Many of my friends are getting pregnant this year and I think Pilates is a great form of exercise to stay strong during pregnancy. Not only am I a Pilates instructor with advanced training in prenatal exercise, but I have also done pilates through my pregnancy! Here are my guidelines for doing Prenatal Pilates and what modifications you should make if you are pregnant.
The first recommendation I would make is to talk to your doctor and ask him/her what you can and cannot do. Different doctors have different recommendations. your doctor will also know your specific situation and whether or not there are any contraindications you should be aware of.
The second thing I would do would be to read through the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) guidelines here: http://www.acog.org/-/media/For-Patients/faq119.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20141230T1538388118
This is pretty much the gold standard, which most doctors follow. The general guidelines are as follows:“The changes in your body can make certain positions and activities risky for you and your baby. While exercising, try to avoid activities that call for jumping, jarring motions, or quick changes in direction that may strain your joints and cause injury.
There are some risks from becoming overheated during pregnancy. This may cause loss of fluids and lead to dehydration and problems during pregnancy.
When you exercise, follow these general guidelines for a safe and healthy exercise program:
- After the first trimester of pregnancy, avoid doing any exercises on your back.
- If it has been some time since you have exercised, start slowly. Begin with as little as 5 minutes of exercise a day and add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.
- Avoid brisk exercise in hot, humid weather or when you have a fever.
- Wear comfortable clothing that will help you to remain cool.
- Wear a bra that fits well and gives lots of support to help protect your breasts.
- Drink plenty of water to help keep you from overheating and dehydrating.
- Make sure you consume the daily extra calories you need during pregnancy.”
Finally, in my personal experience, for back lying exercises after the 2nd trimester use towels or pillows to prop you up. This is to avoid having your uterus compress the vena cava, which provides blood to your baby. You can also buy a support pillow like this one to help prop you up comfortably. Lying on yours stomach will also be uncomfortable, so you can kneel angling your chest down toward the floor instead.
For any ab work you will want to make sure you are pulling your abs in, you should not see a ridge on your belly. If you are not engaging your core properly, this can result in a separation of the ab muscles called rectus diastasis. A good resource to avoid this is the Lose Your Mummy Tummy book by Julie Tupler, creator of the Tupler Technique. This is also how you should be using your core in pilates. Check out my post on The Tupler Technique here. You may want to stop doing crunches or other exercises that work your rectus abdominus to help prevent this.
Aditionally, during pregnancy your body releases a hormone called “relaxin” which softens your connective tissue creating more flexibility and less stability in your joints. This means during classes, you will want to focus on controlling your movement and moving more slowly to stabilize and avoid injury.
Lastly, I think it is important to mention that pregnancy is an especially important time to listen to your body: Take it easier when you feel like you need to, change the position or ask for a modification if something feels uncomfortable.
Good Luck and CONGRATULATIONS!!