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Third Trimester of Pregnancy

It may feel as if there's no way your belly can get any bigger, but there's no doubt about it —  it will get bigger over the course of the third trimester of pregnancy. A lot bigger. Here’s what to expect from your body and your rapidly-maturing baby in these final few weeks.

When Does the Third Trimester Start?

The third trimester begins in week 28 of pregnancy and lasts until you give birth, which may be around week 40 of pregnancy. It’s likely, however, that labor will start a couple of weeks earlier or later — in fact, at least 50 percent of all babies are latecomers. If you do make it to (or past) week 40, you can try a few tricks to naturally induce labor on your own. But once you reach week 42 of pregnancy, you’ll be officially considered overdue, at which point your doctor will induce labor if it doesn’t begin on its own.

In the meantime, hang in there! You’re almost to the finish line.

Baby’s Growth during the Third Trimester

Your little one will get a whole lot larger in the third trimester, growing from about 2 1/2 pounds and 16 inches long in week 28 of pregnancy to between 6 and 9 pounds and 19 to 22 inches long in week 40. Indeed, your baby is growing fast — so don't be surprised if his increase in size along with a decrease in living space leads to some serious kicks and pokes in your gut.

Here are a few of the highlights happening in your third trimester of pregnancy:

  • Bones: As your baby transforms cartilage to bone in months 7 and 8, he’ll be getting all of her calcium from you — so be sure to eat plenty of calcium-rich foods.
  • Hair, skin and nails: By week 32 of pregnancy, baby’s formerly see-through skin will become opaque. In week 36, fat continues to accumulate as your baby sheds his vernix (the waxy substance that protects his skin from your amniotic fluid) and lanugo (the hairy coat that keeps him warm in there).
  • Digestive system: In the final weeks of pregnancy, meconium — or baby’s first poop, consisting mostly of blood cells, vernix and lanugo — starts to build up in baby’s intestines.
  • Five Senses: Your baby’s touch receptors will be fully developed around week 29 or week 30. By week 31 of pregnancy, your baby will get signals from all five senses, perceiving light and dark, tasting what you eat, and listening to the sound of your voice.
  • Brain: In the third trimester your baby’s brain will grow faster than ever, test-driving some nifty skills including blinking, dreaming and regulating his own body temperature. 

Around week 34 of pregnancy, baby’s body turns southward, settling into a heads-down, bottom-up position — unless, of course, your baby remains stubbornly in the breech position (in which case your doctor will likely attempt to manually turn baby around week 37).

Changes in Your Body

With that busy baby inside your belly, you're probably feeling lots of fetal activity. You may also be experiencing changes in your body as your bump gets bigger than ever, including:

  • Abdominal achiness: As your round ligaments (which support your lower abdomen) stretch to accommodate your growing bump, you may feel crampy or sharp pain. There’s not much you can do other than take it easy.
  • Fatigue: You’ll feel more zapped this trimester because of the demands pregnancy is putting on your body, so eat well and frequently, stay active and solve pregnancy sleep problems.
  • Heartburn: In the last few weeks of pregnancy, your uterus will push your stomach and its contents upward, causing that persistent burn. If it’s really bothering you, talk to your doctor about proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 blockers, which are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions: Your body’s way of preparing for labor, you’ll start to feel these irregular practice contractions now until real labor starts.
  • Varicose veins: You may notice these bulging veins (including hemorrhoids, which are actually a type of varicose vein) in your lower body due to all of the extra blood you’re pumping. The good news: If you didn’t have them before pregnancy, they’ll likely disappear after you deliver.
  • Stretch marks: These tiny tears, which appear in skin that’s being stretched to the limit during pregnancy, are usually a result of genetics. Moisturize to minimize their appearance.
  • Backache: As the pregnancy hormone relaxin loosens your joints and your growing belly pulls your center of gravity forward, you may start to have an achy back — another reason to put your feet up, literally. (Sharp, shooting pain from your back down your legs, on the other hand, may be a sign of sciatica.)
  • Crazy dreams: Your dreams may be more vivid than ever as you near your due date, likely due in part to pregnancy hormones. They’re totally normal — so take them with a grain of salt and have fun swapping stories with a loved one.
  • Clumsiness: Your hormones are on overdrive, your belly is throwing you off balance and you’re more forgetful than ever. You’re in good (pregnant) company — so just try to be careful and have a sense of humor about it!
  • Lack of bladder control: You sneeze = you pee. Indeed, all that extra weight on your pelvic floor makes it harder to stay dry. To the rescue: Your daily Kegels regimen.
  • Leaky breasts: Your body’s warming up to feed your baby.

