A prenatal Pilates program should address the musculoskeletal imbalances of the changing pregnant body, and should emphasize abdominal and pelvic floor strengthening. Everybody is different and every pregnancy is different, so it’s important that a practitioner is sensitive to a woman’s needs and encourages her to give feedback on how she’s feeling. Some women come to Pilates when they are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, and some will be existing clients who are making the same transition, but for both it is important to change the focus and intention of their practice. Conditioning is no longer about a desire for flat abdominals and getting a great cardio workout - the goals when pregnant are to develop or maintain strength and endurance for the duration of the pregnancy, focusing on the muscles needed for this journey, the birth process, and most importantly, for post partum period. Pilates can help women stay connected to their changing body, improve posture, and reduce pregnancy aches and pains.
Women who practice pre-natal Pilates report feeling strong and in control of their changing bodies. They are often charged with more energy and feel ready to deal with the physical challenges of a pregnant body - the weight of a growing baby puts strain on the core and postural muscles. The toning and strengthening element of Pilates helps to balance loose joints affected by pregnancy hormones. Finally, the wonderful thing about Pilates is that it can be modified and adjusted to anybody’s ability and fitness level.
Pilates can be a wonderful tool for women to draw on during labor as well. A modified Pilates program with emphasis on diaphragm and transversus abdominis strengthening will help to support the growing uterus, prevent low back pain, and improve posture; this strength can even be used during the pushing phase of delivery.
Postpartum, once cleared for exercise, women can return to Pilates and and begin to focus on regaining strength. Beginning with neutral spine core stability work and pelvic floor engagement, post-natal Pilates looks to strengthen the muscles women need to care for their new baby, whilst re-shaping those that have been damaged and weakened by the pregnancy and birth. TVA strengthening is extremely important, and emphasis should be placed on closing the diastasis.