Pregnancy brings many changes to a woman’s body. As your belly grows, your center of gravity shifts, hormones loosen your ligaments, and your abdominal muscles stretch to accommodate your baby. With all these changes, many pregnant women wonder if it’s safe to continue their regular Pilates practice. The short answer is yes, you can definitely continue Pilates during pregnancy as long as you take some precautions.
I have been teaching prenatal Pilates for over 10 years. In my experience, Pilates is extremely beneficial for expecting moms. It builds core strength and muscle tone, improves posture and balance, reduces back and hip pain, decreases stress and anxiety, and makes delivery and recovery easier. As long as you listen to your body, avoid certain positions as needed, and work with an experienced prenatal instructor, Pilates can be safely enjoyed for most of your pregnancy.
- 1 Benefits of Pilates During Pregnancy
- 2 Tips for Practicing Pilates While Pregnant
- 3 What to Be Careful Of
- 4 What to Expect From Prenatal Pilates Classes
- 5 Where to Find Prenatal Pilates Classes
- 6 In Summary
Benefits of Pilates During Pregnancy
There are many excellent reasons to do Pilates while pregnant. Some of the major benefits include:
Increased Muscle Strength
Pilates focuses on building core strength, back strength, and overall muscle tone. Many of the exercises use your own body weight as resistance to help strengthen your major muscle groups. As the pregnant body changes and expands, extra core and back strength helps maintain posture and balance, support your growing belly, and prevent pain and strain.
Better Mental Health
Like yoga, Pilates emphasizes focused breathing, mindfulness, and precision of movement. These elements have a very calming effect which naturally reduces stress and anxiety. The endorphins released during exercise also improve your mood and energy levels. This is especially helpful in combatting pregnancy fatigue and depression.
Reduced Back Pain
Up to 70% of pregnant women experience back pain at some point. Strengthening core muscles that support the spine and maintaining flexibility can help minimize backaches. Simple Pilates exercises may relieve certain types of back pain, but check with your doctor or physiotherapist if the pain persists.
Stronger Pelvic Floor
A weak pelvic floor is a common issue during pregnancy and after childbirth. Many Pilates classes incorporate targeted pelvic floor exercises to help prevent leaks and prolapses. Strong pelvic floor muscles also facilitate an easier labor and faster postpartum recovery.
Tips for Practicing Pilates While Pregnant
Pilates is very adaptable to a pregnant woman’s changing needs. Here are some tips to practice safely and get the most out of your prenatal Pilates sessions:
- Start with lighter intensity at first, even if you have been doing Pilates for awhile. As your pregnancy progresses, stay at a moderate, comfortable intensity level. Listen to your body and don’t overexert.
- Focus on your breath by exhaling during the exertion phase of exercises. This oxygenates your blood properly. Never hold your breath.
- Move slowly and smoothly between positions, avoiding any jerky motions or rapid changes that could strain muscles. Props like support belts, cushions and bolsters allow you to perform movements with perfect alignment.
- For strength training, aim for 2 Pilates sessions per week with a rest day in between for muscle recovery. Gentle stretching sessions can be done daily.
What to Be Careful Of
While Pilates is an excellent pregnancy exercise, there are a few precautions to keep in mind:
- Avoid high impact power sessions with jumping, bouncing or sudden changes of direction that could cause injury. The hormone relaxin loosens your joints so they are more vulnerable.
- Overheating is dangerous for pregnancy. Avoid getting too hot which can cause dizziness or fainting. Don’t do Pilates in a hot room. Stay hydrated and cool down regularly.
- Certain positions become challenging in the second and third trimester as your belly grows and your balance shifts. Use props to support you in positions like side lying. Avoid lying flat on your back and intense twists.
Always get your instructor’s approval before trying any new or tricky movements in a prenatal class. Speak up if a position causes pain or extreme discomfort.
What to Expect From Prenatal Pilates Classes
So what does a typical pregnancy-focused Pilates class involve? Here’s a sneak peek:
- A variety of low impact mat exercises to build core strength, leg strength, balance, flexibility and endurance
- Targeted pelvic floor and deep abdominal exercises to support growing baby
- Gentle standing sequences to improve posture and relieve back strain
- Breathing exercises to oxygenate blood and relax mind
- Use of support props like cushions, straps, and balls to achieve perfect alignment in movements
- Soothing background music to set the mood
- A trained instructor well-versed in adapting traditional Pilates for pregnancy and postpartum bodies
The pace is slower than a regular Pilates class to accommodate changing energy levels and bigger bellies. The focus is on building up the strength and stamina needed for labor and delivery rather than burning calories. Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust movements to your comfort level.
Where to Find Prenatal Pilates Classes
If you are eager to start Pilates while pregnant, begin by speaking with your doctor or midwife. Get their go-ahead, especially if you have pregnancy complications or physical limitations. Ask them to recommend prenatal Pilates classes in your area.
You can also search online directories and community center brochures for pregnancy Pilates offerings. Look for instructors specially trained in prenatal fitness with certifications like the following:
- Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Specialist (PNES)
- Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) certified
- Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist (PPCES)
- Specialty certifications from STOTT Pilates, Balanced Body, or Polestar Pilates
Reputable programs through hospitals, birthing centers, and health associations likely have qualified prenatal Pilates teachers. Some yoga studios and regular Pilates studios offer pregnancy-adapted classes too. Read instructor bios to confirm their experience with pregnant students.
Investing in professional prenatal Pilates instruction is the safest way for pregnant women to gain strength, flexibility and endurance during pregnancy. The benefits definitely outweigh the cost when it comes to avoiding pain, bounding back after delivery, and making labor less difficult.
Pilates is absolutely something you can and should do during pregnancy as long as some safety precautions are followed. Along with other low impact exercises prenatal Pilates offers many proven physical and mental benefits. It is well worth searching out proper instruction to enjoy Pilates safely throughout pregnancy and ease the transition into postpartum recovery.