With all of these pregnancy symptoms and more weighing on you, just try to keep your eye on the prize: your beautiful baby, who you'll meet in just a few weeks!

Symptoms to Have Checked Out

As D-day approaches, and you may experience false labor symptoms. A few of the real signs of labor to watch out for include:

  • Lightening: By about week 36, you may find yourself waddling as your baby drops in your pelvis. 
  • Bloody show: This stringy mucus tinged pink or brown with blood is a sure sign labor is well on its way. You also may or may not notice the discharge of your mucous plug (which seals off your uterus from the outside world).
  • Labor contractions: Compared to Braxton Hicks contractions, these intensify, rather than diminish, the more you move around.
  • Your water breaking: This may not even happen, however, until you’re already at the hospital.

Your doctor will likely tell you when it’s time to call or head to the hospital — likely around the time active labor starts. Congrats! Baby is on the way soon.

If at any point, however, you experience heavy vaginal bleeding, a fever over 101.5 F, severe lower abdominal pain, sudden weight gain, signs of preterm labor or any other signs that warrant a call to your doctor, don’t hesitate to reach out — you’re always better trusting your instincts and staying on the safe side when you’re expecting.

Third Trimester To-Dos

  • Keep track of fetal movement. From about week 28 on, you’ll want to count baby’s kicks regularly and note any changes in activity, especially during month 9.
  • Watch your weight. Your pregnancy weight gain will pick up speed at the beginning of the third trimester and taper down as your due date nears (you may even lose a pound or two). If you’re not gaining enough (or if you’ve gained too much), work with your doctor to adjust your pregnancy diet to get back on track.
  • Keep moving! As long as you have your practitioner’s OK and you follow a few fitness safety precautions, it’s safe to continue pregnancy-safe exercises up until your due date.
  • Schedule your third trimester checkups. Expect tests for glucose levels, anemia and group B strep in months 7 and 8. In month 9, your practitioner will perform an internal examination of your cervix to see if effacement and dilation (the thinning and opening of your cervix) have begun. If you’re classified as “high-risk,” your doctor may also schedule a biophysical profile or nonstress test in the last few weeks just to be sure everything is proceeding as expected.
  • Take a hospital tour. If you haven’t already, month 7 is a great time to take a tour of the hospital or birthing center where you plan to give birth.
  • Choose your baby’s pediatrician. Interview a few candidates with a list of questions around week 32 and pick your favorite.
  • Buy baby gear. Make sure you have the baby gear essentials — especially a crib, stroller, car seat (which you’ll need to bring your baby home from the hospital), changing table and baby monitor. On that note, take your car seat in to be professionally installed.
  • Get educated. In addition to a childbirth class — which will help you to feel more prepared for the entire birth process — you may also want to consider classes on infant CPR and baby care.
  • Prepare to breastfeed. Read more about why and how to breastfeed before baby arrives, and possibly even take a breastfeeding class. And don’t hesitate to ask your doula or a lactation consultant for help later if you need it.
  • Learn about the stages of labor. Get prepared for baby’s birthday by learning what to expect during early, active and transitional labor as well as pushing baby out and delivering the placenta.
  • Consider how you’d like to manage labor pain. Want an epidural or other medication to manager labor pain? Thinking about having a natural birth, possibly in a birthing tub? Now’s the time to discuss your options with your practitioner.
  • Check your birth plan. From whether or not you want an epidural to when and who cuts baby’s umbilical cord, make or finalize your birth plan. (Just remember, when it comes time to push baby out, not everything always goes exactly as planned — the important part is keeping you and your baby safe and healthy!)
  • Set up your nursery. Get all of the essentials you’ll need for your nursery. And don’t forget baby basics like bottles, baby clothes, diapers, wipes, pacifiers and formula (if you’re not planning to breastfeed).
  • Commemorate your baby bump: Arrange a professional baby bump photo shoot or take some beautiful bump shots of your own — you can hang them in the nursery or add to your baby’s photo album later.
  • Stock your fridge. You may want to whip up a few meals to keep in your freezer for the first few weeks, when you’ll be busy with a new baby and recovering from birth.
  • Plan financially. Consider the costs of having a baby and start following a new family budget accordingly.
  • Pack your hospital bag. Pack light — but don’t forget a few comforts from home that you’ll want to have with you at the hospital.
  • Arrange for cord blood banking. If you’re considering cord blood banking — public or private — be sure your practitioner is aware of your plans, and don’t forget to pack any cord blood kit the bank sends you in your hospital bag.
  • Learn what happens after birth. Read up on what happens in the first 24 hours after birth as your body repairs and you begin to adjust to your new role.
  • Prepare for baby’s first year. Learn more about all the exciting milestones that happen in baby’s first year of life — there’s so much to look forward to!

