Pilates can be a great way for moms-to-be to stay active, as long as they know which Pilates exercises to avoid during pregnancy.
Besides being a great way to promote movement, Pilates offers a lot of benefits during pregnancy and childbirth. But there are important things to keep in mind to make sure it stays safe for the mom and the baby alike.
In this article, we outline the main things you must know in order to practice Pilates safely during your 40 weeks and set yourself up for a great prenatal and postnatal period.
Doing Pilates during Pregnancy
Pilates can be a great modality to practice during Pregnancy, as long as your doctor clears you for it.
There are countless benefits that result from staying active during pregnancy, and particularly from practicing Pilates. However, it is key to adapt the exercises as the pregnancy progresses so that the practice remains safe for the whole 40 weeks.
Pilates promotes the development of muscle strength, a stronger pelvic floor, better mental health, less back pain, a better mind-body connection, and better breathing - all benefits that you as a mom can reap during your pregnancy and also during childbirth.
You can find more details on the benefits of Pilates during pregnancy in this article.
Pilates during pregnancy: what to care for
As stated before, Pilates can be such a good modality to practice in this stage of your life. However, there are several aspects that you should take into account and cater for, as you engage in Prenatal Pilates.
- Every mom is different.
Not all bodies or pregnancies are the same. Therefore it is very important to listen to your body, follow your doctor’s instructions, and have a qualified instructor help you modify the exercises.
- Avoid high impact activities
Staying comfortable at every moment of the workout is very important. The high impact can make you more tired, susceptible to injuries, and can hurt your pelvic floor or pelvis.
Similarly, avoid sports that have a high risk of falling or abdominal injuries like skiing, outdoor cycling, rollerblading, soccer, or horseback riding.
- Avoid getting too hot
Getting too hot can also drain your energy faster, and it may be dangerous for the baby, as he/she doesn’t have a way to regulate his/her body temperature. Avoid activities in high heat (such as hot yoga), and shield yourself from hot environments.
- Avoid stretching too deeply
During pregnancy, your body starts releasing a hormone called relaxin, with the aim of relaxing your ligaments for childbirth. This is great as it helps your body prepare to get the baby out, but it also makes you more susceptible to hip, pelvis, and lower back injuries. Your joints and ligaments will be more fragile during this time, so treat them as such.
- Stop exercising if you...
Feel dizzy or nauseous, if you have vaginal bleeding or leakage of amniotic fluid. Different pregnancies will react differently to physical activity, so paying attention to your body’s cues, and respecting them is key.
Pilates Exercises to Avoid during Pregnancy
As your pregnancy progresses, your body changes and so should the physical activity you perform. Including which exercises you can do or you should avoid.
- Pilates Exercises to avoid during the First Trimester
During the first trimester, technically you can still do everything. But be moderate and listen to your body.
As you may know, this is the time when you have the highest risk of miscarriage, so be gentle, and keep the intensity low. Stop at any sign of discomfort, and try different ways of moving your body to find out what feels good.
From the first trimester of your pregnancy, you should avoid sit-up abdominal exercises, since they can cause diastasis recti. Diastasis Recti is a vertical abdominal separation, caused by the internal pressure that your baby does from inside your womb, on the abdominal muscles.
To prevent Diastasis Recti, you should avoid all exercises that resemble a sit-up, double leg lifts, full planks, push-ups, heavy weight lifting.
To train your abs, privilege instead exercises that activate your pelvic floor. Good examples are bent knee fallouts, pelvic floor contraction, and breathing exercises.
- Pilates Exercises to avoid during the Second Trimester
The second trimester of your pregnancy is typically when you start showing.
If you didn’t stop before, from this moment on it is imperative to avoid all superficial abdominal work, as the risk of developing diastasis recti becomes higher (due to the growing size of your baby).
Avoid also inner thigh work. The reason for this is that in your pregnancy, your pubic bone will start to separate and widen to prepare you for childbirth. Working your inner thighs can cause more separation than needed since this area will be naturally unstable.
