Pilates and Pregnancy by Sherrie Aprilovic, APMA Level 4 Pilates Practitioner, owner of Narellan Pilates Studio
One way to stay fit and well during pregnancy is to exercise on a regular basis. This does not mean that if a woman is fit and strong, the pregnancy and labour will be a breeze. Each pregnancy and labour is individual and unpredictable, but the right type of exercise can lead to a less problematic pregnancy and faster post natal recovery.
A pregnant body undergoes many changes and exercise should be adapted and modified as the pregnancy progresses. Pilates can be individualized to suit anybody’s ability. As baby grows, the mother’s centre of gravity shifts and the lower back experiences additional sway to compensate for this. Increase in the size of breasts may cause rounding of the shoulders putting strain on the neck, shoulders and upper back. Pilates can help reduce tension in these areas and create better postural awareness and mobility.
In the first trimester, movement sessions may need to be adjusted to accommodate fatigue. During the second trimester as abdominals continue to stretch, some women may experience separation of the ab muscles. With reduced abdominal support, low back pain may be experienced. Due to hormonal changes, ligaments surrounding the joints become loose and vulnerable. Pelvic floor muscles are also placed under stress, stretching and moving lower down into the pelvis under the weight of the baby. Pilates exercises focus on the both the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to assist in preventing low back pain and incontinence.
Pilates also places an emphasis on deep abdominal breathing which can help relieve stress and is good practice for the breathing techniques used during labour and delivery. The benefits of Pilates are many: improved circulation, reduced risk of varicose veins, leg cramps, less likelihood of constipation and hemorrhoids and a general boost to well being and self esteem by maintaining fitness levels and preparing for motherhood.
Guidelines for pregnancy from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RANZCOG) indicate that women not exercise on their back when they reach the second trimeste r as supplies of oxygen may be cut to mother and foetus and lead to maternal dizziness. In the Pilates Studio, we can transfer many of the exercises in the pregnancy pro gram on to some of the specialized pieces of equipment. The equipment can help support the torso and offer alternative positions for exercise such as sitting, kneeling or standing. Our WUNDA CHAIR is a very versatile piece of equipment as it can facilitate so many exercises in an upright position.
A very important part of a Pilates Pregnancy program is POST PARTUM REHABILITATION, an area that is sadly neglected in women’s health. Early rehab is essential for realigning a woman’s body afte r birth and initiating the healing process. RANZCOG suggest doing gentle exercises that are safe enough for most vaginal deliveries, and in some cases, caesareans. Post partum, these exercises should be commenced a few hours after a vaginal birth, and 48 hours after a Caesar. It is important to restore sensation to the pelvic floor muscles as quickly as possible to affect a full & complete recovery. A woman who has done Pilates throughout her pregnancy may return to her program within two weeks after the birth. In the case of a caesarean, the new mum’s doctor should give her the all clear first.
Post Partum Pilates exercises are similar to pre natal exercises so as not to put too much stress or strain on the healing tissues within the body. Emphasis is placed on realigning the pelvis, strengthening the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and helping the new mum cope with the demands of caring for a new born.
At Narellan Pilates Studio, your Principal Instructor has been comprehensively trained in all levels of the Pilates Method and is certified by the USA Center for Women’s Fitness Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a Pilates Method Pre/Post Natal Specialist.
Sherrie Aprilovic acknowledges the help from the Instructors of Wollongong Pilates Studio and the Centre for Women’s Fitness USA in compiling this information.