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Exercising While Pregnant: The Third Trimester

Updated on September 17, 2013

Congratulations on making it to this point! With only weeks to go, exercise and nutrition are vital for final developments of the baby. As the baby is in the last prenatal growth spurt (gaining half of his/her body weight) and is beginning to "fatten", an increase in (the mother's) appetite is normal. The combined can lead to considerable weight gain for the mother. The average women gains eleven pounds during the last trimester.

Of course, weight gain is absolutely natural and important during pregnancy, but making sure that it is within normal range (for your body type/starting BMI) and healthy is important not only for the baby, but for the mom as well. Exercising during pregnancy is key in maintaining a healthy weight (gain), and in preparing for the best labor and delivery possible. It can also help decrease depression, stress, and aches and pains.

As long as there have been no complications thus far with pregnancy - and no indications of preterm labor - continued exercise is typically okay for women until "labor day". However, as the chance for a loss in balance and increase in fatigue and muscle cramps is more prevalent now than in the first and second trimesters, the kind of exercise being performed should be low impact, non-contact, and done carefully. If continuing something strenuous (like running) or wanting to start a new type of exercise, make sure to consult a physician.

* Anything new or seemingly questionable should be discussed with a physician.

Stretching and yoga are very beneficial!
Stretching and yoga are very beneficial!


Stretching is important for anyone and everyone, regardless of lifestyle. During pregnancy, increasing amounts of relaxin are released in the body, which means that muscles and ligaments continuously relax in preparation of labor. Stretching can help improve sleep, relieve constipation, make it easier to exercise during pregnancy, relieve stress, muscle aches, and cramping, and can help with fatigue.

Areas needing stretched most during pregnancy are the hip flexors, upper back and neck, lower back, quadriceps, calves, and pectorals.

Easy to do, stretching is unique in that it can be done anywhere and at anytime. Stretch while waiting to check out at the grocery store, while pumping gas, or while cooking dinner. Stretching multiple times a day can lessen muscle tightness and cramping, which are two common third trimester nuisances.

If a severe muscle cramp develops, stretching is one of the quickest and easiest ways to relieve muscle tension.

Prenatal yoga is a fantastic way to lengthen and tone muscles, and is easy to start even if one has never tried yoga before. Stretching with an exercise ball helps to maintain proper posture and balance, and may make stretching easier.

Michael Phelps doing the breast stroke.
Michael Phelps doing the breast stroke. | Source

How to Do a Lying Pelvic Tilt

While lying flat on your back with your arms and hands at your sides, bend your knees towards your chest slightly. Keep knees shoulder width apart and feet on the ground, with toes pointed forward. Inhale slowly, and then exhale. While exhaling, the abdomen will naturally move towards the back. Contract abdominal muscles at this time, and slowly and easily lift your pelvis toward the ceiling. Inhale once again, releasing muscles and lowering your pelvis back to the ground. If desired, use a stability ball to rest feet on (instead of the ground).

Three Most Commonly Recommended Exercises for the Third Trimester

  • Walking. While placing minimal pressure on muscles and joints, walking provides great cardiovascular benefits and is a phenomenal stress reliever. Avoid walking and hiking on uneven surfaces (such as trails) as balance may be hindered.
  • Swimming. Water seems to make it easier to exercise as it protects against overheating and helps support joints and ligaments. As water reduces the feeling of gravity on the body, pregnant women find comfort in going aerobics and stretches in the pool rather than on land. The breast stroke is best for pregnant women, as it lengthens chest muscles and shortens back muscles, which helps maintain alignment. It also requires less exertion and takes pressure off of the back (caused by the weight of the belly). Swimming helps with posture, relaxation, breathing, and can help decrease high blood pressure.
  • Labor preparations (great for pre and post natal care for mom, as doing the following exercises can help decrease the likelihood of pelvic organ prolapse):
  1. Kegels are small contractions of the pelvic floor. The easiest way to do a kegel (if never done previously) is to stop the flow of urine while going to the bathroom, and then release. Continuing doing this throughout the day (about 10-20 kegels at a time, holding for just a few seconds each time). Kegels help to decrease the likelihood of hemorrhoids. Post pregnancy, having done kegels can lessen the chances of having weak pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to a prolapsed uterus and/or urinary incontinence.
  2. Pelvic Tilts will help to ease pain in the back during labor, helps to strengthen abdominal muscles, and improves posture. Pelvic tilts are popular among people whom regularly do yoga and pilates, as they help to stretch an array of muscles.
  3. Squats stretch the back, helps realign the body, can decrease instances of constipation, and can ease muscle aches and pains. The squatting position is one of the most natural for childbirth. Doing squats consistently during pregnancy -and especially the third trimester- helps prepare the body for labor by widening the pelvic opening, relaxes perineal muscles, and helps increase oxygen flow to the baby. Make sure not to push it with squats, and to do them correctly. Otherwise, it can add stress to joints and put strain on the back.

