Pregnancy and childbirth have a major impact on a woman’s body, both interPally and externally. During pregnancy, every system is affected, including respiratory, cardiac/circulatory, hormonal and musculoskeletal. This can lead to shortness of breath, tiredness, swelling, varicose veins, postural changes and issues such as lower back pain, pelvic joint pain, carpal tunnel symptoms, Rectus Diastasis (separation of the abdominal muscles) and urinary incontinence.
Exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. It helps prevent disease, is important for healthy bones and can help reduce stress, manage fatigue and lead to a better overall quality of life. The benefits of exercise do not decrease with the onset of pregnancy, but many women are confused in terms of what they are safely capable of doing as they progress through the normal stages of pregnancy. After childbirth, women are in a state of recovery, and while there are definite limitations, exercise can facilitate a speedy return to normal physical function.
Pilates is one of the best methods for exercising while pregnant, and to also regain strength after pregnancy. The highly targeted, modifiable exercises of the Pilates repertoire can effectively accommodate the needs of the pregnant and post-pregnant woman. With careful exercise selection, a Pilates program can make a woman feel stronger, improve injury and decrease the chances of any physical complications occurring.
The first trimester is the perfect time to start Pilates, as there are less modifications needed allowing all abdominal exercises to be performed for a strong starting point. Moving into the second trimester, there are many exercises and positions that are to be avoided, modified by Dr Jacqui as your pregnancy progresses. This can be very useful knowledge to have so you know what you can and can’t do at home too.
Why should women perform Pilates during Pregnancy?
Exercising is very important for you to do during pregnancy and Pilates is one of the safest and most effective forms of exercise during this time as it helps you to:
• Maintain your general fitness and strength – you will need it for the labour and also looking after your baby - carrying your baby and lifting prams takes a lot strength
• Prevent stiffness, aches and pains, such as back and pelvic pain, keeping you more mobile
• Strengthen your pelvic floor and deep core abdominal muscles which help in your recovery post pregnancy.
• Improve your posture, which changes a lot throughout the pregnancy.
How long can you continue to attend Pilates classes?
Pilates is a very safe form of exercise during pregnancy, both for you and your baby as long as certain guidelines are followed and the exercises performed are prescribed specifically for pregnancy. Most women feel comfortable to attend classes right up until they give birth. Every woman is different though, so make sure you listen to your body.
To increase your comfort as your baby-belly grows, your instructor will modify your program accordingly. Pillows and small props may also be used to support your spine and stomach.
Why is Pilates so important to do AFTER I have my baby?
Pilates is probably the single most targeted and effective form of exercise to perform post pregnancy. The many benefits of a postnatal Pilates program include:
• Strengthens your Pelvic Floor and abdominals
• Helps with any back, pelvic, hip, neck and shoulder pain
• Increases your general strength you need to carry your baby around
• Improves your posture - it corrects the increased arch of your lower back and rounded shoulders
• Helps regain your pre-baby body shape, particularly the stomach
• Being a mind-body form of exercise, Pilates also helps with relaxation and gives you some time to work specifically on yourself
When is it safe to return to exercise post pregnancy?
Postnatal recovery will be largely dependent on the physical state the mother was in before pregnancy and any complications that may have surfaced during the gestational period. With careful exercise selection and observation, Pilates can be used to help aid a quick recovery and leave the new mother with as little complications as possible.
As a general rule, women can begin some basic Pilates training 4-6 weeks post-birth. A caesarean birth will be more likely to push exercise back to 6 weeks post birth or later. Pease wait until your doctor gives you clearance to return to exercise, which is usually 4 weeks for a natural delivery, and 6 weeks for a Cesarean delivery.
You can however start to do some basic activation exercises right after your birth - gently activating your pelvic floor and tightening your T-Zone actually helps decrease any swelling in your pelvic floor or abdominal region and helps with the healing process. You will find this much easier as you have practised this beforehand. Another great reason to pick up these skills before giving birth.
Call South West Chiropractic to speak to our friendly staff about booking in for your one-on-one initial Pilates session, before commencing into small group classes.
Dr Jacqui xx