Simultaneously the longest and shortest three months of the pregnancy. the third trimester is accompanied by all sorts of fun (and not so fun) symptoms and experiences. Most people’s babies are very active by now! Lots of babies will respond to outside stimuli like music or their parents’ voices or even light and dark contrasts! The pregnancy is undeniable and most likely your belly will have “popped out” by now. Unfortunately, lots of unwarranted comments by strangers about “when are you due? Are you *sure* you aren’t having twins?” and *insert some long rambling story about who they were pregnant years go with a side of unsolicited advice*
Heartburn is really common in the end of pregnancy as well as lower back pain, tightness in the belly (partly from stretching skin) and in the last few weeks especially once the baby has “dropped” a feeling of heaviness in the pelvis often referred to as a bowling ball. Frequent night wakings to run to the bathroom often occur (I’m convinced this is the body’s way of gearing up for the newborn phase!) Swelling (edema) in the feet and legs is really common as well! Emotionally, most people now are switching gears from that lovely second trimester “omg I’m pregnant and have energy” to think “crap this is getting real and I’m going to have a baby soon and what does that even look like? Am I ready?” I encourage people to explore their feelings and fears and wishes for birth as well as (and almost more importantly) the 4th trimester or the postpartum period. Any discomforts which have shown up in the beginning of pregnancies will now be exacerbated especially if body awareness, intentional rest , movement, and self care haven’t been a priority until now.
Enter prenatal massage and labor prep sessions! In the 3rd trimester I start all my clients in a semi-declined position, transitioning to the more traditional side-lying for the second half. This gives a couple position changes which can ease discomfort as sitting or laying too long in one position in the end of pregnancy can be uncomfortable. If someone is experiencing heartburn, this position can be a great tool. It also gives me as a massage therapist better access to the front of the pelvis for labor prep massage (more on that here shortly) as well as optimal positioning for some wonderful head neck and shoulder massage! I also do a lot of work in the ribs, allowing for some relief from a baby that is wedged up in there at the end of pregnancy!
I talk to my clients about labor prep massage from the beginning but it typically isn’t started until the 3rd trimester, or if someone has very specific pelvic pain and/or is carrying low. It consists of gentle massage techniques (demo’d on a pelvic model first and with informed consent at the time of the session) across the top of the pelvic bone starting at the middle right above the pubic symphysis and working out to each side and wrapping around to the back of the hips. The abdominal muscles which are quite stretched at this point all attach along this bony “ridge” and massage can help ease the pelvic tightness and road ligament pain and allow for optimal balancing of the muscles from one side to the other, aligning the pelvis and hips in preparation for delivery. I also do some resisted stretches of the hips to further guide the pelvis open and decrease the potential of hip cramps in labor (common when in one birth position for an extended period of time) A comment often made after the stretches is that “I don’t have pregnant hips anymore!”
If you’re pregnant I really recommend getting consistent massages during your pregnancy as it can directly impact your state of mind and labor outcomes and mind-body connection better preparing you for labor and postpartum. Massage is cumulative, like exercising, so the more often and consistent you are, the better you’ll feel!