Pilates is one of the best possible methods of exercise and relaxation for women during their pregnancy. Pilates and other exercise such a walking, swimming or Barre classes can also make your pregnancy more comfortable and help reduce the chance of injury before, during and after the delivery of your Bub. Another great benefit of exercising throughout your pregnancy is that it helps to relieve stress and manage fatigue.
In particular, Pilates core strengthening exercises focus on the working relationship of the abdominals, back, diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles which is important for the expectant mum. In order to balance out postural changes that happen as the growing baby develops, strengthening key areas such as the upper back, arms, pelvic floor and glutes as well as stretching these specific areas will really be of benefit.
Here, I will go through some general guidelines which may help guide you through your pregnancy and exercise journey safely and with confidence. It is important to note that prior to commencing any physical activity during your pregnancy, that you first consult with your doctor, and the exercises should not cause any discomfort, nausea or dizziness.
If you were physically active prior to your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity with moderate intensity. Now is not the time to be pushing yourself or reaching personal bests, it is all about nourishing and taking care of your incredible body and doing what feels good for both you and your baby. I would also like to mention here that it is of vital importance that you also allow your body the time it needs to recover post birth. Speak to a pelvic floor specialist as well as your doctor prior to returning and don't rush back into exercise - just enjoy this precious time with your little one!
Don't push yourself, keep exercise intensity moderate.
Due to cardiac changes, the body is already in an exercised state and even at rest the body is working harder than normal to sustain itself. Try not to increase your heart rate too much by limiting the exercise difficulty and giving yourself longer breaks. Vigorous activity and exercise during pregnancy can not only place yourself at risk but also your baby by causing a diversion in uterine blood supply to the skeletal muscles, meaning less blood and oxygen to the baby.
Keep Cool and Hydrate
Avoid hot and humid conditions, wear loose and comfortable non restrictive clothing. It's a good idea to stand next to a fan or the air conditioner during class if possible as your baby is unable to regulate its own body temperature.
Remember to keep your fluids up and drink lots of fresh water, taking a drink bottle with you to class.
Avoid Prone and wide lunge / stance positions & twisting movements.
You want to be avoiding anything that is placing extra strain and stress on your pelvis, as the pelvic girdle and surrounding structures are already compromised during pregnancy. Keep lunges shallow, plies and squats smaller and make sure to always ensure correct glute activation and a neutral pelvis.
Activate Pelvic Floor
We want to ensure that the pelvic floor is properly activated during all exercises and work on increasing pelvic floor strength, especially in those earlier stages of pregnancy when it is easier to activate and maintain strength. As your pregnancy progresses, pelvic floor activation becomes harder to feel.
Stop Immediately If you are feeling unwell and be sure to properly warm up and cool down.
It is important that you don't place your body at increased risk of injury, that you warm up prior to class and cool down and stretch afterwards. This can also alleviate cramps and muscle soreness.
You know your body best, and if something doesn't feel right it probably isn't. Notify your instructor immediately if you are feeling unwell or dizzy. Sit down and take rest whenever and as often as you need to.
DURING FIRST TRIMESTER
Reduce the amount of "sit-up" type abdominal exercises. Performing too much exercise that increases the strength of your Rectus Abdominis or "six Pack muscles" may increase the risk of developing Rectus Diastasis (Abdominal Separation). Reduce your exercise intensity and maintain a moderate heart rate, keeping cool and just taking it easier than usual.
DURING SECOND TRIMESTER
Avoid abdominal work, except for Pelvic floor and side lying oblique work. Focus on keeping those deeper pelvic floor and core muscles strong and bring more attention to stability and alignment. We also want to limit inside thigh work, as the pregnancy progresses. For some women they may experience Pubic Symphysis pain (groin pain) as their joints become more lax and the pelvis begins to widen. Too much inner thigh work or one legged work may lead to increased discomfort and cause the pubic bone to separate even more. Avoid all exercises laying on the belly and on your back, your instructor will be able to modify these exercises for you. For many women, laying on their back will cause dizziness and discomfort due to the weight of the baby compressing the Vena Cava, one of the main blood vessels to the baby.
DURING THIRD TRIMESTER
Cease all abdominal work, including oblique work, and exercise intensity will be greatly reduced. Throughout the third trimester the mother's posture can be compromised as a result of the weight of the baby. It is therefore important to be strengthening the upper back muscles and glutes as well as stretching the quads and chest muscles to help alleviate any discomfort associated with a more lordotic and kyphotic posture (rounded shoulders and curved lower back.) Simply continue exercising for as long as you feel comfortable, there is no reason why you can't continue for the full duration of your pregnancy, as long as you are paying attention to your body and feeling good.
At Fleur Wellbeing, our special Pre Natal Pilates classes have been designed to focus on safety and strength and are recommended for women at any stage of their pregnancy, however we advise all our pre natal clients to also stop or adjust if something doesn't feel right and to listen to their own bodies.
The Pre Natal Pilates circuit class is a unique and fun workout incorporating the Reformers, Therabands, weights and balls into a circuit style class that will help to strengthen your pelvic floor and postural muscles, and relieve tension and stress.
The Pre Natal Mat Pilates class is a group type setting where everyone will be performing the class at the same time with the instructor and incorporate small props to add an extra challenge and help you to get the most out of each exercise.
If you wish to get in touch with us about joining some of our regular classes also, please get in touch with our friendly team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss which classes would be best for you. We can't wait to join you on your pregnancy journey!
Written by Ellesse Hawkins
Our Blog posts are a written by our Instructors at Fleur Wellbeing Studio, to share in knowledge and inspire our community.