What to Expect in Pilates When you Are Expecting

Lately, I have had quite a few new pregnant clients and also lots of questions about Pilates and pregnancy. I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk a little bit about pregnancy and Pilates. Let’s look at how the pair could be a great fit for you if you are expecting or expecting to be expecting some day!

Pilates Wedge - Your Pregnancy Buddy!
Pilates Wedge – Your Pregnancy Buddy!

First and foremost – it is always good to check with your Doctor before beginning something new while pregnant. If you have been doing Pilates for a while and discover you are pregnant be sure to let your teacher know. I’ve had students tell me they are pregnant well before sharing this news with friends or co-workers (I can be trusted to keep your secret!)

Unless you are high-risk – Pilates is safe for you to do throughout your pregnancy. Because the exercises are not performed at a high intensity or high heart rate, you are able to exercise at a safe level for both you and baby. You will not overly fatigue your body or raise your heart-rate too high during a reformer session. Studies show and I’ve had students report back to me that labor and recovery is easier if you continue to workout during your pregnancy. As you progress through your pregnancy, some experience less energy while others don’t seem to ever slow down. We’ll modify your workouts as needed based on your energy level. The goal is to get you a good workout but not wipe you out for the rest of the day!

During your pregnancy, your body will begin to produce more of a hormone called Relaxin. This hormone is present to allow your body to expand to accommodate a baby and also to loosen up your hips for childbirth. You may notice you begin to feel more flexible – this is Relaxin at work.  While it may be fun to see just how far you can stretch – this is something we’ll actually want to avoid. The Relaxin can give you a false sense of flexibility and you could actually over-stretch and injury yourself. If we are performing leg circles in the straps, I may ask you to make your circles a little narrower than you feel you could, for example. There is no sense starting motherhood with pulled or strained muscle! We’ll keep some of your movements more conservative – but still effective as you progress.

Usually around 20 weeks or so, it can become difficult to lay on your back. The weight of the baby when laying down can put pressure on your diaphragm hindering breathing. I have a Pilates Wedge and also Pilates Arc – both of which serve to raise you up a bit and alleviate this issue. You will still be able to perform lats and abs work comfortably, for example, from this slighted raised position.

During pregnancy, your pelvis will shift and tilt anteriorly (forward) to support the baby. While we preach neutral spine in Pilates – during pregnancy your neutral spine will change. You may also notice your hip flexors feel tighter. This is a result of the tilted pelvis pulling on those hip flexors day in an day out. We can do exercise to help relax those hip flexors a bit!

Another area to consider when pregnant is your balance. You may find as your stomach grows, your balance declines. With the changes in your body, your center of gravity is also changing. This can do a number on your balance. We may eliminate exercise that require more intense balance or modify these so you feel safe and stable.  Again – not everyone has this issue but I’d hope you’d tell me if you start to notice issues with your balance.

Abdominal work – Yes we can still do some abdominal work even as your abdominals seem to be going in the wrong direction. One area we’ll want to watch and cut back on is crunching and c-curve.  For starters – it can become difficult to lift up into c-curve with a big belly in the way.  Secondly, some women experience Diastasis Recti – a separation of the abdominal wall muscles during pregnancy. C-curve and crunches can increase this separation.  Never fear – if you do develop this separation – Pilates post-pregnancy can help you pull it all back together!

Dizziness – Some expectant moms have told me they experience dizziness if they sit up too quickly or move from one position to another too rapidly. This is your class – I encourage you to transition slowly if need be and bring some water along (or ask and I’ll be happy get you a glass!)  A few moments/breaks here and there between exercises will not diminish your workout.

With a few modifications and open communication – you can continue Pilates safely, comfortably and effectively throughout your pregnancy. If you have additional questions – please feel free to ask!

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