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Can Pilates help my pregnancy?

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What happens to your body in pregnancy?

During the three trimesters (stages) of pregnancy, which last approximately three months each, your body changes significantly. Clothes will fit differently as your changing shape accommodates your growing baby, and your posture, as well as your wardrobe, will alter.

The reason for this is that your uterus outgrows your pelvis affecting the alignment of your spine and your pelvis which tips anteriorly or posteriorly.

You’ll find you most likely have a new centre of gravity, which will make you stand and move differently. Also, as your baby grows, your pelvic floor, joints and feet will have to support more weight and pressure.

Simultaneously, pregnancy hormones can further affect your stability. The hormone relaxin allows the body to soften and open ready for labour. Your ligaments (which connect bone to bone to form joints) soften enabling your pelvis to increase in size and shape giving your pelvis the flexibility to aid the birth of your baby (the human body truly is amazing).

However, the effects of relaxin extend to all of your joints, so you need to be mindful that certain moves you did with ease before pregnancy may no longer be ideal or may now be uncomfortable. The good news is that hormones fluctuate through your pregnancy and so any pain or discomfort experienced as a result of hormonal changes will probably not affect all of your pregnancy and will most likely disappear once your baby is born and your hormone levels change again.

How can Pilates help me in pregnancy?

Pilates focuses on breath, movement, stability, flexibility and strength.  This promotes improved body awareness and an inner strength that will help with your pregnancy, labour and beyond.

Pregnancy is not a time to tackle the most advanced Pilates exercises, but it’s the perfect opportunity to connect with your body. The aim at this time should be to improve your flexibility, strength, stability, breathe, learn how your body holds tension and how to relax and let go of that tension.

Typically, a person will store tension in their shoulders or their jaws.  This tension has a knock on effect within your body, a part of which will be the engagement of your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis.

Try this pelvic floor exercise

  1. Shrug your shoulders up to your ears.
  2. Engage you pelvic floor (contracting your internal muscles in the way you would to stop the flow of urine)
  3. Release your pelvic floor
  4. Release your shoulders (repeat steps 1 to 4 in order 2 or 3 times then continue)
  5. Now we will reverse this, Engage your pelvic floor
  6. Shrug your shoulders to your ears
  7. Release your shoulders
  8. Release your pelvic floor (repeat steps 5 to 8 two or three times)

Hopefully, in the reverse, steps 5 to 8, when you relaxed your shoulders you felt your pelvic floor release or perhaps felt there was not as much of your pelvic floor left to release.  You may have even felt that when you shrugged your shrugged your shoulders it felt like your pelvic floor engaged more. This is supposed to happen and highlights that when there is tension in your body your pelvic floor will be engaged and as soon as you let tension go in your body, your pelvic floor will release.

How does tension in your body affect your pelvic floor

This is hugely important to bear in mind during the second stage (“pushing stage”) of a vaginal birth.  Learning to read your body for tension, knowing where you hold tension and being able to let it go will help you to stay relaxed. In turn your pelvic floor will relax as you birth your baby rather than your body working against itself with your pelvic floor contracted just when you want it to be releasing and flexible.

This is also hugely important for anyone who gives birth by c section, planned or emergency.  With the above exercise you will hopefully have felt your lower abdominals (in between your hips just up from your pubic bone) engage as you engage your pelvic floor, or perhaps felt them relax as you released your pelvic floor.

Muscle tension is a reflex action to stress, when the body is under stress psychological or physiological it will tense up and there is evidence which suggests a relationship between stress and wound repair.  So trying to maintain a relaxed state of mind and body may help with your recovery.

As well as improving your understanding of your body which will help enormously with the delivery of your baby.  Moving your body with Pilates will help with any aches and pains you experience during pregnancy and will strengthen your body ready for the challenges of being a new mum.  For a free trial of our pregnancy classes suitable from 16 weeks please visit

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Can Pilates help you in labour?

I practised Pilates through both of my pregnancies and am in absolutely no doubt that Pilates helped me in my labour as well as my body through pregnancy.

When I went into labour my mind went into my Pilates space, where I told myself just to keep breathing and pay attention to my body trying to keep it as relaxed as I could with my breathe.  I tried to visualise that my body, my breathe and my baby were all working together.  For me this worked and I had a water birth first time around with no pain relief and then a home birth with no pain relief.  I truly believe this was down to Pilates and also being lucky not to experience any complications.  I believed this so much that it was the birth of my daughter that convinced me I had something to offer as a Pilates teacher, and that was the birth of my pregnancy and postnatal Pilates classes.

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