Pregnancy isn’t an illness: it’s a natural, normal and healthy state – even if that first-trimester permanently hungover feeling makes you feel otherwise. If you’re used to exercising it can be a scary time, not quite knowing what level is now right for your body – your exercise priorities have to change, from pushing to maintaining fitness levels. And even if you’ve never cracked out a burpee in your life, you may become aware that being fit is inarguably the best way to get through pregnancy, both for you and your baby – but where on earth do you start?
You wouldn’t sign up for a marathon without planning to put in the training to make sure you can actually get through it. Birth and motherhood can be every bit as taxing on the body. If you’re fitter, you will be much more resilient and able to tackle the myriad physical and emotional tasks ahead.
Research shows that a fitter pregnancy equips you in countless ways: your birth is statistically going to be easier, your recovery smoother. In 2015, researchers at the University of Gothenburg found that resistance training reduced ‘pregnancy discomfort’, including fatigue, nausea and insomnia. A 2015 report published in theInternational Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecologysaid women who exercised were less likely to develop gestational diabetes.
Scientists at the University of Granada reported that moderate-intensity exercise three times a week halved the risk of babies being born with a high birth weight, thus reducing the need for a caesarean. It’s not only beneficial for your physical health: breathing, exercise, mindful movement and releasing tension from your body is a great way of letting go of stress and anxiety, which is also good for baby. Win win. So, the bottom line is, don’t be scared to continue to exercise.
What is Pilates?
Pilates trains your body to be strong, flexible and balanced. It fosters a mindful, meditative connection to your body, develops your body awareness and your ability to relax – very useful during labour! It strengthens the deep postural muscles of your abdominals and spine, and encourages pelvic floor awareness. It helps to correct your posture, which in turn reduces the strain that pregnancy (and, let’s face it, modern life) places on your joints.
Pregnancy is a wonderful exciting time, but it can be a time of huge anxiety about the change in your life, your relationship, or family dynamic if it’s not your first child, your career – and your body, which suddenly has a mind of its own and an insatiable craving for beige food, a bit of a shock if you’re used to eating meticulously ‘clean’. In order to help manage these feelings, it’s important to find ways of relaxing and quieting the mind. Pilates is a mind–body exercise that requires full mental focus on your body, and your breathing. This has the lovely side effect of acting like a broom to sweep away your mental clutter and anxiety, leaving you calmer.
Strengthen your abdominals, to cope better with the strains caused by your growing bump. Hormones make your ligaments (connective tissue between bones) more pliable in pregnancy, making you more prone to aches and pains.
Reduce back and pelvic pain, by strengthening your deepest postural stabilising muscles: pelvic floor, transversus abdominis, multifidus.
Develop pelvic floor awareness. The pelvic floor supports your bowel, bladder and uterus (womb) as your baby grows. Effective pelvic floor response also helps prevent stress incontinence and reduce the danger of pelvic organ prolapse when you run, cough or sneeze. We need to unlock full pelvic floor potential by not only strengthening but also letting it go. This pelvic floor release is particularly important when it comes to facilitating your baby’s exit from your body.
Take the strain off your back and pelvis, with positions such as being on all fours, which is also great during labour. Towards the end of your pregnancy, practising these exercises regularly may also have a positive influence on the optimal position of your baby in the womb, which can make for a smoother birth experience.
Are you pregnant? Have you just had a baby? Contact me if you’d like to know how Pilates can benefit your Body-Mind x x