Pilates During Pregnancy: Best Exercise to Stay Fit

Expecting an addition to the family in 2016? Want to stay fit during pregnancy but not sure what type of exercise to choose from? Feel intimidated by the gym crowds? Take Pilates! Many women find Pilates to be one of best exercises to do, both during and after their pregnancy. The list of benefits is long, but let’s narrow it down to the following:

1. A stronger Transverse Abdominis to prevent Diastasis Recti.

One of the major misconceptions out there is that women should not work their abdominals during pregnancy. Of course they should! It’s just a matter of “how”.  Women should focus on the Transverse Abdominis muscles during pregnancy and not on the Rectus or what people see as the six pack muscles. Strengthening the Transverse will help combat an exaggerated Diastisis Recti, which is something that every mom-to-be should be aware of.  As the abdominals stretch, a small separation will occur between the 2 sides of the Rectus, which are the most superficial layer of the abdominal wall.  This is a natural protection response preventing Rectus from having to stretch too far, but if not handled with care, this separation can become exaggerated and sometimes not return to its natural state after delivery.  This is the number one reason to maintain a strong connection to the deep abdominal muscles, whose job is to keep everything together, even in the stretched state of pregnancy.

2. A stronger connection to the pelvic floor muscles

Most women have heard of “Kegel Exercises”, but don’t really understand the importance the Pelvic Floor during pregnancy. One of the main functions of the pelvic floor is to support the organs in the lower abdominal cavity. As the uterus grows it relies on the pelvic floor more and more for support, which is why it needs to be strengthened.  On the other hand, in order to give birth, the Pelvic Floor must completely relax to allow the baby to pass through. Pilates helps women not only feel the contraction of the Pelvic Floor muscles but also the release, ensuring that it is both strong and flexible.  A strong Pelvic Floor will also help the body return to its pre pregnancy state more quickly and prevents incontinence.

3. Better breath control

As the baby grows, the diaphragm is compressed up into the chest, and even though a woman’s lung capacity remains the same, it can feel increasingly harder to breathe.  Pilates breathing taps into the intercostal muscles lining the ribcage, which allows moms to still feel able to take deep breaths. Pilates breathing also helps keep the thoracic spine (middle back) flexible, which can get very tight during pregnancy.  Also, since each exercise in Pilates is associated with the breath connection it makes using the breath during labor much more accessible.

4. Less discomfort due to muscle & skeletal imbalances

As the baby grows the body has no choice but to adapt to make room.  This of course means that posture and alignment will be compromised.  While Pilates cannot stop this from happening, it can help to strengthen the stabilising muscles, especially those surrounding the hips and pelvis to ensure less discomfort (especially in the low back) as the baby grows and also help with balance issues.  Strengthening these muscles also helps to ensure there are no permanent imbalances postpartum. 

And of course…

5. A quicker recovery & return to pre-pregnancy body

It’s simple… the stronger the body is going in to pregnancy and throughout, the stronger it will be after.  If women lose the connection to their abdominals as they stretch during pregnancy, it will be that much harder to reconnect once the baby is out. It’s not just about abs either.  So much of being a mom involves lifting, bending over and time spent rounded forward (feeding, changing, pushing a stroller, etc) so strong arms and back are also important to prevent permanent tension, imbalances and bad habits.

If you need more advice about Pilates during pregnancy, contact us now