The back relies upon a strong abdominal corset of muscle for protection during everyday activities. Throughout your pregnancy these tummy muscles are stretched as your baby grows. Stretching these muscles over time causes them to weaken. Once you have lost strength then your back is vulnerable to injury and pain as it has lost its muscular support. Your pelvic floor muscles (these form the bottom of the corset that supports the back) also have increased stress as the baby gains weight and presses down onto them. You will find as a result of this extra stress you are unable to hold your pelvic floor muscles for as long and therefore will be making more frequent trips to the toilet. It is important to strengthen these muscles and Pilates targets them ideally.
The joints of the pelvis are held together by strong ligaments. During birth your pelvis needs to open to allow the baby to pass through. This loosening of the pelvic ligaments occurs from the release of a hormone called relaxin. This stretches all of the ligaments in your body and is a reason why during pregnancy you often see an increase in musculo-skeletal aches and pains. The muscles have to work harder to protect the joints as the ligaments cannot give you the support that you are used to. The muscles then tire, spasm and cause pain. It is important therefore to strengthen the muscles in the safest way possible to give the joints the protection they need.
Pilates during Pregnancy
Pilates exercises contribute towards an easier pregnancy, delivery and recovery
Pilates works the strong inner (deep) muscles of the body. Strengthening these muscles during pregnancy makes it easier for you to carry your baby and improves the way you hold yourself, helping achieve effective aligned posture.
Throughout your pregnancy you’re your body shape will be changing and your centre of gravity will move. Pregnancy often causes poor posture and the curve of the spine is increased. This places excess stress on the muscles of the back and pain often develops as a result. What is important is that that you learn how correct posture feels so that you continue to maintain correct alignment of the joints despite these changes. You will then avoid placing extra stresses on your joints and will avoid this source of pain.
Pilates is a technique that is promoted by Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, GPs and Midwifes as a safe form of antenatal exercise.
Pilates with a Physiotherapist at KTB
Pregnancy is a special time for you and you will want to look after yourself and of course take care of your unborn child. At KTB you can be assured of safety and the best quality of care. Our Physiotherapists have extensive knowledge of the effects of pregnancy on the body, safe exercises and treatment for any complications that may arise. Undertaking Pilates with a Physiotherapist guarantees that you are given accurate advice on safe exercises and modifications. Should you suffer from back or pelvic pain during your pregnancy then our Physiotherapist can give you a personalised rehabilitation programme and appropriate advice. Our instructors are trained to recognise the start of problems and will ensure that you make the right changes to your posture and your lifestyle as not to aggravate the problem. If you need treatment then you can see the same Physiotherapist for this at your convenience. We can liaise with your midwife or GP and will ensure that your pregnancy is as stress free as possible.
At KTB all of our classes are taken by a Chartered Physiotherapist. We understand that just because you are pregnant, life doesn’t become simpler, we can accommodate the modifications that you would require in any of the classes on our timetable. We can adapt any exercise for you during your pregnancy and we are experienced enough not to allow the modifications that we make for you, affect the class in general or make you feel uncomfortable. There will be adaptations that we need to make and these are outlined below.
If you feel more comfortable with 1:1 sessions with one of our Physiotherapists then this can be organised as regular 30 or 60 minute sessions and can be mat, small equipment or machine based.
Modifying Pilates throughout the Stages of Pregnancy
The early stages of pregnancy are often the worst. You will more than likely feel tired and these are the weeks that sickness becomes a problem. If you have not exercised before pregnancy then the first trimester is not the most ideal time to begin a class. At KTB, we insist on all individuals attending a 1:1 session with a Physiotherapist before joining a class. We can then advise you whether it is safe for you to work at a low level within a class or whether you would be better working on some specific moves at home before joining a class in the second trimester. At the 1:1 we will assess your posture and give you practical advice on being pregnant and the care you need to take to avoid problems as you get bigger. We will also work out a personalised home exercise programme for you. The main benefit of Pilates in this trimester is to relax the body and mind. It will also energise you during your ‘sluggish’ days. Gaining an increased awareness of your posture, core and alignment at this stage will prove advantageous for the latter months. During a class at this stage no major modifications will need to be made so nobody will guess that you are in the early stages of pregnancy unless you choose to tell them. We will advise you to work at a lower level and to think more about centring through the pelvic floor. This is crucial as the strain on this muscle will increase with the weight increase.
For most people this is the easiest trimester; the time in which you have the most energy. Throughout these three months though, you will see your abdominal muscles stretch significantly. It is important during this time to maintain energy levels and fitness as the last three months are harder going. The more prepared you are the better. More modifications are made during this trimester to your classes. Firstly you will need to avoid lying on your back for long periods. We will supply you with a wedge. You can use this to prop up your neck and shoulders. This position prevents the possibility of you obstructing the blood supply to your baby. Rather than lying in your front we will give you alternatives including the use of the gym ball to achieve the same benefits. Rather than doing upper abdominal work we will include more use of weights to target the strength of the arms. This will be necessary as you will soon be carrying around a baby and you will be grateful of the extra strength and toning!
Although you are nearing the all important due date you will probably be feeling heavy and uncomfortable by now. The abdominals are stretched to the max and there will be a huge additional amount of force onto the pelvic floor. The release of the hormone relaxin will make you susceptible to back or pelvic pain at these latter stages. This is the time that you will really have to work on correcting your posture in order to avoid an anterior tilt of the pelvis and increased arch of the lower back as the abdominals get heavier. Exercise in this trimester is important to increase circulation to avoid swollen legs and varicose veins. The classes in this trimester will place an increased focus on your breath to prepare you for labour. Exercise with you on your hands and knees at this stage are comfortable for you and also help to position your baby ready for delivery. They will help to keep the baby out of the posterior position that often causes long painful ‘back labours’.
Pilates for Labour
The improved circulation achieved through Pilates allows increased oxygen to the womb. This reduces distress to your baby. The breathing techniques learnt also help you to control your birth. You will also have increased confidence with the gym ball – an excellent accessory for assisting labour!
If you have had a normal delivery then it is typically safe to return to Pilates within 4-6 weeks, 8 -12 after a c-section. After labour Pilates is excellent for regaining pre-pregnancy shape. It also re-strengthens muscles that have been stretched.
Prior to Conception
If you are planning to start a family then it makes sense to prepare your body by getting the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles as toned as possible through the Pilates approach. This will minimise your risk of back pain and general aches and pains during a pregnancy. This is particularly important if you have a history of back pain. It is also helpful to understand the Pilates approach and to have applied the movements before your body shape begins to change through pregnancy. You will then find it easier to modify and correct posture antenatally.
If you are pregnant you may also like to see our web page: