Many Pilates devotees have wrangled with the decision of whether or not to continue their practice once they’re with child. Fortunately, not only is Pilates a perfectly safe exercise for most moms-to-be (unless a doctor says otherwise), but it can also help you have a healthier pregnancy.
“Everybody should be encouraged to be active in pregnancy,” says Dr. Raul Artal department chair and professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s health Services at the St. Louis University School of Medicine. He advocates just about any form of exercise, so long as it’s safe for the mom-to-be and her baby.
Benefits of Pilates
There are many claims about what exercise can do for pregnant women—from reducing stress to quickening delivery—but not all of them have been verified. Still, there are definite perks.
Artal cites the risk of obesity in pregnancy as a major reason why prenatal exercise is a good decision. Not only is it good for the mother’s health to maintain a reasonable weight, but also, having a normal-weight baby generally makes delivery easier and can help avoid a cesarean section. Artal also says that women who are physically fit have an easier time handling the physically taxing nature of labor.
Jan Scancarello, a certified Pilates Reformer instructor at Preferred Alignment in Healdsburg, California has seen many of her students fall in love with prenatal Pilates. “They just feel better in their everyday movement,” she says. Specifically, she says they like how it strengthens their core and lower back and helps them bounce back post-delivery.
Believe it or not, Artal and Scancarello both agree that there is a very simple way that most pregnant women can gauge the safety of Pilates. Basically, just pay the same attention to your body that you would if you weren’t pregnant. If something feels like it’s straining you, making you cramp, or making you dizzy, stop.
There are some modifications that Pilates instructors will make for their pregnant clients. After the first trimester, you shouldn’t lay flat on your back. It can put too much pressure on your vena cava, which can decrease blood flow to the brain and to your baby. Any significant pressure would make the pregnant woman feel noticeably dizzy. To address this, instructors usually have support blocks that keep an expecting woman’s head elevated above her heart.
Informed instructors will also be mindful not to engage their pregnant pupils in intense stretching. During pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin causes looseness in the joints and ligaments. Therefore, pregnant women can easily over-stretch.
If you want to be sure your Pilates pro knows these modifications, ask if he or she has taken continuing education classes about prenatal instruction.