Pilates and pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of great change within a woman’s body, however in a healthy uncomplicated pregnancy, exercise can continue to be safe and is generally recommended for most women.

Pilates can be a very beneficial form of exercise during pregnancy if you are conscious of the precautions to take and are knowledgeable about the effects that exercise may have on you and your developing baby.

All pregnant women should have a medical clearance before commencing Pilates.

In most pregnancies, regular moderate intensity physical activity is encouraged, however some important considerations when exercising during pregnancy are detailed below.

How can Pilates help during pregnancy?

As your baby grows, your posture will change.

Alterations in your posture may contribute to certain muscles tightening and shortening and others lengthening and weakening.

Pregnancy hormones cause a ‘softening’ of the ligaments, potentially leading to reduced joint support.

This, along with the extra pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles as the baby grows, may result in less support of the lower back and pelvis.

It is recommended to avoid high impact, jolting exercises.

Commonly the central vertical abdominal muscles stretch and separate at their midline.

This is known as a rectus abdominis diastasis.

While it is important to maintain abdominal muscle strength during pregnancy, correct exercise technique is essential, as performing conventional sit-up exercises or double leg lifting exercises may actually worsen this separation.

During pregnancy, extra strain on the pelvic floor muscles may mean they don’t work quite as well as they should, possibly resulting in impairments in bladder and bowel function such as incontinence and reduced support of the pelvic organs, which may manifest as a pelvic organ prolapse.

Pilates can help to maintain the strength of the pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles and minimise the adverse effects of the postural changes that result.

As these movements are very precise, closely supervised instruction is important, since incorrect activation will not result in the desired outcome, or worse, may aggravate an existing problem or cause an injury.

For this reason learning Pilates from a book or DVD is generally not recommended, especially when pregnant, as certain modifications will need to be made to many of the exercises.

Important considerations when exercising during pregnancy

Stop exercising and seek medical advice if you experience any of the following: