Ultimate Pregnancy Health to do List for the Third Trimester

July 14, 2014

pregnant by sea smiling -xsmallTo guide you through the ‘home straight’ of your pregnancy, Vicky Warr, TheBeezKneez and Cathy Johnson, Carmenta Life have their top tips for dealing with Trimester Three, which is the last part of our ‘Ultimate Pregnancy Health to-do list’.

Looking after yourself in the last stages is the key to coping with those aches and pains, staying healthy and dealing with anxieties about the birth. Some of the discomforts from Trimester Two may continue yet Trimester Three brings some other new changes!

Shortness of breath
During early pregnancy, the respiratory centre of the brain receives signals from the hormone progesterone to increase oxygen intake, giving you a feeling of being ‘short of breath’. Later in pregnancy and by the third trimester, the uterus presses onto the diaphragm and restricts the lungs ability to expand. This feels like you can’t quite completely fill your lungs as you inhale.

Aim to sit and stand with good posture to create room for the uterus and give more space for your lungs to expand. Stretching the sides of your torso with the ‘seated lateral stretch’ will also help.

The good news is that from around 34-36 weeks (for your first baby) as he or she descends further into the pelvis breathing becomes easier. Although second and subsequent babies tend to descend later in the pregnancy and sometimes not until labour begins!

If you are taking cardio-vascular exercise such as fitness walking, monitor your levels of exertion. You want to make sure you can still hold a conversation whilst it still feels quite difficult.

Also known as acid indigestion or acid reflux, heartburn feels like a burning sensation from the breastbone up to the throat. This happens as the placenta secretes progesterone (that pregnancy hormone crops up again!) that relaxes the smooth muscles of the uterus and relaxes the valve that separates the oesophagus from the stomach. So stomach acid can go back up into the oesophagus, leaving you with a burning pain in your chest. As the baby grows and takes up room within your abdominal cavity, this also pushes the stomach acids back up into the oesophagus.

To relieve heartburn:

  • Eat smaller more frequent meals, rather than less frequent larger meals or ever
    skipping meals.
  • Avoid foods that may exuberate the problem. These tend to be carbonated drinks; alcohol (which you should avoid during pregnancy); caffeine; chocolate; citrus fruits and juices (which are acidic), tomatoes, mustard, and vinegar; processed meats; mint products such as peppermint; spicy, highly seasoned, fried, or fatty foods.
  • Aim to eat your last meal a few hours before bedtime to allow the stomach time to digest the food before you lie down.

Swelling of the ankles, fingers, and feet.

This is common during pregnancy and at these last stages can be very uncomfortable. If you notice any sudden or extreme swelling or if you gain a lot of weight really quickly, call your doctor right away as this could be a sign of preeclampsia. Brief bouts of exercise will help to prevent the pooling of blood around the ankles and may bring more blood flow to the baby. Swimming will also help relieve swelling, particularly walking through water up to your neck to help the hands and feet as well as ankles.

Compression socks will also help by preventing blood from pooling in the veins and reducing the increase of an elevated heart rate in both mother and child.

Hemorrhoids and Constipation
Hemorrhoids, known as piles, are blood vessels or veins around the anus or lower rectum that are swollen and inflamed.

Piles can be caused by constipation. The pregnancy hormones cause the tissue of the intestine to relax leading to food passing through the gut more slowly, causing constipation.

Drinking 8-10 glasses of water daily and increasing your intake of high fibre foods, such as vegetables, fruit and whole-grain foods will help move the food through the digestive system.

Take some exercise as it increases blood flow and stimulates the bowel. Try walking after a meal and gentle prenatal core conditioning exercises (only – if you are familiar with which ones to do or are taking a prenatal exercise class or training).

Tender breasts
You may find your breasts leak a watery yellow pre-milk called colostrum (kuh-loss-struhm) as your body is getting ready to provide food for your baby as soon as he/she is born.  The hormone prolactin increases to cause the production of colostrum, the first milk which is packed with valuable antibodies to increase your baby’s immunity to illness/disease.  To relieve tenderness and discomfort you may need to wear a well fitting maternity bra with breast pads in case of leakage at night as well as during the day and avoid pressure on the breasts.

A sticky-out belly button (which was once an ‘innie’)
During pregnancy the vertical muscles, the recti abdominals, stretch away from the midline to allow space for the growing uterus. They separate and it is perfectly normal, not painful and really common.  However, it can leave you with a stomach that looks like a small ‘dome’, some back ache and a weak pelvic floor after having your baby. A wide ‘gap’ is called a ‘diastasis’. By doing the right kind of exercises post baby you can bring the stomach muscles back together and reduce the separation. Whatever you do, AVOID sit-ups or full crunches, forward crossover crunches or ‘Pilates one hundreds’ or ‘the plank’. These exercises will in fact make the separation worse (and the doming effect more obvious).  Instead focus on simple exercises to help reduce the gap, gain strength and therefore tone. The one to do first is a pelvic tilt (avoid lifting the hips), where you lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat and you tilt your tailbone up. If you place your hands on the side of your waist you can bring the muscles together at the midline. These may be performed a few days after delivery with care and attention.

Sleeping difficulties
It can be common to have sleep interrupted due to the increased need to pass urine as the bladder is reduced in capacity by the growing womb and descent of your baby. Try to fully empty your bladder before getting into bed.

Sleeping on your side (either is fine) but generally the left may be more comfortable as there’s less pressure from womb on other organs and so more space on that side. Pressure on either side of your hips, can also be uncomfortable so to reduce this, sleep on a mattress topper, extra duvet or thick towel under the sheet and a pillow/bump support between your knees.  This will also can help prevent lower backache too as the pelvis and spine is more aligned.

To change position in the night, come onto all fours and over to the other side. This is easier and more comfortable for your tummy and back muscles.

Vivid dreams are common at this stage of pregnancy due to subconscious anxiety about birth and parenting.  Take a warm bath and drink a small herb tea/milky drink before bed.

Contractions, which can be a sign of real or false labour
“Braxton hicks” are common practice contractions. Your abdomen feels firm/hard, you may experience discomfort that comes and goes with no particular pattern or you may be unaware of them. The labour contractions are more regular, stronger and build in intensity. If in doubt call your midwife or hospital.

Feeling Anxious?

The position of the baby
You may also be feeling anxious and worried about the birth and the position of the baby. You may also have not realised that there are other options to having your baby in hospital.

Your midwife will give an indication of position of your baby.  Avoid lying back/semi reclining positions and try to sit upright or lean forward to encourage baby into a forward anterior position (baby’s back to the front of your abdomen). This may help baby to engage more easily into the pelvis and may avoid some backache for mum!

Birthing Options
Talk to your midwife/antenatal teacher about birthing options.  It is possible to give birth at home if there are no pregnancy complications. There are websites for information on home birth and other topics. Check out the NCT website for up to date info and email info@carmenta-life.co.uk for details of our Berkhamsted home birth group.

Need help?
For pregnancy and post natal small group fitness and one to one training, contact Vicky Warr at TheBeezKneez, www.beez-kneez.co.uk.
For all things to do with Pregnancy, Well Being, Scans and Medical Advice contact Cathy Johnson at Carmenta Life, www.carmenta-life.co.uk



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