Exercises & Tips for the Last Few Weeks of Pregnancy
During the 3rd trimester, it's important to start focusing on birth prep, which can include exercises to help prepare your body for labour and delivery. These exercises can help to reduce pain and discomfort, and prepare for delivery. No matter if you've had an "easy" pregnancy or a tough one, no mama is comfortable the last few weeks of pregnancy, but some simple exercises can help keep you moving and help ease discomfort.
Wide Leg Childs Pose
The wide leg child's pose is a great position to help lengthen the pelvic floor and stretch the hips and lower back. Bring your legs wide enough to allow for the belly and rest on an exercise ball or stack of pillows. This position is also great for relieving lower back and pelvic pain, and is awesome for relieving early labour pains.
The Deep Squat
This one is my favourite! I like the deep squat for the 3rd trimester to help lengthen the pelvic floor and perineum, stretch and open up the hips and legs to prepare for vaginal delivery. You might also find yourself in this position during labour, and it's helpful to be familiar and comfortable here for a while. You can try supporting your back at the wall, or with a yoga block underneath you for support.
Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Due to the changing centre of mass and decreased core stability during pregnancy, the hip flexors work overtime to help stabilize the spine and pelvis. These muscles often become tight and weak during pregnancy and performing these stretches in the 3rd trimester can help open the hips and pelvis and relief discomfort. Put one knee on the ground, and the other foot flat on the ground for support. Tuck the tailbone underneath you and a stretch should be felt in the front of your hip. Reach as high as you can and take some deep breaths to get some rib mobility as well.
Pelvic tilts help bring mobility to your spine and pelvis are can help relieve lower back and pelvic pain. If done correctly, pelvic tilts are a safe way to work abdominal muscles and can encourage the baby to move into the best position for birth, help bring on labour and help alleviate labour pains. Simply rock your pelvis forward and backwards, thinking of tucking your tailbone underneath you and then pointing it out behind you. They can be done in any position, try a variety!
Modified Pigeon Stretch
Place one knee and leg up onto a higher surface, like your couch or bed. Gently ease into the stretch of the elevated leg, holding 30seconds - 1minute, then switch.
Pelvic Floor Relaxation and Modifications to the "Core Breath"
If you've ever had a session with me, I likely talked about the core breath. The core breath links proper breathing mechanics to the pelvic floor and core musculature in order to optimize the internal pressure system. From about 35 weeks onwards, instead of focusing on exhaling and contracting the pelvic floor, you should start to think about opening and expanding through the pelvic floor during the inhale AND the exhale. Try taking deep diaphragmatic breaths and exhaling through your mouth, keeping your jaw and pelvic floor open. At the same time as the exhale, engage the transverse abdominus muscle by thinking about squeezing your lower ribs together. This coordination of keeping the pelvic floor open and contracting the deep core muscles can help during labour.
Other Exercises & Tips
-Keep walking! Getting some exercise and fresh air can help with energy, mood, anxiety and help with aches and pains if you're too stationary.
-Try perineal stretching. Perineal massage has been proposed to help lengthen and stretch the muscles in the perineum, thereby decreasing muscular resistance to stretch during delivery. In a systematic review by Beckmann et al ,2008 it was found that perineal massage reduced the chances of having a perineal tear or an episiotomy.
1. Lie propped up on pillows with clean hands and trimmed fingernails.
2. Use a lubricant like olive oil, vitamin E oil or a water based lubricant.
3. Place your thumb inside the vagina 1-1.5 inches and push down towards the anus; as well as the sides until you feel a gentle stretch.
4. Hold this stretch for 60- 90 seconds and use your diaphragmatic breathing techniques.
5. Next, using a sweeping motion, massage the muscles in a U shape
6. Studies recommend 5-10 minutes of massage 3-6 times per week.
-Take a birth prep class that has a focus on your pelvic floor! I highly recommend 'Prepare to Push' with Sea to Sky Fitness
I'm expecting baby #2 at the beginning of February, so I'm in this routine now! Any questions, please reach out!
Claire McDonald, Registered Physiotherapist