Third trimester. Weeks 27-40 (and beyond). The most joyful time in your life! You’re about to meet your baby! I bet you can’t wait! …or not. If you’re enjoying your pregnancy in 3rd trimester, and feeling the love and joy and glowing and rocking that bump still, more power to you! For the rest of you…we feel you.
For many moms, 3rd trimester is just not all that glowy. Your baby is growing and gaining about 1/4 to 1/2 pound a week until birth. That means more weight throwing off your balance, pressing on your bladder (yay for peeing a hundred times in the middle of the night!), smooshing your other organs, and generally making you feel huge (tried rolling over lately?). The hormone relaxin is really kicking in, causing your hips, pubic symphysis, back, and knees to feel wobbly and out of whack. Your breasts may be starting to leak colostrum, your nether-regions may be experiencing increased leukorrhea (a fancy way of saying you have a lot more discharge going on down there), and your sex drive has probably taken quite the plunge. You’re exhausted. Your other kids have memorized the theme songs to just about every kid’s show on Netflix because you just.can’t.anymore.
Not to mention the mental game.
Oh the mental game.
The first question people ask now is when you’re due, either surprised by how big or small you are. Once you hit 37 weeks, the first question people want to know is if the baby is here yet, or how much you’re dilated (and can I just. When at any.other.point.in.life. is it okay to ask someone how their cervix is doing??). There is no more even attempting to hide that belly, and hands start reaching for it from every direction (and again, I ask…when is this ever okay??). Not only are you trying to just handle the day to day discomforts of being that pregnant, you have to start reminding people that your baby will come when s/he is ready to, or choose to share your induction or c/s date a zillion times. That your cervix is none of their business. That no, they may not touch/rub/pet/pat/stroke your belly.
Oh and also? You have to birth that baby.
One way or another, that baby has to come out.
Add birth to the list of things going on in your head, and it’s no wonder pregnant women even survive the 3rd trimester without a mini (or major) breakdown!
LUCKILY FOR YOU, there are ways to get through it, and, dare I say, even enjoy it a little bit.
While there is no magic button that you can push to help your body just sail gracefully through the physical demands of third trimester, you can make it easier on yourself.
- Invest in a pregnancy pillow. There are a bunch of different kinds to choose from, but the basic premise is that they support your belly, back, hips, and neck while that bump is beginning to take over the bed. They help keep you laying on your side so that you and the baby both get optimum blood flow. They help prevent your joints from waking up stiff and sore by keeping them in a good position while you sleep. Waking up in the morning not feeling like you’re 80 can help you get off to a great start to your day and prevent any extra morning grouchiness from waking up sore after a bad night’s sleep. Don’t want to spend the money on the pillow? Steal pillows from everyone else in your house to wedge between your knees, under your belly, and behind your back to help keep you in the optimal position for comfort at night. Don’t worry, they can’t say anything about their missing pillows…you’re very pregnant. They wouldn’t dare.
- Exercise. What?! Seriously?! Yes, seriously (with your care provider’s “ok”). Low-impact exercise is your friend! Pay attention to your body and do things that are enjoyable at this point in pregnancy. Swimming is glorious because for just a little while, your body gets to feel weightless while you easily move through the water. If your hips and pelvis are okay with it, go for a nice long morning or evening walk with your partner or family. Walking not feeling so great? Cycling on a recumbant bike at the gym can be a great option. You’re sitting back farther so your belly is not in the way, but your heart rate can still get pumping and get that blood flowing. Weight lifting is a great option (don’t do more than you’re comfortable with!), and so is prenatal yoga. Stretching and strengthening those muscles will help prepare your body for birth, as well as just keep everything moving smoothly.
- Chiropractic care. Visiting a chiropractor weekly or bi-weekly in 3rd trimester can be the difference between getting out of bed in the morning and, well, not. With your joints loosening in response to relaxin, everything can get a little out of whack. Visiting a licensed chiropractor (and preferably someone who practices the Webster Technique) will help keep your spine, hips, knees, pelvis, and neck aligned and in good working order. It can drastically decrease sciatic pain, and help with round ligament discomfort as well. Not to mention aligning your pelvis (which in turn aligns your uterus), ensuring that your body and your baby are in an optimal position for birth.
- Make sure to keep taking your prenatal vitamins, magnesium, and any other herbs or supplements that your care provider has recommended. Keep up on the high protein diet, and cut back on extra sugar and carbs. Now is the time to be making sure that your body is in prime condition for giving birth. In the last trimester, extra weight gain for you or baby comes from carbs, so try not to over do the ice cream even though it’s 50 billion degrees outside.
- Rest. I know this sounds like a given, but you’d be surprised how many exhausted pregnant women are still trying to do allthethings. Give yourself a break, and ask for help. Talk to your partner about hiring a cleaning service to help with the vacuuming and bathroom cleaning (bad for your back!). Consider asking a babysitter to come for a few hours a week to help with any other kids you have so you can catch up on some much needed sleep. Take care of yourself so that when the time comes to give birth, you have the energy that you need to rock it.
Obviously there is a lot going on in your head right now. You may be wondering how well you’re going to handle the transition to 1, 2, 3, 4 or more kids in the house. You may be wondering how you are going to make it through labor and delivery. You may be battling some fears from a previous pregnancy or birth. You may feel totally clueless about delivery and postpartum. You may be nervous about caring for a newborn, or breastfeeding, or, or, or, or…
I encourage you to stop, for just a second. Close your eyes wherever you are. Take a big deep breath, and breathe out slowly. Remember that as hard as it seems right now, it will pass. It’s true, your baby will be here before you know it, and you will be a great mom. A few things you can try before this little one’s arrival to help you relax and de-stress:
- Find a trusted friend and get together to just spill your guts. Tell them if you don’t want advice ahead of time, and just download. Tell them everything on your mind and everything you’re worried about. It helps just to speak the fears/concerns/preoccupations out loud; putting them out in the open takes away some of their “power” over you.
- If you don’t want to talk to a friend, pick up a pen, find a blank notebook and a few minutes each day and jot down (or write an essay about) what’s on your mind. Journaling can be so freeing, with the added bonus of being able to look back to see how far you have come, and how things were or weren’t like you imagined they were going to be.
- Try to take time each day to practice focused relaxation. Sit quietly and try to detach from your thoughts. Notice them, but let them float out of your head without dwelling on them. Practice identifying your feelings without judgement, and let yourself just be in the moment, getting in tune with your growing baby. Taking time to center yourself in a positive place can make a big difference on the rest of your day. During this time, also consider taking a few minutes to really focus on what you envision for your birth. Come up a with a mantra that you can repeat to yourself when you’re feeling extra anxious or stressed about labor and delivery. Post it on your wall if you need to. If you’re nervous about certain aspects of your birth-day, jot down questions to ask to your doula or care provider. Try to work through any anxieties so that when the big day comes, there aren’t any emotional barriers holding you back.
- Exercise. I know I already mentioned this under the physical tips, but exercise also drastically improves our mental and emotional health. Take a walk or go for a swim or have a dance party in the living room with your kids. Get your blood pumping and you’ll be surprised to see how your mood is lifted.
- Take a break from social media. Let everyone know that you’ll be back when the baby is born, and you’d prefer not to hear from anyone right now that’s offering anything negative or questions about when the baby is coming. (DO take people up on offers of help, though!!) Stay away from as much negativity as you can in these last few weeks.
Keeping your mind and body healthy these last weeks of pregnancy is key to keeping you sane and preparing you for a great labor and delivery. This is not an exhaustive list..if you have been there already, what things help you get through those last weeks until baby come? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below.