Getting excited? You should be — it won't be long now until you meet your baby!

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5 Ways to Go Green Before Baby Arrives

When I first found out I was pregnant, I immediately started to prepare for our little one’s arrival.

After reading many of the baby books and listening to advice, I wanted to make sure our home was safe for baby — and that didn’t mean just babyproofing. It meant making sure we were creating a greener environment for our bundle of joy.

There are several eco-friendly ways that you can prepare for your baby before they arrive, heres how we did it.

  1. Take a look at the products you are using in the household.
  2. I did a lot of research on what to look for on the label when purchasing cleaning products in the house. I made a conscious effort to buy greener laundry detergent, household cleaner, and dish soap, so that I wouldn’t risk exposing harmful chemicals to my little one.

  3. Have your guests take off their shoes at the door.
  4. Your little one will be spending a lot of time on the floor of your home. Whether it’s learning to roll over or crawling all over, their hands and feet with come into close contact with the floor often. To avoid spreading anything dangerous from the outside to inside of your home, have both you and the guests that come over take off their shoes. This creates a cleaner environment in your home and helps protect your baby.

  5. Use a low- or non-VOC paint when getting baby’s nursery ready.
  6. Decorating a nursery for my little one is one of my fondest memories. It was so much fun to pick out the decor and the color theme. One thing that I made sure of when picking out a paint color was that there were little to no chemicals being emitted when we painted. If my baby was going to sleep in this room every night, I wanted to make sure that it was a safe environment for him.

  7. Shop for baby products that can be used for extended periods of time.
  8. Shopping for baby products is so much fun. We wanted to make sure that we got the most out of the baby gear that we purchased, so I made sure to look for products that we could use much longer than just the first year. We bought a crib that we could use for both a toddler bed and a big-kid bed. The bottles that we bought could easily convert into sippy cups once our baby was ready to transition. The stroller that we bought could last us well into the toddler years. We also used hand-me-down clothes from family members and close friends. It’s important to do the research on baby products to see just how long you will use them.

  9. Keep the air clean.
  10. It’s important that you and your little one are breathing clean air. Use an air purifier and buy indoor plants to help keep the air clean inside your household. Not only will the plants add decor, but they will also help remove pollutants from the air.

Image: DisneyBaby

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Prenatal Yoga Basics

Yoga, an ancient Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline — which focuses on controlling breath, simple meditation, and the practice of specific body postures — can be a great asset to pregnant women. The gentle stretches, connection to self, and strength-building postures all work to help expectant moms stay relaxed and fit throughout their pregnancy.

Maintaining a regular yoga practice, even if only for 5-10 minutes a day, can be an incredible way for pregnant women to build physical and mental strength. Taking the time to get in touch with your body now can also be of great benefit later during labor and delivery.

Although the benefits of yoga can be wonderful for you and your pregnancy, be sure to speak with your doctor before starting any prenatal exercise program.

Getting started: Trimester-by-Trimester Tips

You’ll need to modify your yoga practice slightly throughout your pregnancy. Here are a few important trimester-specific prenatal tips:

  1. First trimester yoga:
    “(Until) the belly pops out, women can maintain their regular yoga practices, with the exception of Bikram and other hot yoga styles,” says author Helene Byrne, a prenatal and postpartum fitness and exercise specialist and founder of BeFit-Mom (befitmom.com).

  2. Second trimester yoga:
    “In the second trimester, flow style yoga, as opposed to static poses, is best,” Byrne says. “This keeps mom from experiencing drops in blood pressure due to pooling of blood in the lower extremities.”

  3. Third trimester yoga:
    “This is a perfect time to listen to your body and honor its natural rhythm — which is a great practice to prepare for labor and childbirth,” advises Heidi Jae Mireles a trained birth doula and certified yoga instructor. On days when you feel strong and active, do a yoga practice that cultivates those qualities. On days when your energy is low, do a slower, gentler practice.

Prenatal yoga do’s and don’ts

Moms-to-be should always check with their OBGYN before beginning or continuing any exercise program. Be sure to speak with your doctor and discuss specific questions or ask about good modifications to try. Additionally, the following tips can help ensure your sessions are safe and effective.

