Rosie Stockley, women’s fitness specialist and the founder of Mamawell gives her thoughts and advice on staying active into the third trimester and what can be done straight after birth.
There’s so much advice given throughout pregnancy and postpartum – about exercise, diet, birth, feeding, sleep and more. But really, if something is working well for you, your body (and mind) and your baby, then it’s the right thing for you at this stage of your life.
Many women report feeling great exercising throughout their pregnancy, especially the second trimester when things feel a bit more energised and easy. But what about the third trimester? Do we have to stop and put our feet up, or can we keep moving? Can we do cardio, strength training, impact? And is there anything really positive we can introduce to help prepare the for birth?
Here are a few of my ideas, remembering that every pregnancy is different. Week by week you may feel more or less active and energised, so honour that and take rest days wherever you need.
- It’s fine to continue your workout routine in the third trimester! Just notice how the movements feel as your body changes. Some movements will be inhibited by the growing abdomen so you will need to change the position of your body or the range of movement. You may need longer recovery time as you notice yourself getting out of breath quicker due to the compressed area for the lungs. You may want to reduce impact and take movements static on the ground. The body is growing heavier so that will put pressure on the pelvis and joints in the legs, so slower more gentle movements may feel better.
- Keep going with cardio if you love it, but make it a little more low impact to protect the pelvis now that it is supporting a heavy baby. There are loads of movements that will get you really out of breath, but will limit impact on the knees, ankles, hips and pelvis.
- Start stretching as the body may feeling a little stiffer with the additional weight. Work to open the chest and back as heavier breasts put a lot of pressure on the upper back. Your posture will likely be compromised as the abdomen grows, with the back & pelvis often not in an optimal position – so stretching out the lower back, glutes and hip flexors should feel great.
- Do your pelvic floor exercises! A strong and reactive muscle can be very helpful during labour, and getting into good habits with these exercises will help you with your recovery post birth.
- Look after your mind and body together as they work in tandem during birth. You can activate your breath and work on positive affirmations and mantras at the same time. Practise slowing your breath down and finding visualisations that can get you in a really calm state. The more you practise this, the easier it will be to access this mood during labour and afterwards.
- Remember all activity counts – a walk round the park, cleaning, looking after kids – it’s all going to keep you active and on your feet which counts towards your daily quota.
- Start preparing for birth in the third trimester – a specialised pregnancy yoga class might be perfect. Alternatively, stretches and postures that work to ground and open the body are really helpful for labour. Keeping your legs strong and hips supple can really help you get into (and hold) positions that may be helpful for an active labour. And whatever your birth, being strong will help you so much with your recovery.
The Mamawell Method includes exercises, stretches, mindfulness, yoga and breathwork especially designed for the third trimester, as well as workouts you can adapt throughout your whole pregnancy. We think it is so important to support and educate women on how to move in a positive way, as best suits their body at each stage of pregnancy.
Post birth, there’s always a lot of chat about what and when. The advice has always been to wait until a minimum of 6 weeks post birth before working out – this is to allow the body to heal from birth, the organs to settle back, the uterus to finish shrinking and the body to stop releasing fluid. There are so many changes during pregnancy, and it does take time (way longer than 6 weeks!) for everything to go back to how it was before – in fact it may never go back completely the same. But there are lots of thing we can do to prepare ourselves for movement, and support our recovery and healing process from right after birth. Here are some ideas:
- Remember that there is no such thing as one type fo birth, so never compare yourself and note that all advice needs to be taken and adapted for your body and where you’re at in your recovery. If you had a Caesarean birth, it may take a bit longer until you do certain movements as you’ll want your scar to heal properly. You may have had a traumatic experience, and the last thing you want to do it exercise – it’s all totally ok – you can take all the time you need, but if you can, getting out for a short walk and some light each day will be so helpful.
- Start with your pelvic floor exercises, breathing and bringing in abdominal connection from just a few days after birth – if you can remember and have time. It’s a possibility to start right away, and we shouldn’t be scared of it. Pelvic floor activation encourages blood flow to that area, which is great for healing. Abdominal breathing is so linked to the diaphragm and pelvic floor, plus it relieves stress and keeps up calm. So deep slow breathing is a great start. From there you can introduce a little abdominal activation – just in lying or sitting, literally just activating the abdominals at the end of the breath (we’re not doing sit-ups/crunches here!) and noticing if you can feel any tension in the muscles.
- Don’t stress the pelvic floor – introduce slow and quick squeezes first of all in a lying position as it’s the most remedial. Then work to introduce in sitting, and finally standing – which is the most tricky, but also the most functional way to practise these exercises as this is the position in which we need our muscles to activate the most.
- Building up gently post birth is absolutely essential. Start with bodyweight exercises before adding resistance such as bands and finally weights. If you want to start running or impact cardio, you’re really going to have to work to build up the pelvic floor endurance first. So those weeks post birth are vital for that. Many women find they do too much early on, and find they have a relapse a few months later, so it’s really important to take things slowly and build strength gradually.
The Mamawell Method postpartum programme builds up stamina, fitness and strength session by session. Using body weight and bands, plus low impact cardio, you’ll feel energised and like you’re taking back time for you. We created a series of videos that can be followed almost from birth – with pelvic floor exercises, stretches for tired parents, guided mediations and calming breathwork, it will help you build the basics before moving onto more intense movement.
The Mamawell Method takes you through pregnancy and gets you back moving confidently postpartum. The workout sessions promote strength, energy and time for you to learn about your body and how to best support it at this important stage of life. The NEW ‘Birth and Early Days’ programme provides movement and mental health support for the late stages of pregnancy, right up until birth and from the earliest of days postpartum. Stretches, breathwork, guided meditation, yoga, pelvic floor and abdominal activation provides a holistic toolkit all easily accessible 24/7 on the Mamawell platform.