Examples of exercises to avoid are all exercises with your legs wide open such as saws, wide squats, and wide lunges.
You should also avoid laying on your back. As your baby gets heavier, this can make you dizzy and also cut the flow of oxygen to the baby. Avoid laying on your belly as well - and this will also probably stop being comfortable anyway.
- Pilates Exercises to avoid during the Third Trimester
The third trimester should be all about relaxing, breathing, and connecting to your body.
Taking the time to connect to your body, accepting the changes that are taking place, and also practicing mindful breathing are all actions with the potential to help you go through childbirth.
The restrictions of the second trimester continue, so do not engage in any of the exercises or positions described above.
Pilates Exercises that are Safe During Pregnancy
Even if it feels like your pregnancy limits the number of Pilates exercises that you can do, there is still a lot that is safe for you to do.
The reality is that it is possible to adapt most Pilates exercises for pregnancy. But there are also a few that are perfectly safe to practice throughout your whole 40 weeks. Find them below or better yet, for detailed cueing and instruction, check out this 19 min pregnancy workout, safe for all trimesters:
- Breathing with deep abs
Sit comfortably, and breathe deeply while focusing on engaging your abs and pelvic floor. Pull your belly button towards the back of your spine with each exhale. See if you can build up to doing this for 2 minutes. This is a great one to help prevent diastasis recti. I wouldn't skip it!
- Side Leg Circles
Lay on your side. Lift your leg and do small circles, engaging your outer thigh and glute med. Keep your pelvis still and deep abs engaged. Try to do 10 circles in each direction and do more reps for your weaker side.
- Spine Stretch Forward
Sit right up on your sit bones, add a pillow under your bum for more comfort. On the exhale, reach your arms out forward as you pull your belly back, getting deep into your abs. Inhale and stack yourself back up right up on your sit bones. I suggest doing at least 5 reps.
- Side Spine Stretch
Sit right up on your sit bones, add a pillow under your bum for more comfort. Exhale and gently side bend over, stay there for a few breaths as you gently increase the stretch with each exhale. Inhale, engage in your deep abs, as you come back to your upright sitting position. Stretch each side and then stretch again for your tighter side.
- Spine Twist
Lay on your side, with a pillow under your belly. Exhale into a gentle rotation stretch. Stay there for a few breaths as you gently increase the stretch with each exhale. Inhale to come back to the starting position. Do 3 reps for each side and then do a couple more for your tighter side.
Start in a quadruped position. Focus only on your belly, trying to pull your belly button towards the back of your spine with each exhale. Do not move any other part of your body, keep your spine neutral. Keep your elbows soft to protect your joints. See if you can build up to doing this for 2 minutes.
Start on your hands and knees, aligning your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. This is the position of a neutral spine. From this position, stretch your back outwards, lifting your spine while tucking your chin and your pelvis down. This is the Cat position. Hold for a few seconds. Move into the inverse position - bring your chin up and feel the stretch on the front of your neck, while pushing your spine down and pulling your pelvis up. This is the Cow position. See if you can do 5 sets.
- Tricep Press on Knees
Begin in a kneeling plank position with arms directly below your shoulders and your body in a straight line. Lower chest, as far as feels safe for you, keeping elbows close to your side. Exhale and slowly push back to the start position. Build up to doing 10 reps.
Can you safely practice Pilates during Pregnancy?
Even if it is very important to observe the current limitations of your body, Pilates is a safe modality as long as you know which Pilates exercises to avoid during pregnancy. There are a number of modifications you should apply to your Pilates practice as your pregnancy progresses. And these serve to make sure you limit your risk of injury and keep yourself and your baby comfortable.
Always remember to check in with your doctor often, listen to your body and pay attention to these recommendations. This way, you will be able to take the maximum advantage of Pilates’ benefits, without incurring any risk of hurting yourself or your baby.
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