Popular prenatal yoga poses

A multitude of yoga positions are beneficial and safe to practice throughout your pregnancy, says Lai. To learn these basic poses, check with your yoga instructor or ask your doctor for suggestions for safe online resources and tutorials. The following are some of Lai’s favorite poses for moms-to-be:

  1. Cat and cow.
    These pelvic tilts are good late in term; this posture helps to shift the baby's weight away from your spine, alleviating lower back pain. This pose also encourages your baby to move into an ideal birth position.

  2. Standing side bends.
    This posture gives space to the side body and rib cage.

  3. Warrior 2
    A standing pose, the Warrior 2 helps to build both strength and endurance.

  4. Downward-facing dog (regular or at the wall).
    One of the most popular yoga poses, downward-facing dog helps lengthen the spine and opens hamstrings.

  5. Cat balance.
    This yoga posture is a safe and effective way to strengthen your core.

  6. Legs-up-the-wall pose.
    If you don’t have issues with high blood pressure, this posture is very calming, reduces fatigue, and also reduces swelling in the legs.

Image: Thinkstock.

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Simple DIY Projects for the Nesting Mom-To-Be

As baby’s due date approaches, you will find yourself eyeing the empty space that will become your baby’s nursery. The desire to start setting up furniture, prettying the walls, and staging the various areas for reading, changing, sleeping and organizing, is a nesting instinct that is completely natural. But, you don’t have to go on a massive shopping spree in order to create the perfect room for your baby.

Instead, try some DIY projects that will allow you to satisfy your nesting urges and personalize your baby’s nursery.

Artwork is one of the easiest DIY projects to complete. One idea is to take your baby shower cards and use a stencil to cut out the messages and images from particularly special cards. Using a round circle stencil or a heart stencil will allow you to create uniform shapes. Glue these on to a foam core or poster board and frame the entire piece to hang in the nursery.

Other ideas for simple DIY artwork in the nursery include printing baby pictures of relatives to frame on the walls, finding nursery rhyme illustrations online and printing them out on card stock, and using large alphabet puzzle pieces from thrift stores to spell out baby’s name.

There are many ways to customize existing furniture to repurpose in a baby’s nursery.  You can turn a bookcase into a clothes organizer by removing the upper shelves and installing a tension rod to hang clothes. Small baskets on the lower shelves can hold tiny items like baby socks, receiving blankets, burp cloths, and onesies. Use pretty, patterned contact paper to line the back of the bookcase and the shelves for an easy design refresh. Always make sure to secure dressers and bookcases to the wall with anchors and to latch lower drawers to prevent children from pulling them out or climbing on them. Check out The Safe Nursery check list from CPSC for more safety tips.

Don’t throw out the cardboard boxes your diapers come in. Cut the tops off of the boxes and cover the boxes in fabric that matches your nursery. Refill the boxes with your diapers so you have your stash at the ready, but now they’ll be in a DIY decorative container.

Instead of spending a fortune on custom window treatments you can purchase plain or printed flat twin size sheets. You may even be able to find patterns that coordinate with your crib bedding. Most flat sheets have a hemmed upper edge, which you can snip open on either side. Simply slide a curtain rod through the now open pocket and you’ve got curtains that can easily be thrown in the washing machine when they get dirty. Remember to keep baby safe by never putting a crib, child bed, or furniture near window blinds or drapery where baby can easily grab and pull on them.

Giving in to your natural desire to start nesting can be a really fun and rewarding part of your pregnancy. By implementing some DIY projects you will also feel as if you are creating a truly personalized, safe, and unique space for your baby, that will reflect how excited you are to welcome this new addition to your family. 

Image: Getty

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Easy Pregnancy Beauty Tips to Make You Feel Great

Moms-to-be can crave some of the most unusual foods and food combinations during pregnancy. Check out what these moms loved to snack on while waiting for their babies to arrive.

Many moms have stories about unusual foods they craved during pregnancy — from the stereotypical pickles and ice cream to ice cubes to super-tart lemonade. The stories are as varied as the women who experienced them. Here’s a look at what some expectant moms craved most during their pregnancies.

Like mother, like daughter.

Tamecca Tillard, a Brooklyn, New York, mother of two boys, inherited her mother’s cravings for mango. “My mom's preference was green mangos; mine was ripe mangos,” Tillard says. “I also got really into ice and seltzers in my second pregnancy. I have not been able to kick the ice since the birth of my last son, Barack.”

Tillard also shares that her mom craved chocolate when she was in utero. “This craving became part of my ‘creation’ story because I have a large birthmark that starts on my shoulder and descends down my right arm.”

Favorite fruit.

“I had a craving for fresh pineapple, not canned,” shares Anna Gamel, mom to a boy and a girl in Meridian, Idaho. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I asked for it on the side at restaurants, cooked it into all my meals or put it on the side for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I even started dipping it in melted chocolate for a daily dessert. I would even choose restaurants based on their pineapple availability.”

