Keeping fit during pregnancy is important. It helps to reduce pain, strengthen the muscles, maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress levels. Pregnancy Pilates is a very effective form of exercise to perform during pregnancy. Being prescribed by a qualified physiotherapist, it makes it a safe way to maintain fitness during pregnancy and provides many benefits.
Some of the benefits of pregnancy Pilates include:
Pilates Helps with Back Pain
Pregnancy Pilates is helpful for reducing back pain. This is achieved by strengthening the abdominal muscles, making it less likely to suffer from back pain during pregnancy. Your posture changes as you baby grows throughout pregnancy which can put pressure on your back. Pilates helps to reduce pain by improving and maintaining good posture.
Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor consists of layers of stretchy muscles that provide support. The pelvic floor extends from the end of the backbone to the pubic bone. When the pelvic floor muscles become weakened (which often happens during pregnancy), urine may leak when coughing or sneezing. It’s quite common and can continue after pregnancy.
By strengthening these muscles during pregnancy, you can reduce the risk of incontinence. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles helps the body to cope with the weight of your growing baby. Strong and healthy muscles during pregnancy will heal faster after birth and reduce the risk of incontinence.
Strengthening the Abdominal Muscles
Your abdominal muscles support your abdominal organs and your spine. The abdominal muscles contract producing spinal movement to twist, bend and hold the spine upright. This is your “core stability”. As your baby grows these muscles stretch and may become less effective if not exercised. They can overstretch and not be able to return to their original shape and length after birth. Pregnancy Pilates is a safe and effective method to maintain core strength. Strengthening your abdominal muscles is also beneficial for the lower back and can reduce the risk of back pain.
Pregnancy causes many changes in posture as the baby grows. Due to this change in posture, your body weight is distributed differently and this may cause instability while pregnant. Pregnancy Pilates increases core strength and stability by allowing you to be aware and adjust to these postural changes.
Pilates focuses on breath control. This is very useful for pregnant women to learn as it benefits the baby as well. Breath control is also beneficial during labour. As the baby grows, it may cause stiffness in the upper back restricting deep breaths. This focused breathing also helps to improve mental health symptoms. It reduces stress and decreases the symptoms of depression and anxiety. This improves overall mood and promotes relaxation, all which is very beneficial for both mother and baby.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Although it is completely normal and necessary to gain weight during pregnancy, too much weight gain increases the risk of gestational diabetes. By remaining active within your limits, you can control weight gain throughout pregnancy.
What to be Careful of
Exercising during pregnancy should be done carefully and within your limits. Pregnancy Pilates is specifically designed with this in mind and is supervised by a qualified physiotherapist. However, there are some precautions to take when exercising during pregnancy such as:
- Avoid hard knocks and bumps to your baby.
- Avoid movements that make you bounce or jump a lot.
- Avoid sudden changes in direction.
- Avoid movements that make you feel unsteady.
- Avoid getting overheated.
- Avoid certain movements at particular stages – your physio will be able to advise you on what is safe at each stage of pregnancy.
Is Pilates Better than Yoga?
Both yoga and Pilates provide similar benefits for strength, flexibility and relaxation. However, during pregnancy many ligaments are extra flexible meaning they can easily get overstretched. So, for those who already have lower back pain, joint or hip pain, yoga may not be suitable.
Pregnancy Pilates on the other hand, doesn’t stretch the joints to their limit and focuses mainly on core stability, increasing stability, decreasing pain, strengthening the muscles and preparing the body for birth. Pregnancy Pilates is designed specifically for the changes that happen to the body during this time and provides a safe method of keeping fit during pregnancy.
When Should I Start Pregnancy Pilates?
You can begin Pilates at any stage of pregnancy, as long as there are no complications, or your GP has advised against it. There are certain precautions to take and movements to avoid at various stages of pregnancy, so this should be taken into account. Your physiotherapist will provide instructions about what is safe and unsafe for you depending on what trimester you are in.