Pilates during pregnancy. When you find out you’re pregnant you are opened up to a whole new arena of advice and rules. It can feel pretty daunting and confusing. And the last thing you want to do is cause any harm to you or your baby. This is why exercising during pregnancy can feel like a minefield. Google searches can pull up conflicting advice. And so many women simply stop exercising altogether for fear of doing the wrong thing. This is one of the saddest things as for so many women exercise is their therapy. It’s their time for themselves and the activity that helps them socialise with others.
Most exercise is perfectly safe when you’re pregnant (unless you have a high-risk pregnancy and have been contraindicated). I have found exercising during my pregnancy has helped me manage symptoms such as morning sickness, back ache and sleeplessness, and helped me stay positive throughout. The main exercise I have used throughout my pregnancy has been Pilates. And it’s not hard to understand why Pilates during pregnancy is so beneficial. Pilates is often recommended by midwives and doctors during pregnancy. And, when exercising during those 10 precious months can seem like a bit of a minefield, it’s understandable that many mums-to-be aren’t sure what to do. I can’t recommend Pilates highly enough during pregnancy and there are so many reasons but here are my top 5.
1. Pilates during pregnancy is low impact
Pilates does not involve jumping around. It tends to be performed lying or seated (which is heaven during pregnancy). It involves controlled careful movements. And, it does not cause high impact on the body like other workouts would. During pregnancy around 64% of women can suffer with urinary incontinence. This is usually caused by the downward pressure from the weight of your baby.So, low impact exercise is really appreciated during this time. I’ve found that I am needing to pee far more frequently and bouncing around is not enjoyable with a full bladder! Changes occurring in the joints of the body also don’t appreciate impactful activities so Pilates is a very safe, yet effective form of exercise to take part in, particularly if you are suffering from pelvic girdle pain or SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction).
2. Pilates during pregnancy can protect your posture
Pregnancy causes all sorts of weird and wonderful changes to our bodies. Aside from the obvious visual changes (goodbye ankles, hello leaky nipples) our body is also working on producing various hormones that will help the joints soften and become more lax ready for birth. One of these hormones, Relaxin, is really helpful for labour but can cause huge shifts in our posture during pregnancy.
Pilates works the muscles that help to prevent huge deviations in your posture and can help support your back and pelvis as your bump grows. Many of the exercises in Pilates work the core and glutes which you’ll find particularly helpful in labour. And a strong body will fatigue slower and help you with an active labour if that’s what you wish. We also focus on strengthening the muscles you’ll be using a lot post-labour when you’re looking down at your beautiful baby. The more you can prepare now, the better.
3. Pilates during pregnancy helps you focus on your breath
In Pilates we move with the breath (If you haven’t read my blog on The Pilates Breath you can do so HERE). This means that we pay attention to it, we don’t hold on to it and we notice how the breath can cause muscles to tighten and relax. This awareness of the breath is really important during labour too. You will be taught breathing techniques in ante-natal classes, or hypnobirthing, before birth. Taking an hour out of your day to focus on your breath will be great preparation for labour. You might also find that during pregnancy you struggle to switch off. With all the to-do lists and appointments it can be hard to find time for yourself. I have found that my Pilates practice is a time to be selfish and think of only me and my body, and almost forget the mammoth, yet amazing, task ahead of me.
4. Pilates during pregnancy helps reduce aches and pains
Anyone who has been pregnant will know that aches and pains are pretty standard during pregnancy. As mentioned in point two your posture will naturally be changing. But, you might also be having to sleep differently (no more lying on your back which I loved) or find you walk differently to get comfortable. For this reason, the body can start to get tighter in areas such as the lower back, upper back and hip flexors. Pilates works on moving and stretching the body in all its potential directions and helps to loosen off tight muscles. If you’ve noticed you’re starting to move less, or in strange ways, Pilates can help to counteract the effects of this and prevent the discomfort that comes with it. I suffer with lordosis, which is only made worse by the weight of my bump. So, the lumbar flexion exercises in Pilates have felt incredible.
5. Pilates during pregnancy strengthens your pelvic floor
Need we say more? As mentioned in point one the pelvic floor takes an absolute battering during pregnancy. In an ideal world we would all start with a strong pelvic floor before pregnancy. But, this isn’t always possible and you might not know the strength of your pelvic floor until it’s put under pregnancy strain. In Pilates we focus a lot on core strength and this incorporates the pelvic floor. There is an awareness of pelvic floor activation in Pilates that can help keep it in check during pregnancy and help strengthen it ready for labour. A strong, functional pelvic floor is quicker to heal post-labour so it’s really worth putting the effort in during pregnancy.
In our sessions we describe the muscles and area of the pelvic floor so that our clients can visualise it better. But, if you don’t yet know enough about your pelvic floor make it your mission. Following Instagram accounts such as @pelvicfloorpatrol or downloading the ‘Squeezy App’ can really help. I have personally been using the Elvie Pelvic Trainer throughout my pregnancy and have found the biofeedback it gives really helpful. It shows you, via an app on your phone, how effective your pelvic floor contractions are. And, it helps you to work out if you are performing them correctly. If you are interested in buying one yourself head here use the code HOLLIE20 at checkout to receive a 20% discount.
There are a few things I would recommend you consider when choosing to practice Pilates during pregnancy. Please make sure you choose an instructor who has pre-natal Pilates training. As there are alterations that must be made to your practice when pregnant that only those with training would know.
From around week 12-16 the recommendations are to avoid lying on your back for prolonged periods of time. So, make sure if you are practicing Pilates at home you keep changing position and avoid supine (and prone) exercises. Whilst your abdominals are naturally separating as you grow you want to avoid working the rectus abdominis. So, avoid any exercises that incorporate thoracic flexion such as ab prep, single leg stretch etc. And finally always remind your instructor how many weeks you are so they can adapt the sessions to best suit you. It’s easy when we have hundreds of clients to remember everyone’s exact due dates.
I hope you enjoy Pilates during pregnancy as much as I have and if you’d like to learn more, or practice Pilates at home, I can highly recommend Anya Hayes book ‘Pilates for Pregnancy’ for more information.
- Perineal Massage: What is it and is it Worth the Hassle?
- Pelvic Floor Pregnancy: Everything You Need to Know
- Diastasis Recti Abdominis: What it is & How to Identify it
If you enjoyed reading this article on Pilates During Pregnancy and would like to discover more about prenatal fitness and your changing body I would love you to check out my pregnancy exercise program ‘The Bump Plan’ for FREE today – simply click here to get started