Women are increasingly aware that exercising during pregnancy has a huge range of benefits for both mum and baby. Although I exercised throughout my first 2 pregnancies, I still suffered with the back pain that most pregnant women get. During my most recent 3rd pregnancy I practiced Pilates regularly and as a result I was amazed that I didn't experience ANY back pain - my core was much stronger and I can honestly say it was my easiest pregnancy.
Pilates focuses on training the core abdominal, pelvic floor and back muscles (see our blog about them here), which are all important for good posture, balance and strength. As a result it can help prevent a number of common problems associated with pregnancy.
Here are 6 reasons why you should consider practicing Pilates during your pregnancy:
- Pilates can reduce pelvic girdle pain.
The pelvic girdle is a ring of bones at the base of your spine connected by strong ligaments. Hormones released during pregnancy soften these ligaments increasing their elasticity. This helps the pelvis to expand during labour, but for some women it can sometimes result in severe pain in the pelvic area. Pilates strengthens your pelvic floor, stomach, back and hip muscles. This takes the pressure off your joints, which may help to reduce pelvic girdle pain.
- Pilates helps to decrease back pain.
A recent study suggested that over 68% of women suffer from back pain during pregnancy. One of the biggest changes during pregnancy is in your posture as your baby grows. Common changes include a rounding of the upper spine due to the increased weight of the beasts and either a forward or backward tilt in the lower spine. This shift in your posture can increase tension in the muscles, which may in turn lead to back pain. Pilates can help with this by improving your postural awareness, muscular control and core strength.
- Pilates may help prevent a diastasis recti
During pregnancy your outer stomach muscles, the rectus abdominus, divides along the central line, the linea alba so that the uterus can grow. The divide will usually close again after birth. However, in some cases it will not improve which can lead to that hard to shift ‘mummy tummy’. Pilates focuses on strengthening the deepest stomach muscle, the transverse abdominis, which will help relieve pressure on the linea alba and prevent the divide from becoming too wide.
- Pilates strengthens your pelvic floor.
As the weight of the baby increases it puts pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support all the pelvic contents, uterus, bladder and bowels so pregnancy can commonly lead to pelvic floor problems including incontinence and prolapse. Pilates enables you to connect with your pelvic floor so that you can improve the tone and function of these muscles, helping prevent the dreaded ‘sneeze pee’.
- Pilates can help you have an easier labour and delivery
The transverse abdominis is one of the main muscles that is involved in the delivery of your baby. During labour it compresses the stomach and helps you push more effectively. Pilates also encourages deep lateral thoracic breathing and a connection between mind and body, which may help you relax(!) during labour.
- Pilates helps with balance
As your baby increases in size your center of gravity changes, which may make you feel clumsier. Pilates strengthens the deep core muscles that help stabilize you so that you can feel more secure.
If these reasons have inspired you to practice Pilates then check out our Mama on the Move pregnancy programmes, which include 5 different Pilates workouts, suitable for the various stages of pregnancy.