the lack of sleep and the fact your body's working overtime for mother and baby, fatigue begins to set in

Guess what, you sweat even faster, again! - Make sure you increase water intake and rest periods. Even the easiest of walks to the local shop or up the stairs will work up a sweat so remember to take it at an easy pace and take on water, especially those having summer pregnancies!

Your centre of gravity and posture can change - Significant changes in the posture can cause conditions such as kyphosis and lordosis. Kyphosis is an excessive outward curve of the upper spine during pregnancy which can often be caused by compensations in the posture from the enlarged breasts or baby bump. Lordosis is the excessive inward curve of the lower spine, and this again can occur due to postural compensations caused by the baby bump. In turn both of these conditions can cause neck and back pain, especially lower back, so it's important to keep the core and back strong through pregnancy and into trimester three.

Increased breathlessness - As per the previous trimesters, this can be caused by hormones and a host of other reasons, but the most obvious one in this trimester is due to the large baby bump pushing upwards as it grows. The rib cage expands to allow room for the baby to grow, however the baby pushing up against the diaphragm can result in breathlessness, you’re still getting plenty of oxygen in, however the restrictive feeling of everything being pushed up and back can make you feel short of breath nonetheless! Practice good posture and deep diaphragmatic breathing to help use all 360 of your lungs and avoid breathing solely into the upper chest - see my instagram post on this for some pointers!

Water retention can increase further in this trimester - As discussed in trimester two, it can ramp up in trimester three and really make it hard to wear some shoes or jewellery! If you’re suffering from severe swelling its imperative that you talk to your doctor, however mild swelling deemed normal by your doctor can be relieved by elevating your feet up above your heart, such as onto a sofa arm - basically its a great excuse to sit down, put your feet up and watch TV! I’ll never forget the sausage fingers and squeezing my giant feet into flip flops in my first pregnancy, its a great look! I went up a whole shoe size!

Pelvic pain typically pubic Symphysis Syndrome - This can still be hurting right to the end, again, see trimester two of advice on how to tackle the pain and potential causes.

Carpal tunnel syndrome - This occurs due to fluid build up pressing against the carpal tunnel channel in your wrist, irritating the nerve and can cause pain and numbness in the arm and hands. Advice here is to avoid ‘grippy’ exercises like holding dumbbells or a suspension trainer as you may not be able to hold them as tightly, making it unsafe. Focus more on bodyweight exercises. It may not hurt during the exercise, but typically it will hurt after.

Increased toilet visits, pelvic floor and more - 20 visits to the toilet a day doesn't necessarily mean you have a ‘weak’ pelvic floor, the growing baby in the uterus is pushing against your bladder and pretty much every other organ in your body so naturally your bladder might feel a little squished and need to be emptied more regularly. As irritating as it is, don't cut your water levels, just stay close to a toilet and familiarise yourself with ones in local cafes/shops in case of urgency - tip: most shops will bend the rules for pregnant ladies! If you are feeling ‘heavy’ in the pelvis department, keep working the pelvic floor through pelvic floor squeezes and reduce weights/resistance down, especially if you are experiencing leaking. I would strongly advise downloading an app on your phone so you can set reminders. I personally used the NHS Squeezy App which can be found here as it was helpful with reminders, however there are loads out there so have a browse.

Braxton Hicks - these are essentially like ‘fake’ labor contractions that can happen during the third trimester. I know I got them a week before I had my second baby and just when I went to get my hospital bag, the contractions (like VERY heavy cramping) moved from being 10 minutes apart to 15, to 20 and then disappeared. There are many reasons why they happen, but it's important to know the difference between labor pains and braxton hicks. This link is useful!

Exercise Adaptations

Adapt the exercise according to your energy levels - As the baby gets bigger and places more pressure on our bodies, couple that with lack of sleep, you may be feeling a little more fatigued in trimester three! Make sure you keep the weight moderate to low or even bodyweight when it comes to resistance. The baby bump and increased bodily fluids can be enough weight to be used as resistance for trimester three!

