Pregnancy and childbirth can be one of the most beautiful and empowering times in a woman’s life, but it can also be scary as well as tough on your body, so it’s important to prepare yourself mentally and physically as best you can. Not only do women worry about the birth itself, but also the condition their body will be left in after childbirth and any “baby-weight” that has occurred. What a lot of women often fail to think about is building up their core strength and pelvic floor muscles in preparation of childbirth, which, if in good condition, will return to their pre-pregnancy condition much more quickly.
Natalie Ziegler, Director at Core The Studio, a Pilates studio in London, and an expert in pre and postnatal Pilates, emphasises to her clients the importance of preparing their bodies during pregnancy, and coaches women on how to exercise safely for both mother and baby.
How can regular Pilates help during pregnancy?
Since Pilates targets your stomach, back and pelvic floor muscles without adding strain to other joints, it targets the exact muscles that can be a problem during and after pregnancy but in a safe way. Doing regular Pilates during pregnancy will help mothers to:
Pilates strengthens pelvic floor muscles
This will help you to support the uterus, bladder and bowel as baby grows and keep everything tight after childbirth, helping to prevent small leeks when you laugh or cough.
Pilates makes stomach muscles stronger
The exercise helps the body to adjust to the weight of the growing baby, as well as strengthening the abdominal muscles for childbirth and speeding up recovery time.
Pilates helps to reduce any back pain
By strengthening deep abdominal muscles, Pilates can help to stabilise the pelvis and back.
Pilates helps get the baby into the right position for birth
By exercising on hands and knees, any strain is released from the back and pelvis, giving baby the space it needs to adjust for birth.
Pilates is a way to practice controlled breathing and relaxing
This is key to building the mental strength needed to deliver a baby as well as keeping a calmer atmosphere.
Prenatal and postnatal Pilates is becoming increasingly popular for its ability to improve strength and flexibility while practising mental awareness. As such, classes can vary from higher intensity to more meditative, at the preference of the woman, and from simple floor and ball work to using Pilates equipment such as a Pilates Reformer or a Stott Reformer, like the ones at Core The Studio.
What is a Stott Reformer?
A Stott Reformer is a tool used to do the Stott variation of Pilates. Stott Pilates is unique in its practice of keeping the natural curve of the spine during exercise, rather than a straight spine like traditional Pilates. Traditional Pilates has always focused on keeping a flat back for a strong spine and to tighten the abdominals, however Stott Pilates’ focus on a curved spine provides the most shock absorbing and strongest position for the body during exercise, which is particularly beneficial during pregnancy. Use of the Stott Reformer ensures that pregnant women are supported and comfortable as they exercise. Stott Pilates focuses on breathing, head and cervical spine placement, pelvic placement, scapular movement, and rib case placement.
Stott Pilates for Prenatal Women
As Stott Pilates focuses on breathing and pelvic adjustment, it can be hugely beneficial for women approaching labour. A properly aligned pelvis will make delivery go much more smoothly, and pelvic strength and alignment will also cope with the changing and shifting body during pregnancy with a lot more ease.
Stott Pilates’ focus on mindfulness also trains women to breathe consistently when an exercise is uncomfortable. This is a great psychological benefit to women during pregnancy, as they build their inner-strength necessary for confidence and focus during childbirth.
Stott Pilates After Childbirth
Most women who have had a vaginal delivery can return to exercise four to six weeks after giving birth – however, it is important to gain permission from a physician or midwife before women do so. If women have continued to be active during pregnancy, or practiced prenatal Stott Pilates, this transition will be considerably less drastic.
Postnatal Stott Pilates focuses strongly on restoring pelvic floor stability as well as abdominal and oblique muscles. Largely speaking, the sooner women begin strengthening their pelvic floor the better, as it enables them to progress onto tougher abdominal work and have them looking and feeling great again sooner.
Postnatal Stott Pilates is also hugely beneficial for mental strength after having a baby, as it forces women to make time for themselves and take control of their body, regaining self-confidence in a healthy way. Its meditative benefits also improve mental health and practice channelling emotions positively.
Lastly, pre and postnatal Pilates classes are a great way for women to meet other soon-to-be and new mothers, which can be so beneficial when embarking upon pregnancy and motherhood.
Starting Your Pilates Journey
The instructors at Core The Studio are experts in both prenatal and postnatal Pilates, and will be happy to help you with anything you need and answer any of your questions. You can visit Core The Studio to book a class.