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Exercise in the Third Trimester

I see it in fitness groups all the time-pregnant athletes (we are all considered athletes in some capacity!) talk about how they felt great and worked out up to the day they delivered their baby; doing what they had been doing earlier in the pregnancy.

In my first pregnancy, I felt like I had something to prove and that I needed to push the limits as long as I could and it felt okay. But I wasn’t quite sure about what really was appropriate for that time.

Just because something feels good right then, we still want to make sure we are taking appropriate considerations into account to ensure we are setting ourselves up well for labor, delivery, and the postpartum chapters.

In this blog, I will help you navigate through the overwhelm and give guidance on what you should take into consideration and how you can adjust movement when needed to help set you up long term.

For many women, with the third trimester comes nesting, wondering if your belly can grow anymore than it already has, common aches and pains in the hips, back, and pelvis, and the urge to want to sleep any chance you get.

Your body is still rapidly evolving as it gets closer to the big day-even more pressure in the pelvis, shifts in balance, and postural changes that may be aggravating to your back and hips. The discomfort is real and doing what you can to honor these changes to help you be more comfortable going into labor and delivery should be your focus when it comes to exercise and movement.

As I share this information, know that these are not hard and fast rules to live by because what feels good for one person, it may not work for the next, so it’s important to take your individual experience into consideration.

As with the rest of pregnancy, there are some things that should be a red flag that changes should occur with your movement.

If you experience any of the following symptoms (even if just a little bit), it may be time to make an adjustment, switch to another exercise, or consult with your OB, pelvic floor physical therapist, or coach:

  • Coning or doming along the midline of the abdomen

  • Pulling sensations or cramping in the abdomen

  • ANY amount of unintentional leaking (urine or feces)

  • Pelvic pain or pressure

  • Heaviness or a bulge feeling in the vagina

  • Pain during or after exercise (back, hips, pelvic, belly)

  • Fatigue, exhaustion, or excessive soreness-this is likely a sign you need to back off a bit

  • Spotting or bleeding-some women experience this in pregnancy, but it’s best to call your doctor right away if you notice any amount of blood

  • Signs of preterm labor

These are just some of the ways you can learn to listen to your body.

Continue to make adjustments that you’ve made so far in pregnancy (read THIS blog and THIS one for more on the first and second trimesters) and be mindful that you will likely need to make even more changes as you get further into the third trimester.

What are considerations and things to be mindful of and make adjustments to in the third trimester?

  • Decrease the range of motion or depth of movements (this could be squats, lunges, deadlifts, incline push-ups, etc.). Your joints have a lot more laxity than normal, so pushing it to end ranges won’t necessarily serve you well here.

  • Continue to decrease the weight and volume-there aren’t specific percentages or sets/reps that you should or shouldn’t be following, so instead, pay attention to how your body is responding to the loads you are using and don’t be afraid to decrease significantly if necessary. Pushing limits here could put even more stress on your core and pelvic floor than they are already experiencing.

  • Continue to decrease intensity.

  • Don’t be afraid to take more “rest” days than you normally would. Your body is working in overdrive and resting more will actually help you more than pushing yourself to workout 5+days a week will.

  • Add in pelvic floor downtraining/relaxation. A strong pelvic floor can be great, but when it comes to labor and delivery, being able to fully relax is going to help things go a LOT smoother. (Check out THIS blog for a couple of ways to help you relax the pelvic floor.)

  • Walk more or do more of what feels good for YOU. Any movement is good movement; you don’t have to take an all or nothing approach here.

  • Regardless of what birth will look like for you (vaginal, cesarean, medicated, non-medicated, etc.), taking some time to visualize how you would like for it to go and focusing on breath work and staying calm can be very helpful in preparing yourself mentally.

I personally like to spend some time daily to slow down and bring more awareness to my breath and focus on relaxing areas where I am feeling discomfort.

  • If you are finding baby is up in your ribs or in a less-than-ideal position, try adding in some Spinning Babies techniques.

The mindset of “training for birth” should look a lot different than most think it should. Yes, labor and delivery are intense events and a good way to prepare for that is by focusing on what you can do NOW to better help recovery and rehab later. Not pushing your body to train hard.

Remember that these adjustments won’t be forever, just for now and it can really help set you up long term! Adjusting your mindset to allow and accept the changes that will occur in your body and in your training will make it a bit easier to let go of expectations you may have had around what you wanted your pregnancy to look like.

As far as guidance around whether or not specific exercises are okay or how to adjust them for YOU, it will really be very individual and that is one way I help my clients navigate exercise during this chapter.

Making informed decisions about what is most appropriate for you and your body can help you maintain activity, without pain or symptoms, and help with recovery postpartum.

Planning for your postpartum recovery period DURING pregnancy is very beneficial as when you are in the thick of those early days and weeks postpartum, there is a lot going on and thinking of how you will get back to exercise may not be a top priority.

If you haven’t yet, check out this FREE resource guide: 5 Tips for Returning to Exercise Postpartum for more guidance on steps you can take early on.

If you are looking for a program to help guide you back to exercise appropriately in the postpartum chapters, check out Core Restore for Fit Moms, an online 6-week postpartum return to exercise program.

Want more info on how you can navigate symptoms, exercise, and your journey? Fill out this form to schedule a FREE call with me to discuss how you can get better guidance with exercise and managing symptoms in pregnancy!

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