Monitor and lower your intensity accordingly! - Make sure you reduce your workout times and increase rest periods as the trimester progresses and how you feel each day. No two days are the same in pregnancy so be flexible with your workouts.

Focus on seated and kneeling positions for resistance training - This can not only reduce the risk of falling or being off balance, it also helps if you’re feeling a little tired and just need a sit down! It also keeps the head above stomach, so any sufferers of reflux and indigestion rejoice, this will help. Seated overhead press as opposed to standing overhead press for example will still work the same body parts but you're more stable if seated.

No prone (lying on your front) position - for obvious reasons… physically it will be impossible by the end of trimester three!

Avoid supine (lying on your back) position if it feels funny - from trimester three the baby bump is significantly heavier so if you're lying on your back you’ll likely feel light headed quite quickly, so aim for seated, supported or side lying movements.

Use the suspension trainer/wall/chair for support if needed - but avoid the suspension trainer if you suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome as you will struggle to grip onto it. A wall is a great way to help keep your posture neutral during exercises and help with spine realignment. Try this breathing exercise against a wall and feel the difference to when you’re in all 4s.

Longer warm ups - As per trimester one and trimester two, the warm ups in trimester three should be even longer again to ensure the increased blood supply in the body is pumped ALL the way around!

Longer cool downs - Again this is to stop pooling of fluids in the extremities, much like trimester one and trimester two, ensure that you spend longer bringing the heart rate back to rest and cooling the body down properly.

Isometric holds (like the plank) - reduce the time down to the length of a long exhale (so a few seconds up to about 8-10) if you want to continue doing them. Make sure you are really engaging the core during these exercises through the exhalation of the breath scooping belly to spine - check out these videos for some more core guidance during pregnancy

Avoid rapid changes in movement - Make sure your workouts flow! You don't want to be jumping from standing up exercises to the floor and up to standing again, this can throw you off balance or make you feel lightheaded

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - I mentioned in trimester one and trimester two blogs… If you have been doing it throughout pregnancy and feel ok to continue, make sure you modify it and keep it low impact, steady and take on lots of water - so no box jumps as this will increase the risk of falling!

Barbell work & a rowing machine - You may find now that the bump is in the way, so approach these exercises with caution and modify a barbell with dumbbells or kettlebells, a rowing machine with the treadmill or SkiErg.

Preparing for the postnatal period

Start Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing now (if you haven't already!) - Get your body used to it. As pregnancy progresses your breath will naturally move to your chest as baby pushes the diaphragm up so get into good habits. Please see my video on my instagram for pointers on this.

Focus on keeping strength in areas that weaken - as your belly grows, your centre of gravity shifts forward which means some muscles 'switch off' working as efficiently as they could and new ones are recruited in their place, others weaken as they are unused - The most common are in the back, core, glutes & hamstrings - so work on keeping them strong and a good posture.

Postural correction exercises - suffering from kyphosis and lordosis? To help alleviate the symptoms of Lordosis and lower back pain - stretch out the lower back and quads, strengthen glutes, hamstrings and core. For symptoms of Kyphosis - stretch out the delts (shoulders), and upper back, strengthen the lower to mid back - Rowing with dumbbells are great for this!

Work that pelvic floor BUT relax it too! - it's never too late to start your pelvic floor squeezes! The NHS Squeezy App is a great one where it reminds you to do them at various intervals in the day. Its so important to make sure you are RELAXING the pelvic floor between each squeeze too, especially in trimester three in preparation for birth. Take a deep breath in to inflate the belly and you’ll feel a gentle downward pressure, that is the pelvic floor relaxing. In these final weeks relaxing the pelvic floor ready for birth is just as important as keeping it strong.

Interval training - This is a good way to prepare the body for things like labour as its time of intense work and times of catching your breath. Using a few of your favourite exercises, set a timer for 30 seconds of work with 15 seconds of rest and do a few rounds, you’ll work up a sweat no matter what exercises you choose!

It goes without saying this is just my training advice and findings from my own pregnancies, so if anything doesn't feel right - stop, move on and change it up and always here for questions of queries. Feel free to email me. Hope this helps you mummas and keep up the amazing work!

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