It is a well-rounded modality with a lot of benefits for moms-to-be, but is Pilates good for pregnancy?
Pilates promotes good posture, flexibility, and the strengthening of all muscle groups. However, a very common concern moms have is regarding its safety during the prenatal stage.
In this article, we explain what makes Pilates a safe choice for your pregnancy, and how to make sure you engage in it without risk to you and your baby.
How I used Pilates to prepare for my birth
I did Pilates all throughout my pregnancy.
I focused on strength and flexibility in the first two trimesters and focused on relaxation (especially of the pelvic floor) in the third. My trainer always honored where my body was at during each session and adapted as needed. Pilates is a wonderful practice because it allows for that.
When labor time came around, I was able to do it naturally because I could connect to my body, and harvest the power of my endurance and breath. My labor was a total of 13 hours and I pushed my baby out in under 15 minutes!
Pilates definitely contributed to me having a positive pregnancy and birth, and I recommend it to anyone who has medical clearance to do it.
Pilates is a good Pregnancy workout
There are several reasons why Pilates can be a great pregnancy workout, and it can help you during your prenatal stage.
Firstly, it contributes to an improvement of the pregnancy and delivery experience significantly. It promotes body awareness, balanced muscle development, greater stability/balance, and good mental health. During pregnancy, your center of gravity will change continuously and Pilates can help you become more in-tune with your body, keep your strength as your body changes, and counterbalance any back pain you may feel as the baby grows.
However, to make sure Pilates remains safe during pregnancy, it is very important to be gentle and deliberate. The focus should be on prioritizing low-impact movements to help with core and leg strength, breathing and relaxation, and strengthening of the pelvic floor.
But remember - a doctor must clear you to do Pilates.
If you attend a class, make sure to tell your instructor you are pregnant, so they can help you with the relevant exercise modifications. Alternatively, you can also find a pregnancy pilates class near you.
Finally, listen to your body, always. Your body will most likely let you know when you are pushing too hard, or if something feels uncomfortable to you or your baby.
The benefits of doing Pilates while you are Pregnant
We discussed why Pilates can be a great workout for pregnant women. But the specific benefits of it are extensive. Find below the main ones:
- Flexibility & Muscle Strength
Physical strength will help you navigate the changes in your body and also the inevitable weight gain that comes with pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones are also known to make all ligaments and joints more fragile, so while it is important to not push too hard at this stage, it is a good idea to stay active.
- Mental health benefits
Exercise is a great method to relieve stress and anxiety and counteract any moodiness you may feel. Pilates can help you have a more emotionally positive pregnancy experience.
- Less back pain
The changes in your center of gravity, as well as the weight of your baby, will change your posture significantly (and repetitively) during pregnancy. Making sure your core is strong and that it supports your spine appropriately will help to prevent back pain.
- Stronger pelvic floor
As the baby gets heavier, and also after delivery, a weak pelvic floor can lead to urine leakages. Which you can prevent through a Pilates practice. A strong pelvic floor can also help greatly during the delivery of the baby - it will give you more strength to push the baby out, therefore aiding during childbirth.
- Safe at every trimester
Most workouts or sports are not safe to practice all throughout your pregnancy.
Workouts that are too intense and cause you to get too exhausted may lead to potential falls, or bumps in your belly. You should avoid these at all costs.
Pilates, on the other hand, can be perfectly safe, since all exercises can be modified according to the stage of your pregnancy and the size of your belly.
- Can help to prevent diastasis
Diastasis Recti is a common abdominal separation that a lot of women experience during pregnancy, and that can linger after childbirth. This abdominal separation is normal and results from the fact that your baby is growing. Having strong muscles can help prevent extreme cases of diastasis, and therefore help you recover your body faster after you deliver.
- Better breathing
Breathing is a key component of Pilates. And also of childbirth. Breathing properly is great for stress relief and blood pressure, as well as for the health of the pelvic floor. It also works the deeper layers of the abdominal muscles that pregnant women need to support their growing babies. A lot of benefits for moms-to-be!
Pilates during pregnancy: what to care for
- High impact sports
Anything high impact may be a bit risky. It is time to prioritize safety and to try to stay comfortable at every moment of the workout.
- Getting too hot
The heat may drain your energy faster and cause you to become more tired. The more tired and weaker you are, the higher your risk of injury.
- Stretching too deeply
The hormonal changes will cause your ligaments to become more fragile. So you shouldn’t push yourself too hard.
Prenatal Pilates for the First Trimester
At the early stages of pregnancy, you can do everything. The important thing is to listen to your body. So, are you feeling nauseous? Stay away from inversions. Feeling tired or weak today? Take the day off from sports.
You should also remember to be moderate - it’s not the time to go up a level. The focus should be solely on staying active and moving as it feels good.
Prenatal Pilates for the Second Trimester
During the second trimester, your body starts to change. And so does your center of gravity. This can cause a lack of balance and stability, which you should take into account. Joints may also get weaker from the hormonal changes - it is, therefore, important to start making modifications to support that change.
You should also avoid laying on your back, as the weight of the uterus can interrupt the baby’s blood supply and cause you to feel dizzy. Avoid laying on your belly as well.
Prenatal Pilates for the Third Trimester
The third trimester should be mostly about relaxation. Staying active is desirable, as well as ensuring that you are comfortable. The focus of the practice should be on breathing and body awareness. You will reap the benefits during childbirth.
So, is Pilates a safe modality for pregnant women?
Pilates is a workout that offers very desirable benefits for moms-to-be. But is it safe for you to practice it all through your pregnancy?
Yes, it can, as long as you listen to your body and have adequate support.
The best way to guarantee a safe practice is to warn your Pilates instructor that you are pregnant, so they can help you modify the exercises accordingly. Seeking a pre-natal Pilates class can also be a great alternative.
Practicing Pilates during pregnancy offers tremendous benefits and can lead to a healthier pregnancy and easier birth. But beware of the different things you should take into account in each of the trimesters of your pregnancy, and make sure you have the right support as your pregnancy evolves.
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