The Benefits of Pilates in pregnancy and beyond

The female body is amazing (although I am a bit biased!) As you grow a life for nine months, the body adapts to accommodate your baby and prepare you for labour. But these structural and postural changes can make pregnant women more vulnerable to lower back pain, pelvic problems and tight upper backs.

Throughout pregnancy, the increasing weight of the baby pulls the centre of gravity forward. The pelvis is brought in to an anterior tilt, causing an exaggerated curve in the lumbar spine (lower back). In an attempt to balance the body, the upper or thoracic spine curves forward more, meaning you need to lift the head up further to keep your focus on the horizon. This leads to tightness in the neck extensors and across the front of the shoulders, and puts pressure through the lower back. By the third trimester, the uterus has risen in to the upper abdominal cavity which also reduces thoracic mobility.

These exaggerated spinal curves, combined with over stretched abdominals and a weaker pelvic floor create less support for the pelvis, and the muscles of the back have to work harder to keep you upright.

The hormone Relaxin causes ligaments to become more elastic and reduce in strength through pregnancy. This has a particular impact around the pelvis as there is a number of Relaxin receptor sites located there and the body needs to increase the pelvic outlet for birth. Although the muscles do relax to a degree, they also need to work harder in order to stabilise the pelvis and take on more of the work normally done by the ligaments. This can cause muscle stiffness, instable joints and common pregnancy problems such as Pelvic girdle pain and sciatica.  

Pilates can help to counteract the impact of these changes and set you up for a speedier post-partum recovery. The many benefits include:

  • Helping you to develop an appropriate level of abdominal connection and core stability to support the spine and maintain posture.
  • Keeping the shoulders and back mobile, helping to reduce muscle stiffness and relax the shoulders.
  • Preparing your body for later carrying your baby and the demands of motherhood.
  • Learning to move with the breath, to aid relaxation and reduce anxiety.
  • Improve muscular support for pelvis and the effect of ligamentous laxity on your joints.
  • Increase understanding of the Pelvic Floor and its role in pregnancy and labour.
  • Improve body awareness and tune you in with your body and growing baby.
  • Give you time out for yourself and socialise with other mums-to-be.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some Pilates exercises to help you through your pregnancy and beyond.

My new pre and postnatal classes at Hucks Café, Walthamstow will be starting from the 6th July. These small, intimate classes are designed to help guide you through your pregnancy and in to the postnatal period. Please see www.lilydpilates.com/classes/ or email me lilydpilates@gmail.com for more info.