Salty and sweet combo.

“I craved french fries dipped in root beer during my third trimester,” confides Cori Magnotta, a Portland, Connecticut-based mother of one who’s currently planning for baby No. 2. “My son is now almost 2 and goes crazy when he occasionally gets to have french fries as a treat,” she adds.

Perfect pretzels.

“When I was pregnant with my older son, I craved a very particular thing: mustard-flavored pretzels,” says Jennifer Reich, a Hellertown, Pennsylvania, mother of two boys. “I normally don’t like them, but I loved them when I was pregnant.” Reich started craving them again 21 months later — and suspected correctly that another baby was on the way.

Pickles and…

Kelli Eason Brignac from Lake Charles, Louisiana, who just gave birth to a girl in November, shares: “Early in my pregnancy I was pretty sick and was eating crackers and macaroni and cheese. Somehow that led to me having a thing for nacho cheese . . . like the melty cheese that comes in a jar or is served at Mexican restaurants.”

“One day we were out of crackers, chips and all other crunchy items while I was hunting for something to dip in my cheese,” Eason Brignac says. “I had also recently developed a stereotypical taste for pickles. So I dipped my dill pickle spears in nacho cheese — and it was delicious! My husband and all my friends thought it was disgusting and made no sense. But I ate that for probably the first six months of my pregnancy and loved every bite.”

Image: Thinkstock.com

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Dad's Guide to Pregnancy

Congratulations, dad-to-be! You’ve just found out you’re going to have a baby. But what happens between now and the day your child is born? And what kind of emotional and physical changes will you and your partner experience over the coming months? Our guide will help you manage the ups and downs of pregnancy like a veteran.

For first-time fathers, pregnancy can be something of a mystery. Mom-to-Be will go through a host of dramatic physical and emotional changes. As her partner, how can you help — and what types of things are important for you to know and expect? We’ve collected some common questions and answers to help guide you through the coming months.

What can I do to help my partner manage morning sickness?

In the early weeks of pregnancy, your partner may feel ill. Although coined “morning sickness” many women feel sick throughout the day. “Remind your partner to nibble on something easy to stomach like crackers throughout the day and avoid exposing her to smells that could trigger nausea,” says Samantha Van Vleet, a birth doula and childbirth educator.

Is it OK to be intimate with my partner during pregnancy?

For most couples, it is perfectly safe to participate in sexually intimate relationships throughout pregnancy. However, it is best for you to speak with your doctor or midwife to find out if your partner might have any complications that would make sex not advisable.

What types of physical changes will my partner experience during pregnancy?

“Common changes in pregnancy include swelling of the stomach and the breasts, and itchy skin,” says Van Vleet. Additionally, she may experience backache, headache, and edema (swelling of the legs).

When can I find out if we're having a boy or a girl?

You should be able to determine the gender of your baby around your 20th week. Most pregnant women have a mid-pregnancy around this time, and an experience sonogram technician will be able to help you discern the gender of your little one.

Should I plan on attending childbirth classes?

Childbirth classes are key for you and your partner to attend together. There are several kinds of classes to choose from — and some sessions are even compressed, so that you can learn what you need to know in one longer weekend class. Most often, couples attend classes at the hospital where birth will take place, so you can see the labor and delivery, and recovery rooms.

What dietary do’s & don'ts should I be aware of?

“It is important for pregnant women to avoid consuming foods that could be a risk for listeria, such as deli meats, soft cheeses and unpasteurized juice and milk,” cautions Van Vleet. “Listeria infection could cause serious complications and fetal death. If your partner wants these foods, check with her doctor for any dietary restrictions or to discuss questions.

What can I do to help my partner manage mood swings?

Your partner is experience surges of hormones, crazy physical changes, and preparing to become a mom. Her moods may be erratic. Try to be patient and understanding.

When will I be able to start feeling our baby kick in my partner's belly?

Your partner — and you — should start to feel baby kick sometime between the 16th and 25th weeks of pregnancy, but for some first-time moms, this “quickening”, or kicking, isn’t felt until closer to the 25th week.

What happens if we go past my partner's due date?

