Is it safe to do prenatal pilates during pregnancy?

Everything you need to know about practicing prenatal pilates

By Bettie Bransfield
Is it safe to do prenatal pilates during pregnancy?

The background on Pilates

Pilates was developed in the 1920’s by a couple named Joseph and Clara Pilates who opened a new type of gym in New York City that was committed to the principles of whole-body health, body commitment, and breathing. Pilates is designed to target a person’s core muscle group (which includes the back, pelvic and abdominals) centers the body and controls breathing. 

Pilates for Pregnant Women

One of the main suggestions a doctor will tell pregnant women is to tone their kegel muscles otherwise known as your Pelvic Floor. The pelvic floor controls your core muscles and your bladder, uterus, and bowels. Pregnant women tone using these specific exercises for a couple of reasons.
 

  • It will help with “holding” your bladder and keep you from having leaks.
 
  • By strengthening your core muscles it will help keep your uterus in place. During pregnancy, a woman’s Uterus can tilt backward at the cervix.
 
  • Women are encouraged to strengthen core muscles which will help during delivery of your baby.

How can I Start Learning Pilates?

Pilates can be performed almost anywhere; at one’s own home, at a Pilates studio or at a gym. Many experts suggest that a new expecting mother who is interested in Pilates should go to a class that is taught by a certified instructor. This will guarantee you are trained how to perform each move correctly while allowing the Instructor to make modifications that are specific to you.
 

Pilates has many specific exercises that are tailored to a person’s level of expertise. For beginners, there is the Rolling like a Ball or the Single Leg Teasers. While the Intermediate level has exercised such as The Criss Cross or the Swan with Neckroll. Finally, in the advanced level, there is the Advanced Corkscrew or the Snake Twist. Do not let these names deter you. Each of these can be modified for pregnancy. 

Which Trimester is Safe for Prenatal Pilates classes?

Generally, Pilates is safe for any trimester as this exercise routine can be adjusted by difficulty level and on an individual basis. Thus, making it a good choice for pregnant women.

1. First Trimester

If you begin a new Pilates class during your first trimester, a trained instructor should work with you individually and have you performed some simple exercises, so your pelvic floor muscles strength can be determined. This will allow the instructor to pinpoint what level you can exercise it. You will want to ensure you control your movements and use caution as you perform each exercise. Some of these exercises might become more difficult as your body adjusts to your pregnancy and your growing belly.
 

There are some exercises you should not perform during your first trimester. Pregnant women can experience higher or lower than usual blood pressure during pregnancy. So, specific exercises like the Jackknife or Tower and Roll could cause a drop in your blood pressure causing you to become dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous.

During your first and second trimester, your ligaments and joints will become looser so be sure to stretch before you begin any exercise routine. Your balance will be off during pregnancy making it easier to hurt yourself. Your body must adjust your equilibrium as your baby grows and you add weight, so you need to be aware that you could easily fall or trip during exercising.

Pretty Mommy Tamara @tformpilates / Instagram

2. Second Trimester

During your second trimester, you may find some of these exercises becoming harder to do. This could be due to issues with your joints or difficulty in breathing. You may have trouble breathing because as your uterus grows, it puts pressure on your lungs. During Pilates, you should be learning to control your breathing. This skill will increase oxygen levels in your body which is good for Mommy and baby.  
 

During second and third trimesters, Pilates can help relieve pressure on your joints and back while helping to decrease your stress level. When performing exercises during these trimesters, you should be careful not to take too wide a stance during Pilates as you could pull a muscle or lose your balance. Nor should you lay directly on your back or stomach. This can decrease the blood flow to your baby as well as cause you to become light headed.
 

In the second trimester, women can see an increase in their energy level and stamina. It is during this time that you may feel you can do long routines or more complicated exercises. You need to stay focused on using the correct Pilates form and following the exercise routine that your instructor has provided.

3. Third Trimester

While doing Pilates in your Third Trimester is considered safe, you will want to avoid any exercises that put pressure on your belly. Your instructor should work with you to find correct modified positions for your stomach while still enabling you to work your core muscles. Continuing Pilates during this phase of your pregnancy can help with digestive issues and increase blood circulation which is needed by your growing baby. 

The safety of practicing prenatal pilates and what to avoid during practice

Pregnancy Pilates @lumemovement / Instagram

Pilate exercises are considered safe in any trimester, but you should always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.
 

Doing any exercise during pregnancy should be done with caution. When starting out, wear comfortable clothing, begin slowly and always warm up. Take the time to learn the positions and make small movements from pose to pose. Be aware of your body. It will tell you when you are pushing too hard or something is not right. For example, fatigue can come on suddenly and impact your performance during these exercises. So, rest if you become tired and don't overdo it.  
 

Another symptom to watch for is dehydration. If you are experiencing any morning sickness and vomiting, you can quickly get dehydrated quickly if you do not drink enough fluids. Be sure you drink water while exercising as well as afterward. Keeping hydrated is essential all through your pregnancy.

Watch the lengths of your workouts. It is typical to do 15 minutes when starting out and eventually and work your way up to 40 minutes. It is suggested that working out two to three times a week is enough but no less than that as working out only once a week you may cause more stress or harm to your body since it is not being conditioned for the exercise on a regular basis. 
 

While exercising, monitor your heart rate to make sure you are not putting extra stress on your body or baby. This is standard practice when exercising, but even more important for a pregnant woman. Know what your target heart rate it. If you do not know it, ask your instructor or doctor. They can also teach you how to take your pulse after exercising.

Benefits of practicing prenatal pilates

Pilates is a controlled low impact exercise routine that boosts flexibility, increases your balance and helps decrease back pain. These exercises can also help correct posture and releases tension. It will teach you how to control your breathing as you exercise as well as help you during delivery. The biggest reason that Pilates is considered an excellent form of exercise for a pregnant woman is that the individual exercises can be modified to accommodate pregnant women and their baby bellies. 
 

So, why Pilates during pregnancy instead of other types of exercises? There are numerous reasons, but the main ones specific to pregnant women is that it is a full body workout, the sessions are tailored to individual needs, it addresses muscular balance, and it helps increase your lung capacity. Many other types of exercise cannot be modified for pregnant women. Another main benefit is that it builds the mind-body connection. The mind-body connection is essential as your body changes, but it also makes you more aware and connected to your unborn child. During this time, as you feel this child growing inside you, your heightened awareness only adds your ability to enjoy your pregnancy. 

Conclusion

Pilates is an excellent form of prenatal exercise in pregnant women in any trimester. These exercises can help you stay fit and prepare for childbirth. It is also recommended that new mothers continue Pilates after delivery to help the body recover from birth, maintain fitness and decrease stress.

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