Pilates in pregnancy

We share advice on practicing pilates in pregnancy with information on safe pilates excercises, going to classes and doing dvds at home when you're expecting.
What is pilates?

Dubbed the 'wonder' exercise for pregnancy, pilates is a gentle exercise that helps to strengthen and stabilise your abdominal, back and pelvic floor muscles while giving your whole body a good work out. Based on a series of low impact, low repetition movements that are largely mat-based, pilates helps to create long, lean muscles and a strong core.

Pregnancy places a lot of pressure and strain on these so called 'core muscles', stretching and weakening them as your baby grows and develops. In turn, this can cause the back and hip ache that so many women experience while they are expecting. Practicing pilates through pregnancy can help you to tone your core, training your internal muscles to be strong yet flexible and helping you to minimise these discomforts.

Pilates is particularly suitable for use in pregnancy as all exercises can be fully adapted to accommodate your body's changing ability through each trimester. What's more, unlike other exercise routines, as pilates is low impact the risk of overstretching your joints and ligaments is minimal.

What are the benefits?
  • By toning your pelvic floor muscles, pilates can help prevent the stress incontinence (leaking urine when you sneeze or laugh) that many women experience throughout and after pregnancy. Strong pelvic floor muscles are also said to help speed up both the second stage of labour and delivery by making your contractions more efficient.

  • Pilates helps to tone both the abdominal and back muscles, stabilising your core, improving your balance and posture and relieving backache by realigning your spine and helping your body cope with the growing weight of your baby as your centre of gravity changes.

  • Despite being a very gentle form of exercise, pilates gives you all the benefits of a more strenuous workout, improving circulation and toning muscles without tiring you out. Classes will help you to feel 'worked' yet energised and you should find that they both help you to feel more relaxed and to enjoy a deeper and easier sleep.

  • An important aspect of pilates is the focus it places on breathing, once the 'correct' technique has been mastered this can be a useful skill to take with you both into the world and into the delivery room.

  • As an added incentive, practicing pilates throughout your pregnancy sets you in great stead for regaining your pre-pregnancy figure as you will have already done the 'hard part' and set the strong core muscle foundations that you can build on after your baby arrives.

Is pilates safe for pregnancy?

Pilates is considered to be a safe form of exercise for use in pregnancy and beyond, however there are a few precautions you should take to ensure that you and your baby only take benefit from your workouts.
  • You should always seek advice from your doctor or midwife before embarking on a new exercise routine, even if you consider yourself to be fairly active already. Your health care provider knows the details of your pregnancy best and will be able to advise you as to whether pilates is a suitable form of exercise for you.

  • Wherever possible you should attend a pilates class that is specifically tailored for pregnancy, this will help to ensure that all the exercises are suitable for you and that the instructor is knowledgeable about your changing needs throughout each trimester. If you are unable to find a pre-natal pilates class in your area you could try a 'pilates for pregnancy' dvd or, attend a class where the instructor is willing to give you enough one to one attention to enable you to modify exercises where necessary.

  • Remember that your abilities will change as you progress through your pregnancy and a good instructor will take this into consideration. However, if you decide to practice at home you should remember to avoid lying flat on your back for extended periods of time beyond your second trimester and avoid lying with your feet over your shoulders.

  • Even though pilates provides a gentle workout it is still very important for both your own and your baby's health that you stay fully hydrated, for this reason you should remember to drink plenty of water both throughout and after a class. You may also need to have a small snack an hour or so before your class to top up your energy levels; a banana, nuts or dried fruit are good options.

  • Exercise is only good for you if it feels good and it's important that you don't push yourself too hard. You should stop at once if you feel any pain at all, feel dizzy, nauseous or faint, experience palpitations, uterine contractions, shortness of breath or begin to bleed.

Have you tried pilates either before or during your pregnancy? If so did you enjoy it or do you prefer a different style of workout? Why not share your tips, advice or questions about this or anything else pregnancy related on the AskBaby forums.

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