You and your partner might be worried as your due date falls days behind. Try to go with the flow, keep busy, and help your partner stay comfortable. Some other things you can do include:

  • Help her exercise. Swimming and walking a great ways for her to stay fit. Consider going for a nice, long walk together. Some doctors say that exercise can help trigger labor and delivery.
  • Make sure she gets lots of rest. Help your partner avoid eating too late in the day, and move TVs and digital devices out of the bedroom.
  • Encourage her to eat right. Maintaining a healthy diet right now is key. If she can stomach it, suggest she try spicy foods – folklore suggests they may hasten delivery!
  • Plan ahead. Use this extra time to prepare for your new baby!
  • Stay in touch with your partner's doctor. Keep your partner's doc on speed dial – and don't hesitate to contact him or her with any questions or concerns the two of you might have.

Image: Thinkstock.

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Pregnancy Sleeping Tips

Getting some much needed rest while you’re pregnant can be a challenge. Whether it’s hormonal changes, physical discomfort, nervousness or excitement — the odds sometimes seem stacked against you. Our expert tips can help you finally get some much needed shut eye.

A variety of factors contribute to sleep discomfort throughout pregnancy, but many can be easily managed. Follow our advice and tips and you should be nodding off in no time.

Make the room the perfect temperature:

Make sure your bedroom temperature is optimal for sleep. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF; sleepfoundation.org) suggests about 65 F for a great night’s sleep.

Stay on schedule.

Create a daily schedule for yourself and stick to it. Get up around the same time, try to exercise around the same time, and maintain a steady bedtime.

Here’s a good schedule to shoot for:

  1. Get up every morning at the same time (example: 7 a.m.)
  2. Expose your eyes to natural light in the morning to help restart your circadian clock.
  3. Dim the lights and limit exposure to blue light after 7 p.m.
  4. Go to bed at about the same time every night (example: 11 p.m.).
  5. Continue to avoid blue light throughout the night.

Hydrate at the right times.

It is important to drink plenty of fluids during pregnancy, especially during the day. But because your uterus is pressing against your bladder, you may find yourself running to the bathroom more often. To help lessen the need to get up at night, reduce the amount of water and other liquids you drink in the few hours leading up to bedtime.

Nix bedtime snacks.

Eating before bedtime affects sleep quality. Pregnant women should avoid sugar, caffeine, simple carbs — all of which can be too stimulating prior to bed. And, of course, avoid alcohol.

Prevent heartburn.

Sometimes lying down can contribute to heartburn when you’re pregnant. To prevent this, don’t get prone until at least a couple hours after eating. If heartburn is a problem, you can try elevating your head with pillows while you sleep. Avoid spicy, fried, or acidic foods like tomato products — these often can worsen heartburn. Note: Talk to your doctor if you experience consistent heartburn while pregnant.

Exercise at the right time.

If your doctor has given you the green light for exercise, working out can help you sleep better at night. Schedule your sessions for the morning and avoid pre-bed workouts, as the latter can disrupt sleep.

Sleep on your left side.

The NSF recommends that you sleep on your left side during your third trimester. This allows for the best blood flow to the fetus and to your uterus and kidneys. Avoid lying flat on your back for a long period of time. Also, if you’re having trouble getting comfy in bed, consider obtaining a "pregnancy" pillow or use regular pillows to help support your body.

Take a nap.

Catching a couple extra Zzzs during the day may help you sleep better at night. An NSF poll found that 51 percent of pregnant or recently pregnant women reported at least one weekday nap; 60 percent reported at least one weekend nap.

Try hydrotherapy.

Indulge in a warm bath or shower before you go to bed. The water can help you relax, unwind, and slip away to dreamland more quickly.

Image:Thinkstock

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Pregnancy Workouts: Tips for Your Whole Pregnancy

For expectant moms, exercise is key — it helps to keep mom healthy, can help her sleep better, and has lasting benefits for baby, too. But often, pregnant moms who’ve been given the green light to work out by their doctors still worry about which exercises are OK and which they should avoid. We polled fitness pros to get the lowdown on pregnancy exercise do’s and don’ts.

There are a multitude of ways doctor-approved exercise benefits your pregnancy and even your unborn child. “Exercise can alleviate certain symptoms, notably fatigue and edema (swelling), excessive weight gain, back pain, morning sickness, and gestational diabetes,” says Amanda Dale, an ACE-certified personal trainer and nutritionist.

Additionally, “Women who have made exercise part of their lifestyle during pregnancy are more likely to continue exercising after the baby is born,” says Adriana Welborn, a personal trainer and ACE Health Coach.

Please note: All pregnant women, even those who have previously been exercising, should have a physician's approval before undertaking any workout program.

Exercise prep for expectant moms

Once you have the go-ahead to engage in prenatal exercise, keep these tips in mind to ensure you’re exercising safely:

  • Stay hydrated.
  • “Be careful of overheating and drink lots of water,” says Minna Herskowitz, a certified personal trainer specializing in pre- and postnatal fitness.