Just Breathe

Being able to stay active and to continue exercising during the third trimester depends on the mother. If an exercise strains or causes discomfort, stop or back off and lessen the intensity or length of the exercise. Speak with a physician regarding any questions or concerns, and especially when beginning a new exercise anytime during pregnancy.

Again, exercises that involve contact (soccer, basketball, etc.) are not recommended during the third trimester, and neither are activities that require stable balance, like tennis and bike riding.

The most important things to remember when exercising at this stage are to breathe, relax, and not overdo it. If the mom cannot breathe, the baby cannot breathe. If mom is straining and overheated, the baby is more than likely uncomfortable as well. Take it easy and focus on movements rather than intensity.

Congratulations once again, and best of luck!


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    • VeronicaFarkas profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Roberts 

      6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Yes, I agree! The exercise ball provide a great amount of stability, and it is comfortable! :) Thank you for reading, and for your comment!

    • Compromised profile image

      Lindsay Rose Dorff 

      6 years ago from Green Bay, WI

      Love the article! For mamas-to-be who are struggling with squats, my doula recommended using a birth (or exercise) ball to work the same muscles. Just sitting on it was also comfortable :-)

    • VeronicaFarkas profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Roberts 

      6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Great addition! Thank you for your comment, KDuBarry03, and thank you for your votes and for sharing! I bet that you're an awesome uncle! :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very useful and informative! When my sister was pregnant with my niece, she would always have back pain and my family & I always told her to relax, have some decaf tea, and then do a couple stretches. It is definitely the best thing to do whilst in some pain, her doctor said.

      I'm definitely pinning, sharing, and tweeting this! Voted up and useful :)

    • VeronicaFarkas profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Roberts 

      6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Thank you, ladies! I was a bit apprehensive about this one, as it has been months since I've written anything. I was hoping that it wouldn't be too "dry"! :)

      It is good to be back, and to see all of your smiling faces! I can't wait to catch up on everyone's hubs!!!

      Sunshine, I can only hope to have such good luck as you! :) It sounds like you were on it! Janine, I understand. I did not have central air for May, June, or the beginning of July this summer. It was not fun!

      Thank you again for all of the wonderful comments & congrats!

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Excellent advice to all Moms-to-be!! Unless otherwise suggested by your OB....exercise is good for us, no matter what "condition" we're in. Keeps the body limber, burns calories and in general, makes us feel better!! This is a valuable hub!! Good luck with Baby's arrival! UP++

    • tammyswallow profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Glad to see you back on Hubpages! This is such a great point. With mine I couldn't sit still and it just felt better and made me sleep better if I walked briskly or went swimming. Very helpful information.. as I am sure you are finding out! ;)

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      6 years ago from New York, New York

      Wonderful article about exercising during the third trimester of pregnancy. During my first pregnancy, I walked and swam regularly in my third trimester (I gave birth in NY in July--the height of the summer), so both were not only helpful pregnancy exercise, but also for the time of the year as well. My second pregnancy I was high risk and gave birth 2 days before thanksgiving so I had could not do as much exercise out doors and had to be careful as well, because of my high risk status, but still did what was allowed and afforded to me to stay somewhat active. That said again very good and detailed article on pregnancy exercise. Have voted up, shared and tweeted too!!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Yay mommy to be! A new hub and it's a fab one! Exercise is very important in the third trimester. I exercised so much with my baby #1 that I delivered 3 weeks early and delivery was so fast no epidural was needed. With baby #2 she was 3 days early, took a bit longer but still just natural...even though I begged for something in the last 30 minutes :)

    • april holland profile image

      April Savage 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Great article!!! Pregnant women do need to exercise if they can so you hit the nail on the head here.


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