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Exercise in the Third Trimester

woman stretching on a yoga mat

Exercises to Help Ease Discomforts:

Try to maintain proper posture at all times. Proper posture decreases back strain and improves breathing.

Pelvic Floor      
Consists of muscles that support the uterus, bladder, and bowel. These muscles also surround the external openings of these pelvic organs. They hold a lot of weight during pregnancy.
By contracting and releasing the pelvic floor muscles (Kegel exercises), you increase support and provide valuable body awareness so that you can release this area during the birth of your baby. Try to ‘Kegel’ occasionally throughout the day.

Shoulder/Arm Circles  
These exercises strengthen and stretch your shoulders and chest to help support breasts and to prepare for carrying and feeding your baby.

First, maintain a pelvic tilt with knees bent. Then, slowly:
a) Perform six to eight shoulder circles, first to the back and then to the front.
b) Perform six to eight arm circles, first to the back and then to the front.

Calf Stretch 
Stretching the calves alleviates leg cramps.

Round Ligament Strain 
The supportive ligaments located on either side of the uterus can become strained and cause discomfort. A pelvic tilt on all fours or on your side, with your knees bent may help.

Pelvic Tilt     

Slowly pull stomach muscles in and tuck your bottom under, hold for a second, then release. Don’t allow your back to arch. Try 10 repetitions once or twice a day.

Muscle Conditioners        
•    Perform three to four times per week.
•    Eight repetitions of each, one to two sets.
•    Remember to breathe.
•    Try to perform all upright exercises first, and then go to the floor.
•    Always roll over on your side before coming up from the floor to stand.

You can increase thigh strength in preparing for labour by performing squats. Keep your back straight and your knee and foot in the same direction.

Abdominal Exercises    
Strong abdominal muscles support the growing uterus and help prevent back strain. Pelvic tilt exercises are an excellent toner. To increase the level of difficulty – while keeping the pelvis tilted – bring the chin towards the chest, supporting the abdominal muscles.

Stretches relax muscles and help increase flexibility for easier labour positions. Gently hold a stretch, while relaxing the muscles, for 10 to 15 seconds.

Leg Abduction 
Strengthens outer and inner thighs to better accommodate labour and birth positions.

End each exercise session with a time-out. In a comfortable, side-lying position, focus on releasing the muscles you worked. Breathe deeply and slowly.

Sue Rodgers, ACCE, is a mother of four who has experience teaching Lamaze classes and pre/postnatal fitness.

Published in March 2007

a man carrying two children

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