“The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy.” — Joseph Pilates
The Benefits of Pre-Natal Pilates for a More Comfortable Pregnancy
This sounds great and all, but what if you’re growing a tiny human? Where the very idea of being at the mercy of all the myriad of changes that are happening in your body is very real? Is it possible to be in control when, during pregnancy, your body seems simply out of your control?
The answer is yes! You can feel good in your body as a mom-to-be. The benefits of pre-natal Pilates can help you get there.
Strengthen Your Body and Mind for Motherhood with Pre-Natal Pilates
There are many benefits to practicing pre-natal Pilates during and after pregnancy. It’s not only great for strengthening the body but also the mind, as its legendary creator, Joseph Pilates, used to tout. Pilates focuses a lot on the mind/body connection and the breath. Both of which are extremely helpful during labor. Pilates is an excellent low-impact form of exercise, ideal for pregnancy, focusing on posture, stability, strength and flexibility.
The physical benefits of pre-natal Pilates
While pregnant Pilates can:
● Help eliminate or reduce episodes of low- back pain, and other pregnancy related ailments.
● Promote blood flow to the fetus.
● Improve posture.
● Reduce stress, increase energy levels and promote good mood, decreasing the likelihood of postpartum depression.
● Condition the pelvic floor which helps to prevent urinary incontinence.
● Reduce the chance of developing diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal wall)
● Provide conditioning for labor and birth.
● Provide overall balance, strength and stability preventing pregnancy related falls.
● Create empowering, confidence-building habits for life and healthy, resilient healing after pregnancy.
Is Pilates safe to practice during pregnancy?
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) says that physical activity does NOT increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. In fact, the ACOG recommends modified Pilates before, during and after pregnancy (except women going through IVF or prescribed bed rest).
Research has shown that a Pre-natal Pilates program done 2-3 times a week can result in:
- Increased pelvic floor muscle strength which resulted in a reduction of necessary episiotomies
- A reduction in the use of epidural analgesia
- A reduction in the number of cesarean sections and difficult births
- No risks to the newborn
The recommended time to start your pre-natal Pilates practice is 6 months pre-conception but anytime during your pregnancy is a good time to start, even in the first trimester. Take it easy, listen to your body, and use the props and modifications given to you by an experienced Pilates instructor. And of course get the all clear from your doctor before you start.
Continuing your Pilates practice after you’ve had the baby (known as the 4th trimester) will help you heal faster, regain your core strength and improve your mood.
Ok, so I should do pre-natal Pilates but what is modified Pilates?
The number one thing to remember while practicing pre-natal Pilates is moderation. You’re not training for the olympics. Significant muscle gain is unlikely. Gentle conditioning and stability are the goals. Pre-natal Pilates can be done on the mat with some simple modifications. Reformer Pilates is an excellent low-impact option and is best done (and safest) as private sessions with pregnancy.
There are a number of hormones surging through your body during pregnancy causing all kinds of changes.
One of them, the hormone Relaxin, increases your flexibility to allow for things to stretch as the baby grows and during childbirth. This is why you need to avoid overstretching. Doctors are very quick to prescribe Yoga as a form of exercise, which definitely has its benefits, but Pilates is the best choice as it targets the muscles needed for stability and strength through pregnancy and the healing process afterwards.
Obviously as your bump gets bigger you will want to avoid anything lying on your stomach and also any abdominal work that requires flexion or curling up. (Think sit-ups).
During the second and third trimester you will also want to avoid lying flat on your back for anything longer than a few minutes as this can put pressure on the vein that provides the main blood supply to the fetus.
This is unlikely, so don’t worry too much. Also, you’ll probably get dizzy before this happens!
Focus on breath work, especially lateral thoracic breathing or umbrella breathing. Essentially, breathing into the sides of the ribs and the upper back, which helps when the growing baby takes up so much room it makes it harder to get a good deep breath. Breathing and mindfulness during exercise also helps to calm and relax you, reducing stress and anxiety, promoting good sleep and increasing energy levels. All very much needed when pregnant!
Breathing exercises can also help with circulation and digestion, helping with constipation and swollen ankles which can occur in mamas-to be.
Exercises for the pelvic floor (the muscles you use to stop the flow of pee) in pre-natal Pilates will help with incontinence during and after pregnancy, and managing intra-abdominal pressure when healing issues like diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal wall) and pelvic organ prolapse. Glute work is also important as firming up your bootie will help support you when your core cannot. Exercises that support everyday movement will keep you functionally fit.
“Hugging the baby” up and into your heart contracts and conditions the abdominals taking the weight off the pelvic organs and helping you support the lower back. This can be done anywhere, the grocery store, standing in line, or times when you feel your lower back starting to ache.
Finding a Studio
Finding the right studio is important. You want an instructor who has knowledge of pre-natal Pilates and can adapt the exercises to accommodate your ever changing body. A good instructor will also recommend props to assist and keep you on an incline so the heart remains above the baby–an important safety measure.
Avoid hot studios and tell your instructor you are pregnant at the beginning of class. Have a go-to exercise like bird-dog (kneeling on all fours and extending the opposite arm and leg) for when you cannot do something. If any exercise hurts or you feel dizzy, stop and take a break.
Experience the Benefits of Pre-Natal Pilates
Practicing pre-natal Pilates has so many benefits, but don’t overdo it. If you haven’t practiced Pilates regularly now is not the time to put stress on the body. Remember, MODERATION! Take breaks when needed, sip water regularly, and listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel good, skip it. Do you have questions about pre-natal pilates? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our experts will be happy to help you. Or click HERE to book your prenatal session now!