Choosing how and when to exercise while pregnant can be overwhelming, but have you ever considered Pilates?
Staying fit and healthy during your pregnancy is part of the course. So Elaine Tipple from Platinum Pilates is here to share her top five reasons to choose reformer Pilates. But remember, first and foremost, before starting any new exercise routine when pregnant, please consult your Doctor.
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Manage common discomforts of pregnancy
As our girth grows and our joints gain more laxity, our posture and alignment adapts. This can lead to discomfort in the neck, back, hips and pelvis. Exercises which strengthen our shoulders, arms, backs and hips as well as the deeper stabilizing muscles of the shoulder girdle and pelvis will ensure less discomfort (especially in the low back) as pregnancy advances.
This will also prepare the body for the daily demands new motherhood brings – holding, lifting, cradling and stooping, to name just a few.
A stronger connection to the pelvic floor muscle
For many women, their first pregnancy is the first time they become aware of their pelvic floor muscles and their function. The pelvic floor muscles help support bladder and bowel continence, sexual function and the structures of the pelvis and hips. They also support the weight of the overlying internal organs and the ever-enlarging uterus during pregnancy. These muscles need to be strong!
Pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy should extend beyond basic strengthening-focused Kegel-type exercises. They should incorporate flexibility-focused exercises too, to ensure adequate relaxation is possible. This will allow the baby to pass through. Pilates helps women not only feel the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles but also the release, ensuring that it is both strong and flexible.
Try the Pelvic Floor Elevator
- Seated upright; knees bent, ankles and knees positioned comfortably*
- Inhale through the nose.
- As you exhale, think of drawing up on the pelvic floor muscles (PFM) from back passage to front passage.
- Imagine the PFM is an elevator, lifting to the 10th floor: hold at 10th floor for 2-3 breaths
- On the exhale relax PFM to 5th floor; holding here for 2-3 breaths
- On the exhale relax PFM completely (ie to the basement) . Rest 1 minute. Repeat 10 reps
*can be performed in side lying also, especially beneficial in 3rd Trimester
Maintain core strength and help manage diastasis recti
There can be a lot of confusion about whether we should work the abdominal muscles during pregnancy and how to exercise them properly. I assume this is down to most women considering their rectus abdominals to be their only abdominal muscle.
We have the deep transverse abdominal muscles as well as internal and external obliques While the rectus muscles become more elongated and weak during pregnancy, we need to keep their buddies strong to help pick up the slack. A strong core will also counter the tug of war which inevitably occurs with the back muscles.
Strengthening of the transverse abdominal muscles and external obliques with specific stretching and breathing will help manage diastasis recti. Diastasis recti is described as a separation or thinning of the connective tissue between the rec abs. Most, if not all women will have a degree of DRA by the end of their pregnancy, as it’s a natural and and necessary occurrence to facilitate the growth o f the uterus.
Being mindful of the abdominal training we undertake during pregnancy can help manage its severity, aid stabilization of the lumbo-pelvic girdle and can assist in efficient postpartum healing.
Improve breath control and awareness
As the baby grows, the diaphragm becomes inhibited and displaced upward into the chest cavity. This can make full breaths difficult to take. As this diaphragm function becomes compromised, the accessory breathing muscles of the neck and upper chest can become tighter. This tightness can create uncomfortable neck/shoulder tension.
Pilates-style breathing encourages the deeper set intercostal muscles of the ribcage to strengthen, to help promote fullness of breath and also enables mobility of the mid-back. Which is often a tension spot in the bodies of pregnant women.
Concentration and awareness of breathing is a crucial pain management tool during labour. It can really help centre you during those labour pains. The regular practice of breath connection will benefit the expectant mom on the day.
A smarter recovery
I absolutely subscribe to taking Pilates during and after pregnancy for so many reasons. The reality of the matter is, no matter how strong and conditioned we remain during pregnancy, we are definitely weaker (not to mention very goddamn tired!) for those first few months after birth.
A tired, sleep-deprived new mom who is experiencing erratically behaving hormones needs the chance to centre and slow down and connect with their post pregnancy body.
Once your doctor has cleared you for exercise, choosing postnatal-specific Pilates classes can be a smarter approach to recommencing your fitness routine. Post Natal Pilates focuses on replacing the much-needed joint stability and strength back into your body. Pilates also works wonders on our stress levels. It focuses on breath. The controlled movements stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system. A body which taps into calm, can heal more efficiently.
For more information why not come along to one of the ante natal classes at Platinum Pilates. We have extended the timetable in our Rathmines studio to add extra classes on Monday and Wednesday at 12.30pm.
Elaine Tipple is from Platinum Pilates and her passion lies with helping other utilize Pilates to enhance wellness and support better movement, especially in women’s health-related issues. For more information visit platinumpilates.ie. Join Platinum Pilates for a full weekend of classes at WellFest 2018. For more information and to book, head to wellfest.ie.