Pilates is an especially useful exercise throughout pregnancy. Pilates helps with both labour and being a new mum by preparing you mentally and physically for the challenges of giving birth and looking after a baby.
After you’ve given birth, pilates can help keep you both physically and mentally prepared to take on the challenge of little ones.
Founder of equipment studio, Agile Pilates, Agi Makarewicz, says:
“When you take the time to stop and think about the beauty and complexity of growing a baby inside your womb, it is simply amazing – it is truly a wonder of nature.
“But the demands of pregnancy can take its toll on your body; back pain, sciatica and the weakening of your pelvic floor are all very common issues.
Here are 5 reasons why pilates classes work brilliantly for pregnant women and new mums:
Build your body’s powerhouse
Pregnancy is not the time to build muscles around your abdomen, but it’s really important to keep your core muscles strong to support your posture.
Your core’s role is to act like a powerhouse for your entire body – keep your core strong and it will help all over body function.
Help you have a better labour
Pilates will help you to cope more easily with labour and childbirth. The benefits are two-fold:
Pilates activates key muscles, strengthening them and basically gets them working properly.
Learning how to breath properly is a key part of pilates – breathing properly encourages relaxation, which helps to ease the discomfort of contractions.
Help you cope with the physical demands of motherhood
Pilates works on developing your back muscles and strength in your upper body and legs, in a gentle and safe way, and will, therefore, help you deal better with the demands of the months to follow after the birth.
Boost your immune system & energy levels
Pilates will also help boost your immune system and circulation, and provide the energy levels needed to enjoy your pregnancy with more gusto and prepare better for labour.
Once your baby has safely arrived, you can use pilates classes as ‘me time’, giving you breathing space and bursts of the all important happy hormones (endorphins).
Future-proof your body
Investing in pilates today will put you on a path for a healthier future.
Pilates works like WD40, it oils your joints, slowing down the natural ageing process by improving core strength, muscle tone, joint mobility, balance and posture.
Children are demanding both physically and mentally but by keeping one step ahead in body and mind, it will be you running the circles around them for many years to come.
“It’s very important to check that your pilates instructor is fully qualified and able to teach pregnant and post-natal women,” said Agi. “You should also discuss any specific medical conditions you have with your instructor and discuss with your midwife or doctor.”
Find out more about Agile Pilates here.
The importance of posture
Registered Osteopath Emily Beckloff, from Backworking Osteopathic Practice, says: “During pregnancy, as we all know, the body changes quite dramatically and quickly.
“As the baby grows, our centre of gravity shifts forwards and our posture changes.
“The hormone Relaxin loosens our ligaments, particularly those in the pelvis, to prepare our bodies for birth. This can however mean our skeleton is ‘too loose’ in places and we can get pelvic pain, back pain and feel very tired, because as well as growing a baby, our bodies are working much harder than before to stay upright.
“Strengthening our muscles will help to keep everything together and help to support the weight of the growing baby much more efficiently. It will also help to get those muscles back into shape more quickly afterwards.
“Antenatal pilates can help by strengthening our core strength and improving our posture, which in turn will help the inside of our bodies to work as well as it can.
“Our lymphatic drainage is a really important part of our immune system and if it’s a bit sluggish because of weaker muscles or poor posture, it can affect our general feeling of well being and may also make us feel ‘puffy' or ‘lethargic’.
“Maintaining good muscle strength and improving our posture are really important things to do.
“Giving birth is all about muscle control, but your body does it for you.
Your uterus is a supersonic machine!
“Your uterus is a supersonic machine! This sounds dramatic, but your pelvis separates slightly during the birth process and it’s at this point you really need those strong muscles to keep it all in alignment, so it comes back to it’s neutral position afterwards.
“Pilates uses controlled breathing too, which is fantastic for supplying muscles with the oxygen they need to do their job, not to mention to supply your baby and you with plenty of oxygen too.”
Find a pilates class especially for pregnancy
Pregnancy and post-natal fitness expert Dr Joanna Helcké says:
“Whilst Pilates can truly help alleviate backache, manage mild to moderate pelvic pain and speed up postnatal recovery of the abdominals, including the healing of abdominal separation, it is important that mums-to-be seek out classes that are tailored for pregnancy and delivered by a specialist in this field.
“Pilates was not originally devised with pregnant women in mind and, therefore, needs to be heavily adapted to make it beneficial for the perinatal period.
“For pregnancy Pilates delivered by specialists take a look at the Guild of Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Instructors website which is a not-for profit organisation ensuring high standards are maintained.”
All concerns should be checked by your GP/midwife.