How to Adapt Your Yoga or Movement Practice for Pregnancy: Third Trimester
The Final Countdown
The last trimester - you're almost there! This trimester can be fraught with discomfort as the belly grows even bigger and muscles and ligaments loosen even more thanks to that relaxin hormone. Fortunately, movement can help lessen pain and prepare for you for labor and delivery.
Lighten the Load
I like to think of movement intensity during pregnancy like a bell curve. You may lack energy during the first trimester, but slowly start to regain it and peak during second trimester. Then third trimester comes around and the body needs less of that intensity to prepare for birth. This doesn't mean you should cease all movement, but as I advise throughout this series, listen to your body. Mine was screaming at me to slow down practically on the day that I hit third trimester. My low back started hurting, walking up stairs left me a little winded, and even bending over was getting difficult. So I modified even more. At this point in my pregnancy my yoga practice was heavily modified, focused on connecting with my breath and staying mobile in my hips to help with labor. I was still getting my heart rate up during my weightlifting workouts, although weights were extremely light.
Modify Daily Movements
In addition to continuing to modify your movement practice as you did in second trimester, it's also important to consider modifying movements outside of your exercise regimen or yoga mat. If you haven't already, start modifying how you sit up, whether from laying down on your mat, the sofa, or your bed. It's best to roll to your side first and use more of your obliques to sit up so that you are not over-stressing the already stretched and stressed rectus and transverse abdominus muscles, as well as the linea alba, the midline connective tissue that holds your abdominals together.
Bending over may also have become more difficult. Try widening your stance, squatting instead of hinging at the hips to pick something up (bending more in the knees and lowering the butt towards the ground), and sitting down to put your shoes on...maybe even enlisting your partner or a friend to help with that last task 😆. Balancing can also become noticeably difficult during this trimester and maybe even painful in the pelvic area due to separation of the pubic symphysis or issues with the SI joint.* You can ease this pain by avoiding unilateral positions (anything that uses only one leg) or shortening your stance.
Movements to Help with Labor
Every mama wants to know how to ease the arduous task of birthing a baby -- I mean, who wouldn't?! Here are some movements that can help prepare your body for labor.
Down Dog - Downward-facing dog is actually classified as an inversion since your head is below your heart in this pose and it is a great position to help relieve stress on the pelvis and even move baby out of the pelvic outlet for repositioning. If your baby is in a breech position, this pose can help, but I also suggest checking out Spinning Babies and the Webster Technique for more professional help with getting baby in a head down position.
Cat/Cow with knees together, feet wide - This was one of my go-to movements in my third trimester. Keeping the knees together and feet wide internally rotates the hips and creates more space in the back of the pelvis, which at this point in pregnancy is probably holding a lot of tension from the load of the baby in front.
Squats, squats and more squats - Squats are fantastic for opening the pelvis and preparing the perineum for childbirth. There are so many different varieties as well - goddess squat (legs wide, feet turned out), asymmetrical (one foot on a higher surface), the LYT happy squat (hips high, head down, arms forward - great for the low back), side lunges, and more.
One Last Thing...
My most important recommendation for labor - don't forget to BREATHE!! Keep practicing that 360 degree-breath all the way through labor and beyond. It is truly going to be your best tool.
Happy and healthy birthing and leave me a comment with your experience! How did movement help you during your pregnancy and/or delivery?
*among other possibilities -- the pelvis has a lot of muscles and ligaments attached to it! But these are most common in pregnancy.