Staying Healthy During Your Third Trimester
Your third trimester is a busy time. You're getting ready to welcome a new baby into your home, while continuing to keep yourself healthy and feeling great as you experience the last few months of pregnancy.
The following information is designed to answer the common questions you might have, help keep you healthy, and prepare you for the arrival and care of your new baby.
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Importance of Continued Pre-Natal Care
The goal of prenatal care is to monitor the progress of your pregnancy and to identify potential problems before they become serious for either you or your baby.
- Toward the end of your third trimester, if you are low-risk with a normally progressing pregnancy, you'll likely be seeing your healthcare provide once a week.
- A woman with a chronic condition or high-risk pregnancy may need more frequent visits.
Talking to Your Healthcare Provider
Your body has been going through several changes throughout your pregnancy. And with labour and delivery approaching, it is normal to have lots of questions.
- Sometimes it might feel awkward to talk to your healthcare provider â€” especially when your symptoms or questions might feel embarrassing or personal, or if you think you are worrying too much.
- Remember, your healthcare provider has probably already heard the same questions from other patients â€” and the most important thing is for you to feel comfortable and informed as your big day approaches.
- Your health appointment is confidential. Your healthcare provider can't tell anyone else what you say without your permission. It is okay to tell your provider if you smoke, drink alcohol or take any drugs, or if anyone in your life hurts or scares you.
Your healthcare provider needs to know all about you and your lifestyle so that he or she can give you and your baby the best possible care.
Keep Your Healthcare Provider Informed
It's important to keep your healthcare provider informed throughout your pregnancy â€” including during your third trimester. Let him or her know if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Pain of any kind
- Strong cramps or uterine contractions at 20-minute intervals
- Vaginal bleeding or leaking of amniotic fluid
- Dizziness, fainting or shortness of breath
- Palpitations or tachycardia (rapid beating of the heart)
- Constant nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty walking
- Edema (swelling of joints)
- Decreased activity by the baby
And always remember: there is no such thing as asking too many questions or voicing too many concerns. The goal for you and your healthcare provider is your safe and happy pregnancy!
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From a nutrition standpoint, your priority during pregnancy is to eat healthfully to get the nutrients you and your unborn baby need. A healthy diet includes proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and plenty of water.
Health Canada publishes the Canada Food Guide (www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php) and Canada's Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living (www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/pag-gap/index-home-accueil-eng.php ) that can help you determine your nutritional and activity needs to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. These resources encourage you to:
- Make smart choices from every food group.
- Find your balance between food and physical activity.
- Get the most nutrition out of your calories.
- Eat the recommended daily servings from each food group:
- Meat/Poultry/Fish/Dry Beans/Eggs/Nuts
- Discretionary Calories
For detailed information about nutrition versus pregnancy, visit the Health Canada website on Prenatal Nutrition at:www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/prenatal/index-eng.php
Also, check out The Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy produced by the Public Health Agency of Canada:www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-gs/guide-eng.php
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Rest and Exercise
Getting Enough Sleep
If you're like many women, you are probably having trouble getting enough deep, uninterrupted sleep in the third trimester. This is because the increasing size of your unborn baby can make it hard to find a comfortable sleeping position. Plus, your healthcare provider has probably recommended that you sleep on your side, which can be difficult if you've always been a back or stomach sleeper. Other issues like heartburn and constipation can interfere as well.
When You Can't Sleep: Strategies to Try
During the Day:
- Cut out caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee, and tea from your diet as much as possible, especially in the afternoon/evening.
- Avoid drinking a lot of fluids or eating a full meal within a few hours of going to bed.
- Don't exercise right before you go to bed.
- Try to get into a routine of going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
- Take short naps (30 to 60 minutes) during the day to make up for lost sleep.
- Take a yoga class or learn other techniques to help you relax after a busy day. (Discuss any new activity or fitness plan with your doctor first.)
- If worrying is keeping you awake at night, talk to other expectant moms (like those you met in childbirth class) or make a list of questions to ask your healthcare provider on your next visit.
- Try lying on your side with your knees bent. This is likely to be the most comfortable position in the third trimester.
- Experiment with pillows to discover a comfortable sleeping position. Try placing one under your abdomen or between your legs.
- If a leg cramp wakes you up, try pressing your feet hard against the wall or standing on the leg. (Also make sure that you're getting enough calcium in your diet, which can help reduce leg cramps.)
If you really can't sleep, it's often better to get up and do something instead of tossing and turning. Read a book, listen to music, watch TV, or catch up on letters or email. Eventually, you'll probably feel tired enough to go back to bed and get some sleep.
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About Bed Rest
In some cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe bed rest. This means you have to reduce your activity by resting, usually in bed. There are two types of bed rest:
- Strict bed rest: You won't able to leave your bed for any reason, and will require assistance to care for yourself. In some cases, you may be permitted to get up and use the bathroom.
- Modified bed rest: Generally, you can stay on the couch, bed, or in a sitting position, but are restricted from sexual intercourse, exercise, or lifting. In some cases, you might simply need to reduce your activity levels, and rest in bed for short periods.
Bed rest can be challenging, because it affects so many areas of your life. But remember: bed rest is very beneficial for developing babies who are at risk from pregnancy complications. It decreases pressure on the baby and increases oxygen and nutrients â€” and helps improve your organ function and blood pressure, too.
While you're on bed rest, communicate often with your doctor to keep informed of your medical status so that you know where you stand, and if it's possible for you to discontinue bed rest.
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Exercise during pregnancy can:
- Lessen discomfort, fatigue, and the "aches and pains" of pregnancy, including constipation and varicose veins.
- Increases the blood flow to your skin, giving you a healthy glow.
- Increase the likelihood of early recovery after delivery.
- Strengthen and tone the abdominal, back, thigh and gluteal muscles to improve posture.
- Lower the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Help prevent â€” or control â€” gestational diabetes.
- Improve your ability to sleep.
- Protect/strengthen your joints.
- Prevent excessive weight gain and prepare you to regain your "pre-pregnancy" body.
- Keep your heart, bones, and mind healthy!
Always check with your healthcare provider before beginning any kind of exercise during pregnancy.
Good Exercise Options
- Low-impact exercises like yoga or pilates, walking, swimming, dancing and cycling.
- Aerobics and yoga classes designed specifically for pregnant women.
Exercises to Avoid
- Those in which you can get hit in the abdomen.
- Those in which you can fall.
- Weight training and sit-ups (after the first trimester).
- Scuba diving.
STOP EXERCISING IMMEDIATELY ...
... and call your healthcare provider if you experience:
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- Dizziness or headache
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain or contractions
- Calf pain or swelling
- Blurred vision
- Fluid leaking from the vagina or vaginal bleeding
- Decreased fetal movement