By the time you get to the third trimester, hopefully, you have still a bit of the second trimester energy, and you are getting excited to meet your new family member, but you still have a way to go!
Staying active can help to abate any pregnancy-related lower back pain, relieve sciatica, and help with your energy levels if they are starting to dwindle. It can also help to reduce labour and delivery length by up to ⅓.
Search no further! Continue reading for the 7 safe & recommended pregnancy exercises you can do at home, nearby park, by the beach or anywhere really.
Benefits of Third Trimester Exercises
I’m always amused by pregnancy exercise classes where women sit on the fit ball for the whole class and lift some light weights.
Sure, the fit ball can be a great place to encourage core stability, work on pelvic mobility, and assist with some strength exercises (like wall squats with the ball for example), but I can think of SO many other ways to move in pregnancy that are more functional and practical for motherhood.
During the third trimester, it’s even more important to understand and implement good pelvic floor practices in pregnancy. The goal would be to get it to a level where the pelvic floor practices become second nature. You will need this for post-birth recovery and the physical load of motherhood – breastfeeding, carrying, pushing & pulling actions and being able to do everything one-handedly.
We are not only aiming to keep fit, prepare the body and mind for birth, but for the job of motherhood to come – which requires strength, balance, dexterity and more.
How Exercise Is Different In 3rd Trimester
In the 3rd trimester, training should start to move more towards exercise to “prepare for labour”. Ideally, cardio workouts will be less of the main focus and movement and mental preparation that you will use during labour and delivery will be the main focus.
Many of you will know what a big fan of hypnobirthing and calm birthing I am. I really believe the biggest “exercise” preparation we need to do as expectant mothers is to work on our mind.
We need to be mentally strong to rewire our brains to rediscover that we are, in fact, built for birth. Women have been delivering babies since the beginning of time and we are capable to do the job. We should use this time to really step into our power.
Preparation for labour includes continuing to keep your pelvic floor, core and legs strong. However, you should consider reducing the intensity and duration of your exercise slightly and really listen to when your body needs to rest.
Yoga, swimming, walking, and pelvic floor strengthening exercises are my top pick to continue in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Is It Safe To Do Squats During Third Trimester?
Squats are one of the best all-rounder exercises a pregnant woman can do in the third trimester. Whether it is supported by a partner, the wall or a ball, squats do wonders for strengthening the legs in preparation for labour and delivery. The pelvic floor has to contribute around 40% more than in a standard “kegel” or lying down pelvic floor lift.
7 Safe Home-Based Exercises For The Third Trimester
1. Sit To Stand
HOW: Scoot forward on your seat, and have your feet underneath you slightly. On an inhale breath, reach your hands forwards. On the exhale breath, shift your weight forwards, lift your pelvic floor, and stand up. The lower the seat, the more challenging the movement.
WHY: Sit To Stand is a great, functional movement we can do a hundred times a day, which is really useful for integrating functional pelvic floor exercises.
2. Squat With Pelvic Floor Awareness
HOW: Start with feet slightly wider than hip width, and toes either straight ahead, or slightly turned out if you feel you need more space for your belly. On an inhale breath, sit your hips back into a squat. Go as deep as you feel comfortable until your knees track over your second toe. On an exhale breath, lift and tighten your pelvic floor, squeeze your glutes and stand up to the top of the squat.
WHY: Squat With Pelvic Floor Awareness strengthens pelvic floor in preparation for labour and postpartum. Pelvic floor exercises in pregnancy will assist you to have greater awareness of your pelvic floor. This will help strengthen your glutes and legs in preparation for labour, which also means an easier recovery after birth.
3. Supported Push Ups
HOW: Start on your knees, with hands elevated onto a chair or bench. Take a round of breath and engage your pelvic floor and core. Draw your navel to spine, or in reality, the action of using your tummy muscles to give a “hug of your baby”. On your next inhale, lower your chest towards the bench and use your exhale breath to return to start position.
If you can easily repeat this for 10-15 reps, then try being on your toes. Be extra aware of your core and pelvic floor, and any discomfort in your tummy or lower back.
WHY: Strengthens chest, arms and core.
4. Tricep Dips
HOW: Find a stable bench or chair, preferably against a wall for safety. Start seated, and take your hands beside your hips on the bench, with palms down and fingers facing forwards. Lift your butt off the chair and slide slightly forwards, so you have space to lower your hips in front of the bench.
Squeeze your shoulder blades lightly together as you lower yourself down, about halfway, so that your shoulders don’t go any lower than your elbows. Then, press firmly down with your hands to press back up to the start position. Keeping your knees bent, and feet closer to the bench will make it less difficult whereas having your legs stretched out adds more difficulty.
WHY: Strengthens and tones the back of the arms.
5. Modified Split Squats
HOW: From standing, step your right leg around 3 feet forwards, so you are in a split stance, hands to hips (or out wide, for balance).
On an inhale breath, slowly bend the back knee, to lower yourself towards the ground. On an exhale breath, use your pelvic floor lift and a butt squeeze to assist return to the upright position. If you have any pelvic pain, avoid doing this exercise.
WHY: Modified Split Squats is a great functional movement for mums to be as it strengthens legs and core, which will be important for motherhood.
6. Pass The Baby (Squat And Rotate)
HOW: Stand upright with feet just wider than hip distance. Reach your arms out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Come onto your tip-toes on the right foot and pivot on the ball of the foot as you turn your arms and torso to the left.
Engage your glutes, shoulder blades and lower tummy. Imagine the sensation of hugging your baby or pulling your navel to the spine. Inhale back to centre and exhale as you twist to the opposite side. Try to feel all of the muscles along the back of your body engage.
As you inhale, add a squat through the centre. As you exhale, stand up from the squat as your turn and reach to the opposite side whilst pivoting on the ball of the foot and squeezing the legs, butt and shoulder blade muscles.
WHY: This is one of my favourite yoga exercises for the third trimester of pregnancy. Pass The Baby strengthens legs, glutes, pelvic floor and helps with general functional movement necessary for motherhood.
7. Pelvic Floor Release/Relaxation
HOW: To help you visualise where the pelvic floor sits, sit upright on a chair, and place your hands on your hips. Start to rock your pelvis all the way forward, to feel the pubic bone and the front, and then roll all the way back onto your tailbone at the back, or coccyx.
Then sit back upright again, and shift your weight from side to side, to feel your 2 sitting bones. The pelvic floor runs from front to back, and side to side, between these bony points.
To work on down-training, or relaxing your pelvic floor, exhale to engage the pelvic floor, and then release on the inhale. Continue to release on subsequent 3-4 breaths without the contraction on exhale.
During each inhale, try to soften and release this area more. Try one exhale pelvic floor lift to 5-8 inhale for every release breath. See instructional video with Rosie here for strengthening and relaxation of the pelvic floor. Watch the video below.
WHY: This is one of the most common physical therapy exercises and pelvic tilt exercise for pregnancy. As you are nearing the end of pregnancy, it is important to understand and learn how to relax and release the pelvic floor. It’s common to have weak pelvic floor muscles, but also an overactive or “tight” pelvic floor muscles (they can be both weak, and tight!).
For easy labour – using breath, visualization and relaxation techniques – will mean our bodies don’t inhibit the normal processes of labour and delivery. This is a great third-trimester exercise for an easy labour, as our body needs to be in a state of calm and relaxation to most easily bring a baby into the world. Our pelvic floor is extremely key in this sense.
Staying active as long as you can, as close to delivery has many benefits for both you and your baby. As much as we want to tone things down a little, keeping some gentle daily movement, your legs, core and pelvic floor active and strong are all helpful for an easier time in labour, delivery and motherhood.
Download our free Prenatal Exercise Guide to learn how you can exercise safely and what you will need to do for a healthy pregnancy.