As a expectant mum, the sooner you start pilates, the better.
It takes time for your body to learn the correct movements. By strengthening your deep abdominals, you’ll be preparing your body to carry the extra weight of a baby, and preventing problems in later pregnancy.
Pilates strengthens the most important muscles you'll use during pregnancy and labour - your abdominals, pelvic muscles and back. Pilates focuses on the core muscles, particularly the transversus abdominis, the muscle you use to push out the baby.
Pilates also works your pelvic floor muscles – very important for your sex life, and vital to prevent incontinence at later stages of pregnancy.
THE FIRST 3 MONTHS:
Please take advice from your doctor, before starting any exercise programme. If you’re new to pilates, experts recommend you wait 13-16 weeks into your pregnancy before starting the exercises.
Remember, too, that rest is very important in the first trimester. Even if you’re a pilates veteran, you may have to limit your exercise sessions to afternoons or evenings – if you suffer from morning sickness. Beware, too, that at times you may feel dizzy, clumsy or unbalanced. Please stop the exercises if you feel ill or uncomfortable in any way.
Now is the time to work on your posture, to strengthen your back muscles, as it will become more difficult for you to lie on your tummy as you get bigger. Once it becomes uncomfortable to lie on your tummy, leave those exercises until after the birth.
At all stages, take care not to work too hard, become too hot or lose your balance.
By now, you’re beginning to show. However, you will usually be feeling better, as the tiredness and nausea ease.
In the last two trimesters, lying on your back for extended periods is not recommended. Lying on your back can cut off the oxygen supply to the baby. You should seek out a pilates class specifically designed for pregnant women. If you lie on your back, you will need to change position every three (3) minutes, or have your back supported by a special wedge.
Because of your growing bump, it will be difficult to “pull in your belly button” – the classic command in pilates. So you should think, instead, of “raising the bump”. As your breasts get bigger, you will need to work on your mid-back muscles, to prevent you from becoming round-shouldered. You will also need the support of a good bra.
One issue you should be aware of - separation of the abs (diastasis) can occur by the end of the second trimester. This is a particular problem for women with poor muscle tone. Because of this, it is safest at this stage for everyone to avoid exercises that involve the basic curl-up.
Due to hormonal changes, your joints are now less stable, and it is best to avoid overstretching the hamstrings and groin muscles.
Also avoid any exercise that involves lifting the pelvis high off the floor.
Cramps are often a problem in late pregnancy. These can be relieved by calf stretches, elevating your legs and pumping actions of the ankle.
At this stage, you will also be experiencing fluid retention and increased blood volume. This may cause, possibly, numbness, pain and pins and needle sensations in the hands and feet. When exercising on your hands and knees, a rolled up towel under the heel of your hands may help make you more comfortable.
Empty your bladder before you work out.
THE BENEFITS OF PILATES
• Pilates prepares you for labour
• The exercises are non-impact, and won’t stress your joints
• Pilates helps you learn to relax
• Pilates benefits food digestion, blood circulation and breathing
• It teaches you a method which will help you regain your figure after birth
• It strengthens postural muscles, important during pregnancy as your body changes
• It helps make you more comfortable
PILATES IS NOT FOR YOU IF…
• You have suffered more than two miscarriages
• Are expecting twins
• Or suffer from… high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, incompetent cervix, placenta praevia, severe headaches, blurred vision, pain or recurrent fevers.
Anyone with any doubts whatsoever should contact their doctor prior to starting any exercise programme.