  • Stay off your back.
  • Avoid lying on your back in your second and third trimesters. During the latter part of pregnancy, the weight of your uterus presses against the major vein that circulates blood from your lower body to your heart. Staying in this position for long periods of time can make you feel a little dizzy — and restricts the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the placenta and your baby.

  • Know when to call your doctor.
  • If you experience bleeding during or immediately after exercise, feel faint or overheated, or experience swelling of the lower extremities, cease all workouts and you seek immediate medical attention as these can be symptomatic of fetal distress, strain, or blood clots, advises Dale.

  • Exercises to avoid.
  • “Contraindicated movements include anything that risks overstretching an already hyperflexible body, exercises that are done in a very hot room, activities that risk impact or falling, or intense abdominal contracting exercises,” says Dale. During pregnancy, your body produces extra relaxin, a hormone that makes your ligaments much more flexible. As a result, skip things like hot yoga, cycling, skiing, boxing, biking, and horseback riding.

Trimester tips for moms-to-be

“A pregnancy exercise can consist of anything low-to-moderate intensity, including swimming, yoga, Pilates, and light weights,” says Herskowitz. Try alternating your workouts between yoga and Pilates, water exercises, walking, and strength training with a certified trainer. Here’s an overview of some of our favorite trimester-by-trimester workout advice:

    First trimester

    “Women can basically continue the forms of exercise they were doing before becoming pregnant at this stage,” says Colleen Riddle, a certified AFPA (American Fitness Professionals and Associates) pre- and postnatal; exercise specialist and creator of the DVD series “New Mommy Makeover.” Some women may feel early pregnancy symptoms during this time, and queasiness may slow your workouts, so take it easy and do only what feels good.

    Riddle adds that this is the perfect trimester in which to focus on strengthening core muscles. “Planks are one of the best core-building exercises and can be done all the way throughout the pregnancy,” she says.

    Second trimester

    For many women, this is the best trimester of pregnancy. Morning sickness has subsided, your belly is starting to show, and you may have renewed energy. In addition to working on core strength, “It’s also important to work on building strength in the upper back, hips, and glutes. With a growing belly and breasts, your upper back and shoulders will tire easily,” says Riddle. “That’s why it’s also important to stretch the chest muscles, as well.”

    Third trimester

    You’re in the homeward stretch! Because of your belly’s growing size and the aches and pains that come with having a nearly full-term baby, exercise may be difficult. Also, after the fifth month, you hips’ range of motion can be restricted. Take things slow during this trimester.

    If you feel up to it, work on strengthening your lower body. “Leg strengthening exercises (like squats with a ball) will help strengthen quadriceps and reduce risk of injury to your knees,” suggests Riddle.

Additionally, the following workouts are safe for you to do throughout your pregnancy, with your doctor’s permission:

  • Pilates.
  • “Pilates is one of the best and safest exercise programs that a woman can do both during pregnancy and after giving birth,” says Eurona Tilley, a Prenatal & Postnatal Pilates Specialist. “Pilates helps prepare the body for delivery and promotes a quick recovery after delivery,” she adds.

  • Barre.
  • Barre clases include a combination of Pilates, dance, yoga and functional training. “Barre-based interval training and stretching helps prenatal clients alleviate circulation issues, reduce low back discomfort and improve overall mood during and after pregnancy,” says Sharon Demko, lead instructor and vice president of teacher development with The Bar Method.

  • Swimming and water exercises.
  • “Water exercise can decrease swelling in the lower body and relieve impact-related aches and pains in the joints,” recommends Dale.

  • Prenatal yoga.
  • “Yoga provides a mild, gentle workout that energizes while promoting relaxation, both of which benefit pregnant women,” says Welborn. A prenata; yoga class can be especially beneficial, as your instructor and classmates are all keyed into your specific fitness needs and contraindications.

  • Walking.
  • Whether it be in your neighborhood or on a treadmill, walking is a great way for women to get some valuable cardio exercise during pregnancy.

Image: Thinkstock.

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pregnant woman eating a pickle

Moms Tell All: The Funniest Pregnancy Craving

Moms-to-be can crave some of the most unusual foods and food combinations during pregnancy. Check out what these moms loved to snack on while waiting for their babies to arrive.

Many moms have stories about unusual foods they craved during pregnancy — from the stereotypical pickles and ice cream to ice cubes to super-tart lemonade. The stories are as varied as the women who experienced them. Here’s a look at what some expectant moms craved most during their pregnancies.

Like mother, like daughter.

