The Best and Worst Trimester
Oh, the third trimester. I personally have a love/hate relationship with this three month period. You can eat whatever you want, people want to do things for you, and feeling the baby move so much is pretty awesome. But all those great things are a double edged sword. You also are most likely feeling enormous and swollen and the people around you feel entitled to comment on your pregnancy/body however they would like. The baby is so large that she is impeding your ability to breathe, eat, walk, or sleep normally.
It’s only three months, but it is a very long three months. You most likely get winded going up the stairs. You can’t sleep without some (or a lot of) discomfort. The baby may decide it really likes to prop her feet up on your rib cage or bang her head into your pelvis. There is also so much to do. Preparing the nursery, doctor’s visits, hospital registration, packing your bag. And then, of course, you are worrying about bringing a new person into the world. In the midst of all your stress, you are most likely being told by everyone you know how important it is for you to relax. Stress is bad for the baby, you know.
You can begin a few practices to help you get through. They are basic principles, but things that I needed to be told a few times before it sank in. The bottom line is that you need to really take care of yourself while in the home stretch of your pregnancy. There is no getting around it. Eat well, move your body, and take the time and space to rest. Ask for what you need from your partner, your employer, and your healthcare team.
Support Your Changing Body
You are carrying more weight than what your frame is used to. The hormone Relaxin causes your muscles and joints to relax to accommodate your baby during delivery. So what does this mean to you? How will you feel this happening? In my pregnancies, I suffered from symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) during the third trimester of both pregnancies. My feet widened permanently. My back and hips ached terribly; I could only lay in the same position for about an hour at a time.
A few things I couldn’t live without:
About 87 pillows. Just kidding, but having some extra pillows did help tremendously. I used a giant body pillow with a little extra firmness. This alleviated some of the hip pain I had during the night. You can also try a knee pillow. These are designed to help side sleepers who may suffer from hip, low back, and sciatic pain. Most pregnant women I have met fall into this group.
Get some comfy, supportive shoes. An extra 25-35 pounds over 40 weeks is a lot of weight gain in a short time, and feet have to carry that load. Stay away from high heels and flats with no support. Invest in some practical support. Slip-on shoes are especially helpful as you may have a hard time bending. I am a part-time waitress. I had to really be proactive in supporting my body while on my feet at work or I would pay for it later.
If you are on your feet, you should be wearing a belly band of some kind. Your lower back is under a LOT of strain from the weight in your abdomen. Relaxin also loosens the ligaments around the spine, causing you to be less stable which may result in back pain. A belly band acts as a pair of hands holding your lower abdomen up. It reduces the pulling on your lower back. I wore mine at work, every time I took a walk, even around the house for busy cleaning days. It made a world of difference for me, especially in those last few months.
Prepare For Baby
If you are anything like me, you enter into pregnancy thinking that nine months is plenty of time to ready yourself for a new addition to the family. Then you procrastinate for most of your pregnancy, and eventually panic when your due date is close and you have so many things to do. Babies do not need a lot of things and they are very forgiving of your mistakes. So if you are a little unprepared, it’s okay. Don’t stress about checking off every little thing on your list.
Prepare Your Body
One of the best things you can do is prepare your body for childbirth. Yes, it is a natural process that your body is already equipped for. However, actively preparing for labor and delivery can make it easier and shorter. It can mean a faster recovery for you too. Things like staying in shape (as best you can), eating enough and eating well, stretching, and getting your rest mean everything in your third trimester.
Massage and chiropractic helped me greatly during my pregnancy and especially during my third trimester. Massage with a skilled, licensed professional gave me relief from sciatic pain and extremely tight muscles in my hips and back. Chiropractic also helped with pain relief. In addition, chiropractic care is thought to reduce labor and delivery time by keeping the body aligned so that the baby can move easily though the pelvis. I did not have any chiropractic care with my first pregnancy. I did with my second, and labor was 15 hours shorter! My last trimester was also much more pleasant and comfortable.
Exercise. You may not want to. You may feel silly working out. But strength training and moderate cardio are vital practices for a healthy pregnancy. Lower body strength is especially helpful for an easier labor and delivery. There are tons of pregnancy approved workout programs you can try. Just make sure to check with your OB about whatever routine you are doing. Exercise will also help you have more energy and make your recovery from childbirth faster.
Prepare Your Home
Pack you bag early. You never know when your new little human is going to make their debut. For me, both were late. But remember that your due date is more of an estimate than anything else. Your little one is is charge and can come any time. By 36 weeks, have your bag packed with all of your essentials for the hospital stay. I packed my husband’s bag for the hospital as well and wrote out care instructions for my sister, who was watching my son and the dog while my husband and I were gone.
Newborns don’t need much. But a few things will make your lives much easier. I love my cosleeper bassinet. It made nighttime feedings much more fluid and less disruptive. I also recommend putting burp cloths in every corner of the house where your baby might be. I like the Gerber trifold cloth diapers for burp cloths. They are the most absorbent of any we have tried and will save your clothes, which you will appreciate when you have NO TIME to do laundry.
If you are planning to breastfeed, get everything you need ahead of time. Most insurance plans should cover an electric breast pump. Talk to your doctor about a prescription for one. Pick up some lanolin, ice packs, and comfy nursing bras.
Relax and Rest During Your Third Trimester
I’m sure that you are hearing this often from everyone you know. You need your rest and you need to limit the amount of stress in your life. Easier said than done in the third trimester of your pregnancy.
A warm bath (not hot) is great for your muscles in your third trimester. Make it a routine to stay relaxed and take the pressure off your body. Some dim lighting, an audio book or music, and a few favorite essential oils can make you feel pampered. At a time when you feel like your body is not your own, it is extra important to take time to put yourself first.
I journaled during my pregnancy and that really helped me stay centered when the hormones and stress were getting the best of me. Find a practice that helps you feel more like yourself and make it a fixed part of your daily routine. Your mental health is important, especially as you go into labor and delivery.
Put your feet up! Elevating your feet will help combat swelling in your lower extremities and encourage healthy circulation. You can try to do this in five minute sessions a few times a day if you work on your feet.
Delegate your household duties. Asking for help is hard. When pregnant with my second baby, I needed help with my toddler as I got in to my third trimester. Carrying him, lifting him in and out of his crib, and keeping up with him at the park became super challenging. As moms, we sometimes feel the pressure to do it all. But that attitude isn’t the healthiest for you or your family right now. Remember, you are growing a human! Even when you feel like you are doing nothing, your body is doing important work and expending energy.
You are doing a great job.
Motherhood is hard and pregnancy is serious business. The best resource you have is your village. Lean on your partner, your family and friends, and other moms. Ask for help or advice when you need it. You WILL struggle. Don’t do it alone.
This is just a season and will be over before you know it. If you are already a mommy to little ones, enjoy your time with them before the new addition comes along; it will be harder to give them undivided attention once there is a baby in the house. Have a few date nights with your hubby and spend time with friends and family. Enjoy feeling your little one inside you. Take pictures to document your third trimester growth and your changing family. Once that little baby is here, life will never be the same!