gnancy, while joyous and miraculous, puts a number of strains on a woman’s body. The first is the extra weight acquired in the abdominal and chest region, which can be a postural change for the worse, leading to an anteriorly oriented pelvis, compressed lower back, forward – sloping shoulders, and a rounded upper back. The resulting weakness and pain patterns are the last thing a woman should have to deal with while preparing for her bundle of joy. Hormones are also released during pregnancy that allow a woman’s body to prepare for the added load of an increasingly large fetus. While physiologically sound, this phenomenon causes stretching in the body’s ligaments leading to increased vulnerability in the joints. Prenatal pilates works to both prevent injury and reverse undesired postural patterns.
In addition, a frequent prenatal pilates practice strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, which often become overstretched in pregnancy to bear the weight of the uterus and baby. Participants are taught how to fully engage and relax the pelvic floor muscles, an action that is needed both for labor and postnatal recovery (ensuring urinary continence and a satisfying sex life).
Pilates is known for strengthening the transverses abdominal muscles (the deepest layer of abs). These muscles act as a corset for the torso and a cradle of support for the spine. Training these muscles in pregnancy can also help with labor (new mothers will be happy that these muscles are on their side in the delivery room!), prevent detrimental postural changes, and help support the body in everyday post-partum movements (like picking up a baby!).
On the subject of lifting, upper body strength is thoroughly addressed in prenatal pilates. By strengthening the upper back and arms, we prepare the mother-to-be for the constant baby lifting she will be doing and help support a healthy, upright posture. Additional things addressed are releasing the hips, strengthening the legs and glutes, and working on balance. The prenatal pilates student will leave the class feeling refreshed and calm, due to a rise in endorphins (the post-exercise “feel good” hormone) and a drop in cortisol (a major stress hormone). What better environment is there for a baby to flourish!