• Nicole O'Donnell

5 Reasons To Do Pilates During Pregnancy

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

When you find out you’re pregnant you are opened up to a whole new arena of advice and rules. No doubt it can feel pretty daunting and confusing at times 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 all sorts of conflicting advice and 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). Exercising during pregnancy has been known to help manage symptoms such as morning sickness, back ache and sleeplessness, and help to stay positive throughout. I

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 in the body. Aside from the obvious visual changes 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. 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 Can Help Ease Aches & 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 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.

5. Pilates During Pregnancy Helps Strengthen 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 you can visualise it better. But, if you don’t yet know enough about your pelvic floor make it your mission.

There are a few things I would recommend you consider when choosing to practice Pilates during pregnancy.

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. Finally, always remind your instructor how many weeks you are so they can adapt the sessions to best suit you.

Nicole x

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