You've made it this far and you're still healthy, glowing and fit as a fiddle—or perhaps you're turning green and too tired to get off the couch. Whether the past several months have seemed like a walk in the park or one across hot coals, you're nearing the end and want to make sure your body is in the best condition possible for the upcoming birth and the sleepless nights that will follow.
It might seem less than tempting to lug your belly off the couch and onto the treadmill in your eighth month of pregnancy, and the fatigue you're feeling in your third trimester may make the prospect even less appealing. The fact is staying active keeps you healthy as you near the end of your pregnancy. "Being fit during pregnancy, especially the third trimester, can decrease pain perception and improve maternal lung capacity. Labor time can also be shortened if a mother has improved physical and mental health—allowing her to push with toned abdominals and a controlled pelvic floor," says Ginger Garner, a licensed physical therapist, athletic trainer and professional yoga therapist of Emerald Isle, North Carolina.
You don't have to hit the gym seven days a week to stay fit; go for a walk each day, join a prenatal aerobics class or stretch and flex along to your favorite prenatal exercise DVD. All of these will help to keep you in shape and relieve some of the aches and pains you've been feeling. They may even help get your baby in position for delivery.
Also, if you're still experiencing those occasional bouts of nausea in the morning, or any other time of day, walking helps. "While it may seem like the last thing you'd want to do, get outside and walk, even if you can only handle a few minutes. Walking works wonders to reduce morning sickness," advises Jennifer Tucker, perinatal exercise specialist and founder of Fit for Expecting in South Pasadena, California. This far into pregnancy there are a few actions you'll want to avoid—quick movement, jumping and lying flat on your back are best left for the post-pregnancy period. Let your body be the guide. If an activity feels uncomfortable, stop and consult your health care practitioner before resuming.
If you've ever watched a Hollywood film with a pregnant woman, you've seen that picture-perfect slender frame with a perfectly rounded baby bump indulge in mile-high ice cream sundaes while she also consumes every other morsel of food she can find. Back down in reality-ville, while your appetite has probably increased and your cravings may have skyrocketed, your body and your baby only require you to consume an extra 400-to-500 calories a day. (That's equivalent to a couple of glasses of low-fat milk and a handful of almonds.) The ice cream and late-night trips to the junk cupboard aren't providing anything other than empty calories that will stick around on the hips long after the birth.
To help stay satiated and prevent nausea, try to divide your calorie intake into about six small meals a day. To make the most of the calories you're taking in, include a variety of fruits and veggies to get your nutrients and help stave off constipation. Keep on taking your prenatal vitamin and keep up a healthy mix of dairy, carbohydrates and protein. Always remember, when you're making your food choices, try to go for options that are as natural as possible. As Tucker says, "Think apple instead of applesauce or apple pie."
Make It All about You for Just a Little Longer
Within the next few weeks, your life is going to undergo a lot of changes. While your unborn baby is warm, quiet and cozy in his current residence, it won't be long before he's crying, squirming and pooping up a storm. Use these last few weeks to really pamper yourself so you're as relaxed and refreshed as possible when the big day arrives. Visit the salon for a manicure, get a massage, enjoy a little bit of shopping with the girls and curl up in the tub (not too hot, remember) or on the couch with that book you've been meaning to finish forever—you may not have a chance to get back to it for a while if you don't take advantage of the time now.
To keep your mind and body relaxed and as stress-free as possible, Tucker has some advice: "Carve out mom ME time to do something active that clears your mind and leaves you feeling refreshed. Go for a hike and breathe in the fresh air, schedule a weekly 'walk and talk' date with a friend, take a prenatal yoga class or throw on a suit and go for a swim." You may not want to hop in the water right now, but submerging yourself in it may help to relieve the pressure of your baby on your bladder and back. (Now, don't rush off to the pool too fast!)
Pay attention to your body and your baby as you enter your eighth month because it will really help to get you through the final stretch of your pregnancy. When your body is telling you that you're tired, listen and rest. When it's telling you it's time to eat, pay attention and grab a healthy snack. Tucker shares some advice if you're feeling stressed out: "Try this quick exercise to relax whenever stress sets in: Take a moment to yourself. Sit comfortably on a chair, bed, couch or on the floor. Close your eyes, place your hands on your belly and connect with your baby. Inhale, fill your lungs with air and feel your belly expand. Exhale, press the air out of your lungs and contract your abdominals, like you're hugging your baby. Repeat for five breaths."
You'll probably start to experience Braxton-Hicks contractions this month. These are light contractions that are just getting your body ready for the big event. If you notice them coming on more than four times an hour or increasing in strength or any swelling or bleeding, get in touch with your health care provider right away. The eighth month of pregnancy is also a good time to keep an eye on your baby with the kick count if you haven't started already. Once in a while, when you're listening to your body and having a rest, count the number of movements you feel within an hour's time. You should be able to feel movements from your little squirmer about 10 times an hour. You've also likely become familiar with when and how often he moves. If you notice a decrease in frequency, make that call to your practitioner right away.