Exercising for Two: Prenatal Pilates

A major theme that runs throughout our blog posts is: Pilates is good for everybody! You might think that’s just a matter of opinion until, like our instructors, you see firsthand the broad spectrum of bodies we get to work with on a daily basis. Pilates is built to accommodate, which makes Pilates an ideal workout for people with special needs. One of the “special-est” of these needs is the dramatically changing figure that comes with pregnancy.

The majority of Pilates exercises are low-impact, and pose no problems to an expecting mother during the first trimester of pregnancy. In fact, this is an excellent time to practice Pilates. So many women complain of lower back pain as the belly blossoms and the weight of the growing fetus puts stress on the natural curvature of the spine. Pilates is famous for its emphasis on a strong core, and a well-developed powerhouse (from the top of the abs to bottom of the pelvis) will work to counterbalance the baby weight, keeping the spine in alignment.

Once the first trimester has passed, however, it quickly becomes impossible for a woman to lie on her stomach — say “see ya later” to swan exercises on the barrel, or long box exercises on the reformer! Doctors also recommend that women not lie on their backs for extended periods during the second and third trimesters, as this position restricts blood flow from the heart to the lower body. This can result in lightheadedness and numbness in mom, and oxygen deprivation in baby.

Remember, Joseph Pilates designed a fitness system that brilliantly adapts to unique bodies. Pilates exercises later in pregnancy are geared toward keeping the spine in alignment and strengthening the pelvic floor — no reformer necessary. Many of the classic “moves” can be modified to safe positions, such as sitting upright, kneeling, or lying on one’s side.

Pilates effectively prepares the body to handle major physical changes, but the benefits carry through to the moment the baby is born. Practice in breath control, concentration, and active mind-body awareness will all prove enormously helpful during labor. And thanks to that enhanced mind-body connection, a new mom will find herself able to “bounce back” quickly after her baby is born — more on that in an article next month!

Pilates can be a gentle and still a serious fitness system. At Dynamic Fitness, we do not permit expecting mothers to begin a Pilates routine if they have never studied Pilates before. And as with any form of exercise, we always recommend our pregnant trainees to consult with their healthcare providers before they pursue a Pilates regimen during pregnancy. That said, expecting mothers who have a grasp of Pilates fundamentals are warmly invited to continue training at Dynamic Fitness, guided by the expertise of our certified instructors. Feel free to call us at the studio for a consultation on Pilates exercise during pregnancy.

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