There is a lot of confusion about which types of exercise are safe and appropriate during pregnancy. Should you continue your normal exercise routine?. Is it safe to start if you haven’t been working out previously? Prenatal Pilates is a fantastic option for anyone while they’re pregnant. However, here we will answer the most common questions about pregnancy exercise and provide the best options for every stage.
Should you continue your normal exercise routine once you become pregnant?
Like so many things on your pregnancy journey, the answer is it depends. If your normal exercise routine consists of walks, light weights at the gym, Pilates, and yoga classes, then yes. Absolutely you can continue.
However, if you prefer high-intensity workouts such as spinning, CrossFit, mountain biking and boxing, then those are probably best to start winding down. It is also important to note that while Prenatal Pilates and Prenatal Yoga classes are safe, a regular Pilates that is designed for the general public may not be. Therefore, it’s crucial to work with a qualified prenatal trainer.
There are several factors we want to consider when considering prenatal exercise:
- Core Body Temperature – overheating and excessive sweating can raise a woman’s core body temperature to dangerous levels. This can result in problems with the unborn baby and miscarriage, especially in the first trimester. Exercise such as hot yoga, spin classes, HIIT workouts and high-intensity cardio classes.
- High Impact – it is important to avoid any exercise which increases your risk of falling and impacting on the baby. For example, mountain biking, ice skating, gymnastics, or rock climbing.
- Deep Squatting – until we know for certain that a woman’s cervix is a healthy length and there are no other complications (such as placenta previa) it is best to avoid deep squatting. In particular, deep squats with a heavy weight. If there are any concerns with a woman’s cervix or uterus, this is a risk factor for haemorrhaging and miscarriage. It is usually within the second trimester that scans are performed to check for any of these concerns.
What are safer exercise options to choose during pregnancy?
- Prenatal Pilates
- Prenatal yoga
- Stationary bike riding
- Elliptical training
- Gentle dance and barre classes
- Swimming (although check with your doctor about swimming in chlorinated swimming pools)
- Low-impact aerobics classes
Is it safe to start exercising during pregnancy if you haven’t been working out previously?
The short answer to this question is yes. It is safe if you select the appropriate type of exercise. Especially if you’re new to exercising.
To get started, the first thing all women should get is clearance from the doctor. Once you have that peace of mind, it is safe to begin gentle exercise under the guidance of an experienced instructor. There are so many benefits to maintaining an exercise routine during pregnancy, including:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Decreasing the risk of gestational diabetes
- Increased likelihood of the baby being a healthy weight
- Helps you to manage pregnancy-related pain and discomfort. Such as, lower back pain, pelvic pain, sciatica, upper back tension, and neck pain.
- Helps you to sleep
- Helps you to prepare for the physical demands of labour and new motherhood
Pilates During Pregnancy – Is it safe?
Like most forms of exercise during pregnancy, Pilates is perfectly safe if is modified appropriately. Prenatal Pilates is ideal for pregnant women due to the myriad benefits it provides. Below we will 5 reasons why this is true.
- Prenatal Pilates can be easily modified
There are several exercises that women should avoid during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters. These include abdominal crunches, full planks, side planks, exercises laying on the belly and long holds in certain positions.
In the Pilates repertoire, this still leaves hundreds of different exercises to perform, especially if you are using Pilates machines and equipment. While the best option would be to attend a specialised Prenatal Pilates class, an experienced instructor should easily be able to modify a general group class to accommodate a pregnant client. It is crucial you always let the instructor know that you’re pregnant, and how far along you are.
- Prenatal Pilates is low impact
Pilates classes are always low impact. This is true whether you choose a mat-based class or an equipment class. The instructor will always take time to set up the exercises carefully and appropriately so that you feel comfortable in all positions.
- Prenatal Pilates is low intensity
As we discussed earlier, it is important for pregnant women to keep their core body temperature at a healthy level and avoid overheating . When performed correctly, Pilates exercises should challenge all the major muscle groups in the body.
You may feel tired after attending a class, but you will never leave feeling like you are at the point of exhaustion. Prenatal Pilates is even more gentle. An experienced instructor will be able to challenge you and help to strengthen your body without overtraining.
- Prenatal Pilates can help you prepare for labour
There are 3 specific ways Prenatal Pilates can help a woman prepare for labour. Firstly, when a woman is in labour, the muscles around her abdomen and pelvis perform a very precise routine to deliver the baby safely.
It is incredibly helpful if a woman is aware of which muscles to contract and release to assist the process. The more we can learn to correctly engage these muscles and release them with control, the more likely they will assist you through birth.
Secondly, one of the main principles of Pilates is breathing. Every class will include a focus on breathing deeply and correctly. Learning to breathe deeply and slowly is an excellent way to help prepare for labour. The diaphragm is one of the core muscles. Learning to use it effectively will assist a woman through labour, allowing her to breathe deeply through contractions and avoid holding her breath.
Thirdly, Prenatal Pilates works on strengthening and conditioning the body. This means that a woman will be better equipped to handle the duration of labour with more stamina. Labour can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. It can be a long and demanding process. Having a good base level of fitness and strength will allow a woman to cope more easily with the demands of this time.
- Prenatal Pilates can help you recover more easily from birth
If a woman has a stronger core, gluteal muscles, shoulders, and spine, she will be starting from a much better place for recovery than if she had not exercised at all during pregnancy. Attending regular Prenatal Pilates classes to build strength throughout pregnancy.
Furthermore, having strength in these areas will also assist with the demands of new motherhood. Hours spent holding the baby, rocking, and feeding can put a lot of pressure on the neck and upper back. If the core is stronger, to begin with and the shoulders are supporting the weight of the baby, it is less likely that a woman will experience pain and discomfort in these areas.
Prenatal Pilates is one of the best and safest forms of exercise for women during pregnancy. It avoids high-intensity and high-impact exercise. It can also be modified to suit all trimesters, meaning that it is suitable from the very early stages right up until your due date. An experienced instructor will always be able to accommodate a pregnant client into a general group class, although a tailored prenatal Pilates class is always the best option, if available.
Prenatal Pilates can also help specifically in preparing for birth and delivery. The birth process can be long and demanding – it is important women feel strong and capable leading up to this event and have the tools needed to work through every stage. Lastly, Prenatal Pilates is ideal for preparing a woman for the early stages of recovery and new motherhood. All the strength and support that is built up during pregnancy will be incredibly useful during this time. It means a woman is likely to recover more quickly (either from a natural delivery or c-section) if she has a good base of strength to begin with.