Tamecca Tillard, a Brooklyn, New York, mother of two boys, inherited her mother’s cravings for mango. “My mom's preference was green mangos; mine was ripe mangos,” Tillard says. “I also got really into ice and seltzers in my second pregnancy. I have not been able to kick the ice since the birth of my last son, Barack.”

Tillard also shares that her mom craved chocolate when she was in utero. “This craving became part of my ‘creation’ story because I have a large birthmark that starts on my shoulder and descends down my right arm.”

Favorite fruit.

“I had a craving for fresh pineapple, not canned,” shares Anna Gamel, mom to a boy and a girl in Meridian, Idaho. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I asked for it on the side at restaurants, cooked it into all my meals or put it on the side for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I even started dipping it in melted chocolate for a daily dessert. I would even choose restaurants based on their pineapple availability.”

Salty and sweet combo.

“I craved french fries dipped in root beer during my third trimester,” confides Cori Magnotta, a Portland, Connecticut-based mother of one who’s currently planning for baby No. 2. “My son is now almost 2 and goes crazy when he occasionally gets to have french fries as a treat,” she adds.

Perfect pretzels.

“When I was pregnant with my older son, I craved a very particular thing: mustard-flavored pretzels,” says Jennifer Reich, a Hellertown, Pennsylvania, mother of two boys. “I normally don’t like them, but I loved them when I was pregnant.” Reich started craving them again 21 months later — and suspected correctly that another baby was on the way.

Pickles and…

Kelli Eason Brignac from Lake Charles, Louisiana, who just gave birth to a girl in November, shares: “Early in my pregnancy I was pretty sick and was eating crackers and macaroni and cheese. Somehow that led to me having a thing for nacho cheese . . . like the melty cheese that comes in a jar or is served at Mexican restaurants.”

“One day we were out of crackers, chips and all other crunchy items while I was hunting for something to dip in my cheese,” Eason Brignac says. “I had also recently developed a stereotypical taste for pickles. So I dipped my dill pickle spears in nacho cheese — and it was delicious! My husband and all my friends thought it was disgusting and made no sense. But I ate that for probably the first six months of my pregnancy and loved every bite.”

Image: Thinkstock.com

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Pregnant belly with a cell phone

Signs that Baby's on the Way

Labor doesn’t happen out of the blue. These seven early signs will tell you that your baby’s birthday is approaching.

  1. Baby heads south
    A few weeks before you go into labor, your baby will move head-first into your pelvis. You’ll know that has happened when you can breathe more easily (because baby has shifted away from your lungs) but pee more often (baby’s head is pushing on your bladder.)

  2. Your cervix dilates
    Your cervix gets ready for birth by opening (dilating) and thinning (effacing). How will you know it’s happening? Your provider will do an internal exam to track it at your weekly check-ups.

  3. More cramps and back pain
    Especially if this is not your first pregnancy, you may feel some crampiness and pain in your lower back and groin as labor nears. (Ugh, right?) But that’s normal as your muscles and joints stretch and shift to get ready for birth.

  4. Looser joints
    Are you feeling a bit more loosey-goosey? That’s because the hormone relaxin has made all of your ligaments soften and loosen (and may account for your clumsiness lately!) It’s nature’s way of opening your pelvis to accommodate your little one.

  5. Diarrhea
    Yes, it’s annoying, but unfortunately, normal. Just as the muscles in your uterus are relaxing in preparation for birth, so are other muscles in your body — including those in your rectum.. Stay hydrated and remember it’s a good sign!

  6. You stop gaining weight (or lose pounds)
    Weight gain tends to level off at the very end of pregnancy. Some moms-to-be even lose a couple of pounds, much to the delight of your feet. This is normal and won’t affect your baby’s birth weight. He’s still gaining, but you’re losing due to lower levels of amniotic fluid, more potty breaks and even increased activity (see #7).

  7. Feeling extra-tired...or an urge to nest
    Your super-size belly and squished bladder can make it hard (even impossible) to get a good night’s sleep during the last days and weeks of pregnancy. Pile on those pillows and take naps during the day if you possibly can! That is, unless you’re feeling the opposite of fatigued: Some moms get a burst of energy as birth-day nears, and can’t resist cleaning and organizing everything in sight. That’s okay; just don’t overdo it.

In the hours before labor begins, you’ll experience discharging of your mucus plug (bloody show), labor contractions and possibly your water breaking — all signs labor is hours away. Your doctor has probably told you when to call (for example, when contractions become regular, five minutes apart for at least an hour.) In the meantime, hang in there. Baby’s coming!

WhatToExpect.com

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