Pilates and Pregnancy Part Two - Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercise During Pregnancy

Having done your preparation (see yesterday's blog post, Preparing for Pregnancy) your body will feel fit, flexible and strong when you fall pregnant, the best start to the journey ahead.

As soon as you know you are expecting, inform any instructors you may be training with of your condition so they can adapt your Pilates programme accordingly, or assign you to a more suitable group class.  Take these first few weeks to adjust your mindset to thinking of your fitness routine now as prioritising body conditioning and wellbeing for you and your baby.  Be safe and keep yourself informed on the appropriate exercise to undertake. The NHS website has tips and information on this - it’s very informative as well as reinforcing the importance of exercise during pregnancy: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-exercise.aspx#close

Pilates is one of the best forms of exercise to take whilst you are pregnant. It can be practiced throughout your pregnancy, and modified as your body changes. Whether you have practiced exercise or not prior to getting pregnant, a Pregnancy Pilates class taught by a certified Pilates professional will be a safe and effective exercise method for you. Exercises are modified and adapted for your condition with emphasis on key areas of the body that will need strengthening, stretching, mobilising and releasing as you go through the three trimesters. The deep breathing method we teach in Pilates is also a wonderfully effective tool to help you calm your body down, ease your mind and increase oxygen flow into your body. I always notice a strong sense of ease and contentment in my pregnancy class participants after an hour of deep breathing and gentle, effective exercise so I would highly recommend you finding a class to join near you. 

There is much to learn about your body and all the changes it will go through during your pregnancy, and this is by no means a conclusive guide, but here are just a few things to consider through each of the trimesters.

First Trimester

Follow your doctor’s advice first and foremost.  And as long as they have given you the go ahead, and you feel up to it, continue your normal exercise regime, but don’t make any increase in the difficulty, intensity or endurance level of your workout.  Start pelvic floor exercises and make these part of your everyday routine throughout your pregnancy. Practice deep breathing techniques and make sure you don’t get too hot, as being overheated can be harmful to your baby.  

Please note: Your body will release high levels of the hormone relaxin which will make your ligaments more flexible than normal. This is to allow for a widening of the pubic bone and relaxation of the pelvic joints in preparation for birth. This extra flexibility means your body is a little more unstable than usual, and therefore you must be cautious not to overstretch and injure yourself. The NCT has excellent information on all aspects of exercise during pregnancy so take the time to research and read through it : http://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/exercise-during-pregnancy-0. 

Second Trimester

In the second Trimester of your pregnancy, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend that you avoid exercises that involve you lying flat, especially after 16 weeks. Your Pilates trainer will offer you other options such as leaning on your elbows, working with a stability ball, standing work, and matwork with your upper body supported by a cushion (or something similar) behind you.

Though it is important to modify your exercises at this point to remain as safe as possible, continuing your pilates practice is highly recommended. Exercise throughout pregnancy can reduce

  • Fatigue
  • Varicosities and swelling of extremities
  • The length of labour
  • Delivery complications

I hope this will be a great encouragement to continue your regular Pilates sessions. You can find the full guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists here: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/statements/statement-no-4.pdf

Third Trimester

You will start to feel more fatigued, you may get shortness of breath, swollen ankles and feet amongst other symptoms, so the key factor here is to slow down and decrease your fitness routine to one that focuses on the forthcoming event.  Now is the time to start working on releasing of the pelvic floor muscles to prepare for birth, deep breathing to help you through labour and delivery, and gentle functional movement. Strengthening exercises for the legs and upper body are important, as are pelvic tilts to alleviate back ache.  Above all, be kind to yourself, only do what feels right for you, and be sure to communicate clearly to your Pilates trainer how you are feeling so they can keep you focused, safe and supported throughout this challenging time. 

And finally when it comes to the big day, remember that this is the beginning of an amazing new adventure in your life; stay calm, take lots of deep breaths and trust that your body can do this. Before you know it, you’ll hold a beautiful new life in your hands.

Written material copyright of Rachel Lawrence.
 All Rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.