As a pilates instructor, I couldn’t imagine pregnancy without pilates. I’m currently 38 weeks pregnant and understand the aches and pains that a pregnant women experiences. Pilates is a low impact workout that is safe during pregnancy. It prepares your body and mind for your birth experience and leads to a faster recovery.
A prenatal pilates class strengthens and tones muscles, improves posture alleviating back pain, helps with balance, focuses on the very important pelvic floor muscles and breathing relaxation techniques. Always ensure you partake in a prenatal class as the exercises are modified to accommodate the pregnant body.
Anyone who is experiencing or has experienced back pain throughout pregnancy understands that when the baby and uterus grows it adds pressure to your lower back (lumbar spine). It can increase the curve, which is often referred to as hollow back, sway back or even duck bum. The technical term is called lumbar hyperlordsis. Pilates builds strength into the back and abdominal muscles (focusing on the transverse and not the rectus abdominals), thus improving posture, reducing the curve and alleviating back pain. Pelvic tilts, lateral flexion and rotation of the spine will also help to reduce back pain and release tension.
One of the six principles of pilates is the breath which is used in conjunction with movement of the body. As the uterus grows it pushes up against the diaphragm and can create a feeling of breathlessness. Breathing techniques can be performed to teach us how to use the diaphragm correctly and it also calms the nervous system relaxing the body and mind. Breathing is a great relaxation technique to use during childbirth and relieves stress – a wonderful thing to practice and master in the lead up to your delivery.
Pilates is a great way to increase the blood flow within the body reducing those ever so common cankles (swollen ankles) and minimising cramps. Personally I flex, point, circle my ankles and stretch the calves every day to help prevent cramps creeping up on me during the night. If cramps are keeping you awake, get out of bed and try these stretches.
Balance will also be affected as your belly becomes bigger and you loose your center of gravity. Strengthening the core and balance exercises will help you to stabilize the body and prevent falls. I remember my friend was 6 months pregnant, she was sitting on a chair and she leant down to pick her pen up off the floor when all of a sudden she lost balance and tumbled forward onto the ground. Even though I couldn’t stop myself from laughing I really was concerned for her safety and the baby’s. Needless to say there were lots of balance exercises for her to practice after this!
Pelvic floor exercises also known as Kegel exercises are mandatory in a prenatal pilates class. They strengthen and support your bladder, bowel and uterus as the baby grows. It reduces the chances of the pubic bone separating (diastasis symphysis pubis), aids in the prevention of incontinence after delivery when coughing, sneezing or exercising and a strong pelvic floor increases vaginal sensitivity leading to a more satisfying love life.
Areas to avoid or to be cautious with are the rectus abdominals and the inner thighs. After the first trimester the rectus abdominals, also known as the six-pack, should be avoided to prevent separation of the abdomen (diastasis recti). The separation of the rectus abdominals can cause lower back pain, make it difficult to lift objects and may make you feel self conscious about the way your tummy looks. If you’re experiencing pain in the pubic area, avoid inner thigh exercises as you maybe suffering from separation of the pubic bone (diastasis symphysis pubis).
Pregnancy is not a time to decide to get fit and loose weight. It’s about maintaining what you have and building strength into the pelvic area to provide support throughout pregnancy, strong legs for delivery, resilient arms to hold and feed the baby post partum, stretching and alleviating pain.
Prenatal pilates can benefit every woman no matter their fitness levels and it will work and support your muscles in a safe way. Get into a class today or if you’re a little apprehensive try a private lesson. Let’s stretch, alleviate pain, relax and practice those pelvic floor exercises together!
Written by Kerryn Smith