Research shows that pregnant women who stay active feel better, have a better delivery and recover faster. We asked the experts at FittaMamma to explain why Pilates is the perfect exercise regime, both during and after pregnancy.
Devised by Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s, Pilates is a gentle, low impact form of exercise which offers a whole range of additional benefits for pregnant women.
There’s no reason not to practise Pilates throughout your pregnancy, adapting the different exercise routines as your baby bump gets bigger. Many women find they can continue right up until their baby is born, enjoying Pilates even when other more vigorous forms of exercise have become uncomfortable. The precise, controlled movements will help you adapt to the changes in your body and can prove hugely beneficial during the birth process, encouraging a speedier recovery afterwards.
Pilates strengthens your deep abdominals, back and pelvic floor muscles without placing undue strain on your other joints. Even if your usual fitness routine is more about running, cycling or gym-based workouts try and include some Pilates exercises as well. If you’re not used to regular exercise there’s no reason not to start practising Pilates during pregnancy, although we’d advise waiting until your second trimester.
What makes Pilates so beneficial for pregnant women?
Experts agree that all healthy pregnant women should aim for 30 minutes exercise on at least five (ideally seven!) days a week. Pilates is a strong but low impact workout for your entire body, and here are our top ten reasons for why pregnancy Pilates should be included in your exercise routine:
- Controlled movements improve your strength, posture and circulation
- Strengthening core tummy muscles will reduce the effects of diastasis rectis (abdominal separation)
- Keeping your core and pelvic floor muscles strong is a great benefit during the birth process
- Pilates encourages you to work your pelvic floor muscles helping to avoid stress incontinence
- The hormone relaxin, released during pregnancy makes it easy to over-stretch. The controlled movements of Pilates will improve your flexibility without damage to your ligaments
- Learning controlled breathing and relaxation techniques are a great benefit during the birth of your baby
- Exercises on your hands and knees take the strain off your back and pelvis and can encourage your baby into the correct birthing position
- Strengthening your deep abs will stabilise your back and pelvis, helping to ease niggling backache and joint pain
- You can adapt your Pilates routine to continue exercising right up until baby arrives
Try these core exercises to give you a taster!
Four point kneeling
This exercise will help to strengthen your core abdominals.
- Kneel on your mat with your hands under your shoulders, knees under your hips.
- Inhale, allowing your abs to relax and letting your baby drop downwards.
- As you exhale, hug your baby back upwards towards your spine, engaging your deep abdominals.
- Keep your back straight.
Repeat 6-8 times before sitting back on your heels and reaching your arms forward to stretch and relax.
- In the same kneeling position on your mat, hands under your shoulders, knees under your hips, back straight. Inhale, prepare.
- As you exhale curl your pubic bone towards your navel, rounding your spine and looking between your arms at your baby bump. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.
- Inhale whilst maintaining a curved spine.
- Exhale and return to neutral without letting your back sag towards the floor – your back should only curve upwards, not downwards!
Repeat 4-6 times.
You’ll need a fitness ball for this one!
- Sit on your fit ball, centring your weight, feet parallel about hip width apart.
- Keep your back straight and make sure your pelvic floor is engaged.
- Draw your baby in a little towards the back of your spine and sit tall.
- Exhale, tilting your pubic bone up towards your belly button and your tailbone rounding your lower back.
- Try to use your deep pelvic floor muscles to create the movement rather than gripping the bum.
- Inhale and return to your original position
Repeat 4-6 times
Joining a class with a certified pregnancy Pilates instructor is a good idea, as well as being a great way to meet other mothers to be, and if there’s not a suitable class available locally you’ll find detailed pregnancy Pilates routines at www.fittamamma.com that are easy to follow at home with minimal equipment.