Pilates When Pregnant?

Written by Nuala Coombs on September 19, 2021

It's an important question, one to be taken seriously.  It has been proven that ladies who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to have a less stressful delivery.  Pilates is the perfect low impact exercise programme during this time - it's recommended that the all clear to exercise be given by a medical practitioner.

Pilates targets the areas that can be most effected during pregnancy - posture, back pain & balance.  The fundamental benefit of a Pilates programme are these areas.  With the controlled, precise movements using a full breath, the system not only strengthens, but helps to mobilise and stabilise.

Of course there are considerations as pregnancy progresses:

  • After the 15th week it's recommended that no exercise is carried out on the back (supine) as this position may reduce the blood flow to the baby potentially causing Oxygen deprivation.  The answer to this is to always have the Mother's head higher than the heart so elevating her upper back and head will help.  Of course side lying, standing or kneeling are all appropriate throughout the period.  It's possible that during the 2nd or 3rd Trimester putting pressure on the wrists my cause discomfort due to water retention or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
  • From the Second Trimester exercises that require forward flexion (bending forward) and those that use the main abdominal muscle (Rectus Abdominis) should be avoided.  The ligament that runs from the breast bone to the pubic bone (Linea Alba) needs to open to accommodate the growing baby.  However if a good recovery after delivery is to be achieved then keeping this expansion to the minimum is preferential.  This doesn't mean abdominal exercises are contra-indicated it just means no crunches, head lifting or Rectus dominant exercises - Pilates as an exercise system promotes connection to the deep abdominals throughout the performance of each movement.
  • During Pregnancy the body produces a hormone - Relaxin, it effects all ligaments in the body to accommodate the developing fetus and prepare for the birth.  Relaxin peaks during the first trimester.  It's because of this potential laxity in the ligaments that exaggerated stretching must be avoided.  Stretching to the natural length of a muscle is fine but no forced stretching should be practiced.

Exercising during pregnancy has many benefits, not least the "me" time for the Mother as well as the improved sense of wellbeing.  The effect on posture cannot be under-estimated.  As the pregnancy develops there is a propensity for the pelvis to tilt forward - left unchecked this can cause compression in the low back resulting in back pain.  Regular Pilates classes will help strengthen postural muscles particularly the abdominals to avoid excessive forward tilting.

So the answer is a big YES to using Pilates as an exercise system throughout pregnancy with modifications as it progresses.  I have had clients attend classes up until their delivery dates.

Post Partum

Returning to Pilates when the baby has arrived needs consideration whether or not the birth was natural.  When the medics has given the all clear then a gradual return to pre-pregnancy exercise levels paying attention to maintaining best abdominal connection during all exercises in particular any Diastatis (opening) of the Linea Alba that may still be present.

If you have any particular questions regarding Pilates and Pregnancy just ask - info@thepilatesconsultant.com

Nuala Coombs
Pilates For You
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