Pregnancy and giving birth is a time of enormous musculoskeletal, physical and emotional change. It is one of the greatest miracles on earth. It can also be one of the most difficult challenges in a woman’s life if she is not physically or mentally prepared.
Pilates for Pregnancy
Exercising during and after pregnancy can have huge beneficial effects on a new mother’s mental and
physical wellbeing. (see our blog on the benefits of exercise during pregnancy for more detail).
Pregnancy specific Pilates is a great choice of pre and post natal exercise. It is safe and effective and hits all the right areas that benefit pregnancy and the postpartum period so well.
Benefits of Pregnancy Pilates
- Encourages mobility of tight areas, helping to ease joint stress and strain and energize your body.
- Strengthens the core and pelvic floor, to aid your body during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery.
- Improves hip and spine stability, helping to maintain better posture and support for your pregnancy.
- Helps to reduce those painful niggles that are often assumed to be unavoidable during pregnancy.
- Strengthens and tones arms and legs, in preparation for carrying a baby, and then a toddler!
- Focuses on breathing, promoting good sleep and general relaxation.
- You time; giving you a chance to focus on nothing but you.
- Meet other mums-to-be! The classes are friendly and fun and are filled with the encouragement and support, so important during this very special time in your life.
Pregnancy Pilates classes are designed to help women get through their pregnancy with minimal discomfort, by offering exercise to help ease tension of the back, hips and shoulders and build strength in areas most in need, such as the deeper core abdominals, pelvic floor, legs and bums.
The exercises focus on slow, controlled and centralized movements, to build deep strength and stability without added impact or strain – perfect for pregnancy!
While Pilates can offer short-term benefits, the long-term benefits of Pilates will only be achieved if you commit to the work. It takes a while for the body to adapt and muscle memory to evolve, so consistency is key!
The Importance of the Pelvic Floor in Pre & Post Pregnancy
Pregnancy is the perfect time to learn exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor supports your body and your baby during pregnancy and improves your ability to hold your bladder in the later stages of pregnancy.
It has been said it can be a benefit on the day of delivery, though everyone has widely different experiences, so it is hard to tell how accurate that is.
Exercising the pelvic floor after birth can help ease perianal pain and get other deeper core muscles engaging a little more quickly and more effectively.
Probably most importantly, a strong pelvic floor can help to prevent more serious problems such as stress incontinence and prolapse of the uterus after birth.
The Benefits of Pilates on the Diastasis Recti
The Diastasis Recti is the slip or the parting of the abdominal walls, along the mid-line collagen structures of connective tissue running down the center of the Rectus Abdominus (the ‘6 pack’ abdominal muscle).
Almost every pregnancy creates some level of diastasis of the Rectus Abdominus in the third trimester, which is normal. Most of the time this gap returns to normal on its own in the months after birth. However, many women can suffer a tear during pregnancy or labour, leaving the abdominals weak and the hips and back unsupported.
More often than not, women with an enlarged Diastasis Recti, have some level of pelvic floor dysfunction (Diastasis Recti and Pelvic Floor problems tend to go together). This is not all; because ALL the muscles of the abdomen – the deeper Transvers Abdominus, the Internal and External Obliques, as well as Rectus Abdominis meet at this center midline, all are compromised, meaning that this lack of tension, protection and stability affects the whole body both aesthetically and functionally.
If the Diastasis Recti gap is wider than a two-finger width after 6-8 weeks, it will need to be looked after and treated. It is advised to see a Physio (who can confirm this) and/or a pregnancy trained Pilates teacher who can offer some specific deep core and pelvic floor exercises, along with some other safe integrated exercises, designed to re-align, re-connect and then strengthen the entire core musculature.
There are also many exercises to avoid, as placing certain forces or strain on the lower abdominal area can in fact exacerbate the problem. (see our Diastasis Recti post for more details).