Pregnancy Pilates – Prenatal/Antenatal & Postnatal
Prenatal/Antenatal & Postnatal pilates classes target the tummy, back and pelvic floor muscles without straining other joints.
These exercises can work well for you during pregnancy. They work using the mat, Garuda sling, reformer and tower and avoid compression and work more in functional upright movement patterns.
Many women want to continue to exercise during pregnancy, but are concerned that physical exertion could cause harm to their unborn baby and indeed themselves.
Benefits of Pilates during pregnancy
Prenatal and postnatal pilates is a gentle, low impact, form of exercise and as such is considered one of the best forms of exercise for a pregnant woman. Using the STOTTPILATES V2 Max clients are assisted with the reformer machine and can reduce range of motion and work in a comfortable range as they develop and grow bigger.
As prenatal and postnatal pilates helps maintain and improve the condition of both your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, it is not only a safe form of exercise while pregnant, it can be hugely beneficial too.
Many women first attend our Pregnancy Pilates classes during pregnancy or in their post natal recovery period. Exercises can be adapted at each stage of pregnancy to allow for gentler or more focused exercise, but should not be continued if any discomfort is experienced.
Prenatal or antenatal pilates classes will not place strain on the joints or back. In fact, the back will be strengthened as will the stomach and muscles around the pelvic area – allowing for an easier pregnancy, delivery and recovery.
Prenatal Pilates in the first trimester of pregnancy
In the first three months, the changing hormones in the body can make you feel exhausted and nauseous, but gentle exercise can even be done while lying in bed. Often a little exercise can actually energise the body and make you feel mentally and physically better. And the relaxation techniques will relax both body and mind.
Prenatal pilates in the second trimester of pregnancy
The second trimester is, for most woman, the easiest part of pregnancy. Although the body is changing and expanding, energy levels are generally high and this should be when the exercises should be maximised to give you every advantage for the following months.
Prenatal pilates in the third trimester of pregnancy
In the third trimester, women tend to feel heavy and uncomfortable and hormones designed to loosen the pelvic joints can cause back pain. The additional weight of the baby can throw your centre off balance, legs can become swollen and varicose veins can develop. Pilates helps all of these conditions associated with pregnancy by strengthening the central or ‘core’ muscles which in turn leads to improved posture and circulation.
Benefits of pilates during labour
The improvement in muscle tone and circulation gained through practicing Pilates will also be of value during labour. An improved circulation allows an increased oxygen supply to the womb and this is less distressing for the baby. And of course the breathing techniques used in Pilates can help with the control of breathing during childbirth.
Resuming postnatal pilates after childbirth
Women can generally return to Pilates four to six weeks after delivery, or eight to twelve weeks after a Caesarean section. Your doctor will advise you on when your body is ready.
Antenatal Pilates will help your body regain its shape and tone and restrengthen muscles that have been weakened during your pregnancy.
Exercises can be adapted to individual needs, so whether you have had a vaginal or Caesarean delivery, a safe workout can be developed to target particular muscle groups.
Your tummy and pelvic floor muscles are put under increasing strain as your baby grows bigger. At the same time, the hormone relaxin is making the tough tissues (ligaments) that connect your bones more pliable. Your ligaments are likely to stretch more than usual (Kristiansen et al 1996) and if you overload them you may injure yourself.
During pregnancy, your tummy muscles are stretched over your growing baby and if they’re weak, you may develop back or pelvic pain. Your weakened pelvic floor muscles may become less supportive to your bowel, bladder and uterus (womb), and move lower down into your pelvis under your baby’s weight.
As a result, you may find it harder to squeeze. Because of this, you may leak small amounts of urine when you cough or sneeze, or feel a sensation of heaviness down below.
Because Pilates targets the tummy, back and pelvic floor muscles without straining other joints, the exercises can work well for you during pregnancy.
During pregnancy you may find that you feel a little clumsier, or that your balance isn’t as good as usual. This is thought to be due to changes in your balance and posture (Pruett & Caputo 2011). Pilates has been shown to help improve balance (Johnson et al 2007) so you may find that you feel less clumsy if you carry out the exercises. It may also help you walk without swaying from side to side so much as your bump grows.
Pilate’s exercises use the deepest layer of your tummy muscles, which are necessary for stabilising your back and pelvis (Endleman et al 2008).
Many Pilate’s exercises are performed on your hands and knees, which is an ideal position for pregnancy. Adopting this position can take some of the strain off your back and pelvis. Towards the end of your pregnancy, it may also help to get your baby into the right position for birth.
There isn’t any research on Pilates that looks directly at its effects on pregnant women (Davies et al 2003, Bernardo 2007, Balogh 2005). There is some research, though, that indicates that it can help to improve your flexibility (Segal et al 2004) and balance (Johnson et al 2007). And we do know for certain that exercise is good for you during pregnancy.
The main benefit of Pilates is that it targets the exact muscles and functions that can be a problem during pregnancy and after birth, in a completely safe way.
What if I haven’t done Pilates before?
Before trying Pregnancy Pilates, make sure that you can perform a strong pelvic-floor contraction. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles and hold for at least 10 seconds. If you can’t do this you’re at risk of overstressing your joints and ligaments during the exercises (Richardson and Jull 1995, Pool-Goudzwaard et al 1998).
Try the following exercise to see how good your core stability is. It involves quite a bit of co-ordination, so you may have to try it a few times before you get the hang of it:
- Get down onto your hands and knees. Align your hands under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Keep your back flat. Try to do it next to a mirror, so you can check your position.
- Breathe in and then as you breathe out, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. At the same time pull your belly button in and up.
- Try to hold this for 10 seconds. Continue breathing normally throughout the squeeze and keep your back still.
- Relax your muscles slowly at the end of the exercise.
If you can perform this exercise easily and repeat it 10 times, your pelvic floor and core tummy muscles are working well. This exercise is safe to perform at any stage of your pregnancy.