It's the third trimester, and you're in the homestretch. Baby will be arriving in 12 weeks, more or less. You may be having those ever-famous Braxton-Hicks contractions—or not. Don't stress if you aren't experiencing all of the symptoms listed online. Every woman is different. Rest up and go on some dates, but keep eating healthy food too. Baby isn't done growing yet. Here is what's going on and how to nourish your body appropriately.
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What's Going On in Your Body
Baby is mostly formed by now, but don't use that as an excuse to slack on your healthy eating and exercise. The third trimester is a crucial time for lung and bone development. Baby is also packing on the fat, which is a good thing! "Babies put on most of their weight during the third trimester, while Mom's blood volume continues to increase and her breasts grow larger in preparation for nursing," says Kendra Tolbert, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.C., a women's health dietitian and lactation counselor. Aim to gain about 1 pound per week throughout the rest of your pregnancy.
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Iron: Found in meat, poultry, seafood, beans and dark leafy greens.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fatty fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds and fortified foods.
"Babies store up most of the iron they'll need for the first few months after birth during the last trimester, so you'll want to make sure you're getting enough iron from food and supplements (only as prescribed)," says Tolbert. "You'll find iron in foods like leafy greens, beans, meat and poultry. When you can, pair your iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C to enhance absorption," she said. Red bell peppers, kale, oranges and strawberries are packed with vitamin C.
Omega-3s should be on your grocery list too. These healthy fats are found in foods like salmon, tuna, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed. The omega-3s found in fish, DHA and EPA, promote healthy brain development for baby. In addition, a 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that consuming DHA and EPA during pregnancy might decrease your baby's chance of getting asthma as a child. When pregnant women took a daily fish oil supplement during their third trimester, their child was 30 percent less likely to have asthma at 3-5 years old. Check with your doctor before adding a supplement, though. And continue taking your prenatal vitamins throughout your pregnancy, too.
Can You Induce Labor with Food?
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If you are past the 40-week mark, odds are you are searching for any way to induce labor. "Every family and culture has its own traditions and folklore around labor-inducing foods—but there's no hard proof any of them work," says Tolbert. However, "consider adding dates to your diet in your last trimester," she says. "There's some research suggesting they help ripen your cervix, which might speed up labor once it's underway." Studies have shown that eating dates in the last two to four weeks before delivery increases cervical ripening. However, in one study, women had to consume six dates per day for this effect. Check with your doctor before going this route, especially if you have gestational diabetes, as one date delivers 18 grams of carbohydrate.
Exercise During the Third Trimester
Exercise might be the last thing on your mind in this trimester as you feel you can barely walk, let alone go to a Spinning class or lift weights. Listen to your body and do what feels best. "Foam rolling, stretching and prenatal yoga can help alleviate pains and aches," says Kayla Mehr, a NASM- and pre- and postnatal-certified personal trainer in Boston. Stay away from tennis, skiing or anything that could take a hit at your belly. Walking is perfect for low-impact cardio.
If you are feeling up for more, you can add some exercises to get ready for the birth day. "To prepare for labor, the best exercise you could do is squats because it opens the pelvic outlet and allows more room for the baby to descend," says Mehr.
Most importantly, "Take each day as its own day and move your body because it feels great and gives you energy, not because you are trying out for the Olympics," says Tara Mazanec, a personal trainer in Boston. "That said, planks, foam rolling and Half Pigeon [pose] definitely helped if my hips started to get cranky."