Stretching in Your Third Trimester

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Staying Active In Your Third Trimester

You’re inevitably going to feel much different in your third trimester than your first. With the baby growing, the body starts to feel a bit more compressed (and the bathroom stops seem to be constant). You’ll find that your exercise habits change, too. Whereas I was running early on in my pregnancy, by the third trimester it was walking in the pool!

You may have heard that you should take it slow or even stop exercising, especially around 32 weeks. However, if you have been active all of your pregnancy, then your placenta has adapted and is very good at capturing nutrients to fuel the body and fetus. Moms who have continued to exercise throughout their pregnancy have been shown to give birth to fit babies versus obese ones.

So my advice is to keep moving. Do be sure to check in with yourself each day and honor where you are. If you feel up for strengthening but 10 minutes in you’re exhausted, then focus on stretching. If you start with an easy routine but start to feel energized, then maybe add some core or strengthening exercises into the mix.

Remember that labor is just that labor… it is work. Strength, endurance, and flexibility are helpful. Even if you are planning on a C-section, post-delivery strength and endurance is of the upmost importance for preventing injuries in the post-partum period. Injuries? Yeah, think of all the lifting and carrying of strollers, car seats, babies, etc.

Here is a gentle stretching routine for when you feel a little tired.
Please note with all exercise programs and implementation, clearance from a MD is advisable.

Stretching Routine

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Facing the tower: Down Dog,3-7,”Higher inclines will be less forward flexion at the hips, and may feel better as the pregnancy progresses. Careful not to hyperextend the arms, i.e. lock the elbows out.”
Facing the tower: Piriformis / Pigeon Stretch,3-7,”The more the knee is brought out in front of the body the greater the stretch. Keep the ankle flexed up to assist in decreasing stress to the knee. If unable to perform, can also be done sitting crossing one ankle over the opposite knee for a “figure four” like position.”
Facing the tower: Child’s Pose,3-7,”Visualize the arms lengthening for the tower and the tailbone sinking toward the floor and base. Allow the breath to move into the sides and back of the ribcages. This is also a great way to perform a kegel, i.e. a pelvic floor contraction as the baby may not be placing as much weight into the pelvis.”
Facing the tower: Lat Stretch,3-7,”Facing the tower, caddy corner the legs to the right while trunk rotates to the right to reaching the left arm for the right rail. Focus on the breath and lengthening the sides of the body. Switch sides.”
Kneeling facing tower wrist flexor and extensor stretching,3-7,”Wrist extensors: In a four point kneeling position, place the hands on the glideboard with the fingertips toward the knees and palms facing up, gently sit back toward the heels till a stretch is felt.
Wrist flexors, In a four point kneeling position, place the hands on the glideboard with the fingertips toward the knees and palms facing down, gently sit back toward the heels till a stretch is felt.”
Facing tower or facing away from tower: Low squat.,1,”Facing the tower may be a little more challenging for range of motion. The idea is to allow yourself to sit in a low squat. You may hover or allow the buttocks to rest on the glideboard and place the elbows on the inside of the knees and gently pressing out will intensify the stretch. Note: If you are planning on squatting during childbirth, this is a great prep exercise to help you build your squatting endurance.”

Seated lateral side bend or mermaid right then left,3-7,”This can be done with one leg crossed in front while the other leg is out straight. Visualize the body moving up and over the hip, versus just collapsing into the side.Allow the arm to reach overhead for the straight leg, and to create variation the arm can reach a little forward or back until different stretches are experienced.”
Facing forward: Reverse Plank / table,3-7,”Higher inclines are easier on the upper body. With the feet on the floor, knees bend, and the arms reaching behind the body, lift the hips up toward the ceiling. Engage the buttocks and press through the entire hands as you lift up. The gaze is toward the sky. Careful to avoid hyperextension or hyper flexion of the neck. You have the option of holding this position for a nice stretch or moving in and out of it.”
Facing forward: Seated Wide forward bend,3-7,”Higher inclines accommodate tighter hamstrings. Keep the legs straight with ankles flexed. Lengthen through the spine. Send the tailbone back as you hinge at the hips and then allow the body to lean forward.”
Facing forward: Seated Wide lateral Bend,3-7,”Higher inclines accommodate tighter hamstrings. Keep the legs straight with ankles flexed. Allow the trunk to lengthen toward the sky, then side bend visualizing going up and over the hip. Like the seated lateral position, feel free to explore the stretch with reaching the arm slightly forward or backward.”
Seated Upper Trap stretching,3-7,”Reach the right hand overhead to the left side of the head. Gently pull the right ear to the right shoulder while sliding the left shoulder away from the ear.Perform on both sides.Ensure that when you start the stretch, you are sitting aligned and the head is not forward.”
Facing forward: Kneeling hip flexor stretch,3-7,”Enter into a split kneeling position by placing one foot on the floor while the other leg is ben with the knee on the glideboard. Gentle lunge forward feeling the stretch about the front of the hips.”
Note: In the third trimester, the hormone Relaxin surges again to assist in the pelvis opening to accommodate the growing fetus. Stretching is recommended in the third trimester as the body is becoming tighter with all of the biomechanical changes; however be cautious and mindful. Stop when you feel a stretch and allow the body to accommodate. This is not the time to be pushing yourself into new ranges of motion in hopes of achieving that advanced yoga pose.

Elizabeth Leeds, DPT

Elizabeth Leeds, owner of Seaside Fitness and Wellness, combines her background in physical therapy, personal training, and Pilates in her practice and teaching. As a pelvic floor physical therapist working at Comprehensive Therapy Services in San Diego, her passion for pregnancy and postpartum is seen in her mission to empower women with knowledge and understanding of their physical changes, and how to address them to prevent future issues. Additionally, Elizabeth is a Master Trainer and developer for Total Gym’s GRAVITY education.

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