The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends daily, low impact exercise for all healthy pregnant women. It’s been shown that expectant mothers who exercise have shorter labors, easier deliveries and greater self esteem. Pilates is a fantastic, non impact way of improving overall strength and stability, something that pregnant women lose as their hormones surge and their muscles and joints become hyper mobile.
Pilates focuses on the core which includes the pelvic floor. In a study conducted in Norway, women with pelvic floor training had a lower rate of prolonged second stage labor and experienced less urinary incontinence. Since the pelvic floor muscles form a sling or hammock across the opening of the pelvis , they are responsible for keeping all of the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, rectum) in place and functioning correctly. Their strength becomes particularly important during pregnancy when the added weight of the fetus can cause these organs to prolapse or slip through the hammock.
Pilates is not only a great way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, but it’s also highly adaptable which makes it ideal for pregnancy, a time when women’s bodies are literally changing daily. As the fetus grows, a mother’s center of gravity shifts forward, often throwing her back into a state of lumbar lordosis. This lordosis or curve in the lower back compresses the vertebrae and as the surrounding muscles struggle to compensate, they’re thrown into a state of imbalance. This imbalance results in pain. Each Pilates session is individually tailored so an instructor trained in pre-natal Pilates simply picks and modifes the appropriate exercises to lengthen the mother’s back out of compression by loosening the muscles that are too tight and tightening the muscles that are too loose thus restoring balance to the body and eliminating pain.
An expectant mother’s abs will stretch over 50% of their original length during pregnancy. It’s therefore imperative that they stay strong. Abdominal training in prenatal Pilates focuses on the transversus or deepest layer of the abdominals. A strong transversus supports the growing uterus, decreases pressure on the lower back and pelvic floor, helps control the size of diastasis recti that usually occurs around 20 weeks, and assists the mother in regaining her pre-baby body postpartum.
Also, many mothers express worry about “pushing.” Since the transversus is the muscle that aids with pushing, Pilates can help make a mother feel more confident in her abilities thus reducing anxiety. Pilates is also a mind/body exercise that uses the breath to keep the mother focused on, and connected to her changing body during the seismic shifts of pregnancy. This connection becomes especially important during childbirth.
Each pre- and post- natal session is part of an individualized treatment plan and takes into consideration your trimester as well as any specific injuries, ailments, or conditions.