Pregnancy Pilates

With an ever-increasing number of pregnant ladies coming into the clinic for both treatment and Pilates classes, I’ve compiled 10 awesome reasons to do Pilates during your pre-natal period. As well as helping you during your pregnancy, Pilates will also help you in labour and also make a quick recovery afterwards too!

1. Strengthen your stomach and gluteal muscles

A Hormone released during pregnancy called relaxin causes the ligaments that connect your bones to become more flexible, making you more prone to pelvic pain and lower back pain. Strengthening your deep abdominal muscles will help counter the laxity so you’re less likely to develop pain in your pelvis and lower back. Pilates is also great to strengthen your gluteus medius which helps minimise pain in your sacri-iliac joint (SIJ).

Modified side leg lift to strengthen gluteus medius muscle (on side of hip) to reduce SIJ pain. (See image above)

2. Reduces back pain

By strengthening the deep abdominal muscles you are less likely to develop back pain. Pilates also helps to give you better awareness of your posture, which tends to change as your baby grows which further helps to decrease pain in your back.

3. Strengthen your pelvic floor

strengthen pelvic floor The weight of your baby plus the hormonal changes can weaken your pelvic floor muscles (PFM). Pilates can help to strengthen this hammock of muscle that sits under the pelvis to support your bladder and bowel and reduce the risk of incontinence that could develop during or after your pregnancy.

This exercise is done while holding the pelvic floor to keep in strong.

4. Control your breathing

Breathing is a key focus in all Pilates classes, and is especially useful for pregnant women to learn, as good air exchange is important for you and your baby. Learning to control your breathing is also beneficial for labour. Stiffness in your upper back which develops as your belly grows can restrict deep breaths, so exercises like the arm opening (below) will help to maintain flexibility in this area. This exercise is also useful to help strengthen the oblique abdominal muscles.

Arm openings (also called Book Openings or Rainbows).

Control your breathing

5. Improve balance

Due to the change in posture and where your weight is distributed you may feel more clumsy or unstable when pregnant. Pilates helps your balance by increasing your core strength and teaching you to be sensitive to these postural changes.

Poor Seated Posture and Good Seated Posture
Bad posture Pregnant Pilates Good posture

6. Reduce Strain when you get In & Out of Bed.

In pre-natal Pilates we teach exercises in various safe and comfortable positions, such as 4 point kneeling (on hands and knees) to help reduce the load on your pelvis and lower back.

4 point arm lift 4 point leg extension

4 point arm lift 4 Point Leg Extension

7. Maintain healthy weight

It is normal to gain weight throughout the pregnancy, however if a woman puts on more than the recommended weight she is at an increased risk of gestational diabetes. Doing regular, gentle exercise can help control a healthy weight gain throughout the pregnancy.

The “Cat-Camel” exercise in 4pt kneeling is a great way to maintain mobility of the spine, stretch the muscles that run along the spine and work the deep abdominal muscles to feel the lift of baby towards the spine.
Cat Camel Pregnant Pilates Cat Camel 2

8. Strengthen the legs

During pregnancy some women experience fluid retention, leg cramps and may develop varicose veins. Strengthening exercises for the legs can help to reduce the risk of these side effects.

A supported squat with the ball behind the back is a great way to not only strengthen the deep abdominals to maintain good posture through the movement but also to feel good muscle burn in the thighs!

strengthen legs strengthen legs 2

9. Relaxation

relaxation Taking some time for yourself during your pregnancy when there are a lot of changes happening all around (and inside) you is important. Pilates gives you an opportunity to switch off from work and day-to-day stresses and let the mind slow down while reflecting on the physiological changes in your body.

This standing roll down exercise provides a lovely deep stretch to the upper back and hamstring muscles while challenging the deep abdominals to lift the baby towards the spine when working against gravity.

10. Speed up recovery post-partum

Keeping in shape through your pregnancy will help you to get back your pre-pregnancy body more easily!