Is it Safe to Perform Pilates While Pregnant?

Pilates while pregnant

Is it Safe to Perform Pilates While Pregnant?

By Dominic Pereira

So you’re going to be a mom, congratulations! Taking your first steps into motherhood can be both daunting and exciting. You might not know the first thing about being a mother or you might be ready to take motherhood head-on, whichever the case, it’s crucial to ensure you are taking care of yourself just as much as you’re taking care of the little one growing in your belly.

Now that you are pregnant and deciding whether you still want to continue with your Pilates classes or perhaps you want to start, stay with us, and we’ll find out if it is wise to do so.

Is it Safe to Perform Pilates While Pregnant?

Before we get into the subject, it’s crucial that you first talk to your doctor before considering exercising.

Remember, just as each person can differ, so can each pregnancy, so it’s important that your doctor advises you based on your pregnancy and specific needs.

Pilates can be a safe and gentle activity to perform if you don’t overstretch or over-exert your body. From now on you’re not just thinking of yourself, you have to think about your baby as well.

There are a multitude of safe Pilates exercises that can be tailored to suit your tolerance levels, and trimester, however, there are a few things to keep in mind before stepping into the studio.

  • During pregnancy, the ligaments around your joints are much more flexible or lax. This is caused by your body increasing production of the relaxin hormone. Because of this, you’ll have an increased risk of injury during exercise.
  • Pilates puts a lot of focus on core strength. During pregnancy, it’s possible to strain your abdominal muscles which can cause them to separate, resulting in Diastasis recti. So many abdominal exercises will have to be modified or excluded.
  • A bigger belly can cause your balance to be thrown off. So be extra careful with sitting on a Pilates ball or balancing on one leg.

Keep in mind that although there are safe exercises to perform, you must avoid exercises that involve you lying on your back for longer than 4 minutes from the 16th week. Even sleeping on your back should be avoided.

Why Avoid Lying on Your Back While Pregnant?

During pregnancy, your uterus becomes larger after about 20 weeks (five months). The uterus becomes big enough to lie on top of your inferior vena cava. The inferior vena cava is a large blood vessel that brings blood flow back to your heart. If you’re lying on your back, the uterus will prevent your blood flow return which will cause less blood to flow back to your heart.

Although you’re not going to be lying on your back for an exercise for hours, researchers in New Zealand did a study where they found a potential increased risk of stillbirth for women who slept on their back the entire night.

When to Avoid Exercise Altogether

According to WebMD, exercise is not recommended if you have the following medical issues:

  • Weak cervix
  • Bleeding
  • Restrictive lung disease
  • Multiple gestation/pregnancy at risk of premature labour
  • Persistent bleeding during the second- or third trimester
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Hemodynamically significant heart disease

Top 5 Pilates Exercises Safe to do During All Trimesters

Top 5 Pilates Exercises Safe to do During All Trimesters

1. Pelvic Floor Muscle Strengthening

By strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, you can, amongst other things, help prevent incontinence, which is often an issue during pregnancy due to the weight of the fetus on the pelvic floor.

How to do the exercise

  1. Get down onto your knees, keep your legs together with your bottom on your heels and your hands on the mat in front of you.
  2. Imagine you are trying to hold in the urge to urinate. Concentrate on feeling the muscles contract.
  3. Try to hold this position for five to ten seconds. You don’t need to worry if you cannot hold the position for ten seconds as you’ll increase your strength day by day.
  4. Gradually relax the muscles.
  5. Repeat the process ten times.

2. Deep Tummy Strengthening

By performing deep tummy exercises, you’ll increase support for your back.

How to do the exercise

  1. Lie on your side and slightly bend your knees. Take a deep breath in and gently breathe out. While breathing out, try to pull your baby gently in towards your spine.
  2. Keep your belly pulled in for about ten seconds while breathing normally
  3. Gently relax your stomach muscles.
  4. Repeat this exercise ten times.
  5. Turn over onto all fours and repeat the same exercise.
  6. Once you are comfortable with this you can repeat the above breathing and tummy connection as you slide your opposite hand and foot out on the exhale. Keeping both in contact with the floor, alternating sides. Do 5 on either side.

3. Upper Back Strengthening

By performing upper back mobilisation, you’ll improve your posture.

How to do the exercise

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Keep your back upright placing your hands behind your head.
  2. Slowly breathe in, then breathe out while you pull your baby towards your spine and extend your back, by lifting your heart and tilting your face up toward the ceiling.
  3. Breathe in and return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat this exercise ten times.

4. The Sword

Performing the sword exercise will improve your balance and strengthen your back, legs, and abdominal muscles.

How to do the exercise

  1. Stand upright with your feet wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Slightly bend your knees and move your right hand towards your left knee. Keep your arm straight.
  3. Raise your right hand up to the right as you would remove a sword from a hip belt. Keep your eyes on your hand while performing the movement.
  4. Repeat on your left side.

Now that we’ve established that you can perform certain Pilates exercises while pregnant, the next question is: Which Pilates moves should you avoid during your pregnancy?

A Few Pilates Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy

  1. Crunches or Compresses – During your pregnancy, avoid exercises that allow you to crunch your stomach.
  2. Pilates Roll-Up – After your first trimester, avoid the roll-up exercise as this can put a lot of pressure on your abdominal wall.
  3. Criss Cross / Bicycle Crunches – The criss-cross or bicycle crunches put too much pressure on your abdominal muscles.
  4. Swimmer – During pregnancy, you must avoid exercises that involve you lying on your stomach.

Other types of exercises to avoid while pregnant:

  • Exercises that allow you to lose weight – gaining (a healthy amount of) weight during your pregnancy is a sign that your baby is developing healthily.
  • Contact sports – these should be avoided after your first trimester.
  • Activities where you’re prone to fall like bike riding or horseback riding. Rather, ride a stationary bike.
  • Bouncing activities like aerobics or kick-boxing. During pregnancy, your joints get loose, which will increase your chances of injury.
  • Exercising when it’s too hot. Either workout in the early morning or at night. Avoid joining classes like hot yoga.

Tips for a Safe Pilates Workout

  • Make sure you join a Pilates class with an experienced instructor.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that isn’t restrictive.
  • Avoid overstretching your joints.
  • Avoid exercises where you crunch your abdominal muscles.
  • Take balance into consideration.
  • Don’t get off the floor too quickly.
  • Don’t lay on your back and lift your feet above your head.
  • Allow gentle contractions and focus on your posture.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Don’t exercise in hot temperatures.
  • Stop if you feel discomfort or fatigue.
  • Avoid exercising on an empty stomach or right after eating.

If you’re keen on staying involved in your Pilates classes, make sure you ask your doctor for the go-ahead and also chat to your Pilates instructor. Having informed your instructor of your pregnancy (if the bump isn’t yet visible) will ensure you have a Pilates exercise regime tailored to suit your body.

Join group or individual Pilates classes at moveOn 89 where our skilled instructors can modify your workouts according to individual fitness and capability levels. Get in touch.

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