10 Reasons To Do Pregnancy Pilates
Keeping active during pregnancy is advised to help you to adapt to the changes your body is going through, to help prepare for birth and and your recovery.
Whilst you can continue with most sports and activities, there are some restrictions. Pregnancy Pilates is, however, a safe form of exercise to do throughout pregnancy.
The Pilates principles are Concentration, Relaxation, Alignment, Breathing, Centering, Co-ordination, Flowing Movements and Stamina. These principles are all very much of use during pregnancy in particular which is why Pilates is the perfect pre-natal exercise.
I trained as a Pilates teacher as I experienced the difference Pilates made to me during my second pregnancy and my recovery in comparison to my first pregnancy and I vowed to share this with other women. There are so many reasons to do Pilates in Pregnancy but here are my top 10!
1. Pregnancy Pilates helps you adapt to your changing body
As baby grows, your body will go through a huge amount of change and pressure will be placed on it in so many ways.
Pilates will help to strengthen the core muscles (abdominal, back and pelvic floor), which helps the body to cope with the additional weight that it is having to hold with the growing baby.
This strengthening can help prevent common niggles such as low back pain which is caused by too much weight being placed on a weak and stressed back.
Your posture can also be affected as the bump grows which can lead to problems during and after pregnancy. By being aware of your alignment and how it changes throughout the pregnancy you can help prevent longer term issues.
When baby arrives, you will be using your body in ways that it has never been used before! The feeding position, for example, will see you seated, head down, spine flexed and maybe even rotated, cradling baby in your arms for lengthy periods.
This is bound to have an impact on your body. Preparation during pregnancy can help us be more aware of how we are sitting as well as strengthening our arms and shoulders to counteract a new way of life!
2. Pregnancy Pilates strengthens both body and mind
Not only will Pilates in pregnancy see you strengthening your body, it truly does strengthen the mind. Pilates requires concentration to do the exercises properly.
As Mr Pilates himself said, “Concentrate on the correct movement each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all vital benefits”.
Our ability to focus on the task in hand and ensure that we stay in the moment is key to many of the Pilates exercises and being mindful is a key to feeling less stressed and anxious, not only during pregnancy, but during labour and way beyond as the strains of motherhood kick in.
3 Pregnancy Pilates improves breathing
As one of the key principles of Pilates, with regular practice, your breathing will improve. As strange as it may seem, so many of us are not breathing properly!
So often we are breathing through our chest and shoulders which means that we are not benefiting from our breath.
Pilates teaches us how our breath can help to activate our core, or centre; vital in pregnancy when our centre is put under so much strain. Breathing well can also help reduce our blood pressure, release toxins and make us feel more relaxed which is, of course, a huge benefit to us not only for pregnant women, but for everyone.
4 Pregnancy Pilates is safe and can be practiced throughout pregnancy
I practiced Pilates until a few days before giving birth to my second child because I felt well enough to do so. Whilst there is no pressure to exercise to your due date, Pilates is possible because exercises can be adapted to your needs at whichever stage of pregnancy you are at.
After 16 weeks you are not advised to lie on your back, for example, so adaptations need to be made.
When you are in your first trimester, you may feel that you are more tired, or you may find that you feel sick in certain positions and by week 40, changing positions will take more time and the fatigue may have returned so it is really important to listen to your body and keep communicating with your teacher.
But it is all possible and highly beneficial.
5. Pregnancy Pilates gets you in tune with your body
In Pilates you are concentrating hard to ensure you are performing the exercise correctly; focussing on how the body is moving, what you are trying to stabilise, what’s moving as well as your breathing.
This will help you to feel more in tune with how your body is feeling. Even in non-pregnancy classes, clients are surprised to find out that one side of their body is stronger than the other.
This runs through into pregnancy Pilates classes and our body awareness helps us to avoid injury by working to rebalance the body, get stronger which helps ensure that imbalances don’t cause us problems later down the line.
Being in tune with your body can also help you to become aware when you experience something that isn’t right! If after birth, you feel weak in your pelvic floor, you are more likely to seek help. If your neck feels tight, you might check your sleeping and seating positions and make changes where appropriate.
Trust what your body is telling you!
6. Pregnancy Pilates has a focus on strengthening the pelvic floor
The pelvic floor is the group of muscles which span the base of the pelvis and support your internal organs; the bladder, bowel and uterus as well as stabilising the pelvis.
These muscles can be voluntarily contracted, and therefore strengthened. During pregnancy, the pelvic floor is put under greater strain due to the additional weight of your baby bearing down on it.
In a Pilates class, your pelvic floor, abdominal and back muscles are engaged, as appropriate, to help perform exercises. In a pregnancy specific class, more emphasis will be made on the engagement, and relaxation of the pelvic floor meaning that you are going to strengthen this important, yet often forgotten, muscle.
Often unknown, there is a relationship between our diaphragm, abdominals and pelvic floor. Through our focus on the breath, the use of our centre, and a better body awareness, Pilates in pregnancy will help prepare us for the rigours of labour and our recovery.
7. It helps keep your circulatory, lymphatic, respiratory and digestive systems healthy
Joseph Pilates wrote “As a heavy rainstorm freshens the water of a stagnant stream and whips it into immediate action, so does the Pilates Method purify the blood stream”.
During pregnancy, your body sees changes in your blood volume and increases progressively by 30-50%. This means that your heart will also increase in size in order to cope with this increase in blood which will be pumped around the body.
You will also be advised to do some additional gentle cardio exercise to get some aerobic exercise to help your heart deal with the extra pressure but Pilates exercises will help with the circulation of blood and helps with your ‘maintenence’ which means you can continue to do this exercise.
There is also an increase in the fluid in the body’s tissues which includes the lymphatic system. This means that fluid retention can be a problem in pregnancy.
Many of the Pilates exercises we do will work to improve lymphatic drainage. This is done through muscular action within the legs which helps to get the fluids moving which is why you will see these exercises in a pregnancy Pilates class.
8. Pregnancy Pilates prepares you for labour
One of the principles of Pilates is Relaxation. Through the regular practice of Pilates, you will have been undertaking a mindful form of exercise where the breath is focussed on and you are required to be in the moment to perform the exercises correctly.
Pilates teaches you to use the breath to release tension, control movement and breathe through discomfort - perfect for labour!
Being aware of the role of the pelvic floor will be extremely useful during labour. During class, you will be taught how to contract and relax the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Being aware of the relationship between your breath and your pelvic floor also helps you to be able to work through the rigours of labour and the delivery of your baby.
In a pregnancy Pilates class you will be exercising in different positions which means you will learn which are more comfortable for you to work in - for example, 4 Point Kneeling may work best for you, and often the Tail Swish exercise has proven useful in early labour. Being confident in these positions will help remove stress on the body during labour.
9. Pregnancy Pilates provides you with a positive sense of self
So much of what takes place during pregnancy happens TO you, rather than you having a choice. By taking time out to attend a Pilates class, you will be taking some control back of your body.
During class you will be focussing on YOU. Your breath, your movement, your mind.
You will be taking time to strengthen your body as well as to relax. It gives you an opportunity to spend some time to bond with your unborn baby. After class you will be stretched, relaxed and ready to take on the rest of the day (and your pregnancy!).
10. It gives you a chance to meet other mum-to-be’s
Your fellow class-mates will be living in your area and are all due to have a baby! You will all have pregnancy in common. A weekly class gives you a chance to get to know other mums to be, exchange ideas, share the positives and to moan about those less than fun pregnancy symptoms!
Pilates in pregnancy truly is a wonderful form of exercise during a time of huge transition mentally and physically. Those who have experienced its huge range of benefits never regret the commitment they made to regular practice. The only regret I hear from mums is not having started Pilates sooner!
If you are pregnant, please do get medical clearance to exercise from your GP or midwife and how much exercise you do will depend on what you were doing prior to pregnancy. If you have never done Pilates before, it is advisable to wait until 14 weeks and to check you have clearance to exercise from a medical professional.