When should you start prenatal Pilates?

Prenatal Pilates is Clinical Pilates that is modified to address the changes which occur during pregnancy. While there is no specific time that you should start Pilates, the earlier you start, the stronger you will become and therefore can adapt to the changes that your body goes through. Due to the increase in progesterone and estrogen in the first trimester, it is very common for women to experience nausea and vomiting in the first trimester (the first 12 weeks). It is usually fine to exercise during this period, but for some people the fatigue, nausea and vomiting can make this difficult. Therefore, we suggest that you commence Pilates when you feel well enough to do so. Remember that gentle exercise, including Clinical Prenatal Pilates, can be quite helpful for improving energy so, while it may feel like the last thing you want to do, you might find you feel better afterwards.

We find that with many of the women we work with in our Pilates sessions, the ones who start the earliest have the best pregnancies and recover the fastest. Often our physiotherapists know about your pregnancy before you’ve even told family members or friends! And don’t worry, your secret is safe with them for privacy and confidentiality reason.

How does Pilates help during pregnancy?

You will notice throughout your pregnancy that your body changes in many ways, many of which you may not have been expecting. Firstly, thanks to an increase in the hormone Relaxin, your ligaments become more lax (stretchy), than they used to be – this is to allow the normally rigid pelvis to expand during child birth. As a result, your pelvis needs more support from the muscles around it (such as your glutes, pelvic floor, adductors and deep abdominal muscles). It is common during pregnancy to develop “pelvic pain”, which is pain in either the front or back of the pelvis. This can be due to a lack of support from the muscles around the pelvis. Therefore, in Pilates, our physios focus on improving the function of the muscles around the pelvis and teach you ways of moving that will not aggravate your pelvis. The Relaxin hormone not only affects your pelvis though, it affects all the ligaments in your body and can also cause changes such as foot shape (e.g. flat feet) and posture. Postural changes are also due to the changes in weight distribution (increased weight at the front of the body as the baby grows and increased breast size which can pull the shoulders into a more rounded position). While these things are normal changes in pregnancy, they can lead to stiffness in the thoracic spine and muscles in the chest – both of which can be improved with mobility exercises.

Another common concern in pregnancy (and particularly post pregnancy) is pelvic floor weakness. Your pelvic floor muscles have to work much harder during pregnancy for a couple of reasons. The muscles are not as tight as normal due to the increase in Relaxin, which impairs their function, and also the weight of the growing baby is pushing down on the pelvic floor muscles. Improving pelvic floor muscle strength during pregnancy helps with maintaining bladder and bowel control during pregnancy and has a preventative effect after the birth – there is reduced risk of organ prolapse and/or incontinence postnatally. We teach you how to correctly activate your pelvic floor and incorporate it into your program. It is recommended that you start to do this as soon as possible and will be something you should continue post pregnancy as well. Pelvic floor muscles can be commenced as soon as you find out about the pregnancy, and it’s never too late to start!

In some circumstances, such as a high-risk pregnancy, you may be advised to stop exercise altogether. If you aren’t sure if you should be doing Pilates it is recommended that you talk to your obstetrician about what the best form of exercise if for you throughout your pregnancy. Generally, Pilates is a very safe form of exercise, as it is monitored closely by a physiotherapist and is low impact and we can therefore tailor a program specific to your body, your needs and your goals. It is also important to remember that Prenatal Pilates can be a great way to maintain your strength in other ways, like walking, running and going to the gym late into pregnancy.

For further information and to book an appointment, please get in touch with the fruendly team at Instinct Health today.

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