I wish I could say I was the type of girl who LOVED being pregnant. I can’t. I loathed it – with a capital L. I’ll admit it: I’m a control freak. And when you’re pregnant, you really lose quite a bit of control over what’s going on in your body and the changes that are taking place. And you better believe there were some major changes for me…… 55lbs the first time and 65lbs the second. Oh happy day.
The thing I couldn’t help but notice, however, was how different my two pregnancies ( and subsequent recoveries ) were.
What was the difference, you ask? ( or maybe you’ve already figured it out, given the blog site that you’re on…. )
Yes, that’s right….Pilates! ( and the crowd goes wild! )
I’ve always been pretty athletic, and during my first pregnancy, I kept up with my running routine, which I’ve been doing my whole adult life. As the weeks went on, I made adaptions and eventually passed the miles walking instead of running. I had my son at 35 weeks because of some complications – but he was born strong and healthy.
I, on the other hand, after being cleared to exercise, couldn’t believe the changes that had taken place in my body. It took me weeks to be able to run just one mile ( that had always been a warm-up for me ), and it took months for me to feel like my body had strength and stamina again – even just to manage every day activities around the house. ( we’re not even going to talk about how long it took to lose those 55lbs )
It was an easy decision for my husband and me. We made a pact – one child was enough. I didn’t like being pregnant anyway, I didn’t like the changes in my body, we couldn’t possibly love another child as much as Ben……and what happened to our every-night-date-night? It was a no-brainer.
We moved to Charleston, South Carolina. I found a great Pilates Studio – I’d always wanted to try Pilates – and I finally started to feel like myself and love my body again.
2 years later…. pregnancy # 2….. funny how quickly the pact was forgotten 🙂
To avoid any complications in my second pregnancy, I switched my running to walking right away ( not always necessary, but a necessary precaution, in my case ). And, I continued with my Pilates three times a week – up until the day before I delivered. I gained a lovely 65lbs, as I mentioned before, but after I had my second beautiful baby boy, and I was cleared for exercise, I picked up with my Pilates, and I started running again – and I felt great….AND I returned to my pre-pregnancy weight in literally a couple of months.
Okay – I know this is just one girl’s story, but many pilates instructors and fitness experts agree that not only is pilates safe to practice during pregnancy, but it is actually one of the best exercises for pregnant women because it is low impact and adaptable. It is a great way for many women to keep in shape by staying toned and flexible.
Some of the benefits of doing pilates throughout your pregnancy include: Increased energy, greater muscle tone and strength, which will make labor easier and speed recovery, better balance and posture alignment, a stronger pelvic floor, less back pain, fewer stress hormones ( and more regulated hormones in general ), and a more stable mood.
Each woman will respond in different ways, but in general, practicing pilates enhances coordination and balance without compromising safety, which is helpful as a woman’s center of gravity shifts during pregnancy. In addition it will help improve overall well-being and fitness so that you can expect to have an easier delivery and a faster recovery after childbirth.
It’s not just about the core
It’s important to note that if you are thinking you want to do Pilates during pregnancy, make sure you start a few months before you become pregnant. The reason for this is pretty straightforward. As your pregnancy progresses exercises will begin to be modified and/or taken away. If you are starting with nothing, there isn’t much to take away from. If you are pregnant and have experience with Pilates, by all means continue.
As your baby grows, lots of changes are going on in your body. A couple of things you might notice are low back pain and loss of balance, which are caused by your growing belly. By having strong transverse abdominis (the deepest of the stomach muscles) you will find it easier to stand up taller, which gives the baby more room, and can help alleviate any back pain you might have. You also simply create more support for the baby and yourself.
Once your bump starts to show though, you’ll want to back off of the core work. While you might recruit your deep core muscles for some everyday movements like walking, you don’t want to actively work the rectus (the six-pack muscles). The stomach needs to be able to stretch, and if the rectus muscles are too tight, they could rip apart. Your goal is to find some reprieve, not cause more discomfort.
Luckily, pilates isn’t just a core-based exercise. The strength comes from your core but you work your whole body. The amazing thing about Pilates is there are many variations and modifications, so as your body changes you make adjustments.
Exercises that involve laying on the stomach or flat on the back should be avoided near the end of the first trimester and after. Laying on the stomach will put too much pressure on the increasing abdomen, and laying on the back can risk cutting off blood flow to the baby and the placenta. Exercises should be done seated, standing, on your knees, or lying on your side.
In general, if you feel any pain, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, or headache, you should stop what you’re doing and rest. Working with a certified pilates instructor who has experience in prenatal instruction is essential to make sure you’re performing each exercise correctly and safely.
The instructors at Studio Be in Fairfax are trained in this area, and have received much recognition for their prenatal instruction. Here is a recent client’s testimonial:
I would like very much to submit a testimonial based on my incredible experience in Pilates before and during my twin pregnancy. I took Pilates to strengthen and tone my body and to assist in my lower back pain. When I found out I was pregnant with twins, i assumed I would not able to do Pilates anymore but I was wrong.I attended classes and had an individual instructor who worked with me weekly to build strength and flexibility I needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy. I was able to continue Pilates until 31 weeks and I was able to carry my twins to term! I was amazed that throughout my pregnancy I was able to move freely, get off the bed and chairs independently and was not placed on bed rest. I attribute my recovery also to Pilates and the weekly and bi-weekly workouts have helped me get my body back!
I have had an incredible journey so far and I want to thank StudioBe!
~ Dr. Jessica Hunter
Suite 215 | 4211 Fairfax Corner East Ave., Fairfax, VA 22030 | Phone: 703-222-0122
YES, HAVING A BABY CHANGES YOUR BODY.
DOING PILATES GIVES YOU YOUR BODY BACK.