Pilates and Pregnancy – Trimesters explained

Pilates and Pregnancy – Trimesters explained

First 0-12 weeks  |  Second 13 – 28  |  Third 29 – Term

During each one of the trimesters you and your baby will be physically changing – you may find that
emotionally and mentally you are ‘not yourself’.  Your pregnancy will be unique and how the pregnancy affects you will also be unique.

We have all heard of the pregnancy that went well all the way through, and those that are beset with problems right from the start.  It is normal to compare with friends and family, but you will all be carrying baby and experiencing the pregnancy very differently.

First

(not advisable if you have not exercised prior to pregnancy)

  • Often a little exercise can actually energise the body and make you feel mentally and physically better.
  • It is suggested by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology to avoid any exercise during this period if you have not done any form of exercise prior to pregnancy. Please call me for details.

During this period the mother may not know she is pregnant (unless the couple is trying for a baby, then the pregnancy may be confirmed quite early). As many women are not aware that they are pregnant, they may carry on with their usual routine, both at home/work and in their exercise session.

Normal Pilates exercises can be continued with a low risk pregnancy and without any increased pain.

Pelvic floor exercises should be included regularly and abdominal hollowing (hip bone squeezing) is essential throughout everyday life.  Correct lifting technique should be used, along with correct posture throughout normal daily activities.

Generally the mother needs to listen to her body:

  • Full formation of the foetus occurs by week 12, after that time the foetus grows.
  • Weeks 12-14 is stage when most miscarriages happen – this is the time that the placenta takes over, therefore very risky time for foetus (although exercise has not been proven to cause miscarriages).

Those who realise they are pregnant should make to follow modifications:

  • Any impact may have to be reduced (though this is not an issue with Pilates moves), so too with intensity and duration, particularly if nauseous.
  • At this early stage the foetus is at great risk from overheating (as foetus does not have an independent cooling system), so in addition to the modifications: ample water (hydration) must be maintained throughout workout as well as before and after.
  • The second trimester is, for most women, the easiest part of pregnancy.
  • Although the body is changing and baby is growing, energy levels are generally high and this should be when the exercises should be maximised to give you every advantage for the following months.
  • Notice how you ‘glow’.

Second

12 – 20 weeks

  • Pregnancy begins to show and corresponding weight increases.
  • Due to the fact that diastase can occur (thinning and separation of the rectus abdominus) any direct work on the abdominals (i.e. both head and knees lifted at the same time) needs to be avoided.
  • Any movements that over stress the abdominal walls, specifically the rectus
  • Take your time in moving from one move to another
  • Reduce the number of repetitions if you need to
  • Always choose the most comfortable and safe option.
  • Exercise prone (lying on your abdominals) many longer are comfortable – there will always be a kneeling or all-4’s position that you can do.
  • Reduce back extension work – again an option will be given
  • Baby responds to touch and sound and moves vigorously.
  • Due to supine hypotensive syndrome (see later) the time spent lying flat on your back should be reduced.  As the foetus develops is likely that any supine lying will be gradually omitted.
  • Alternative moves can be given using cushions etc, to help ‘prop up’ the trunk.
  • However, there is a school of thought that suggests lying on your back is not a problem for you or baby – but as it is a controversial topic, it is always best to air on the side of caution.
  • Any wide leg movements (taking your knees away from you) should be reduced.
  • Stretches just need to be held to ‘normal’ length and not held for any longer.

Third

20 – 28 weeks

  • Due to supine hypotensive syndrome the time spent lying flat on your back should be reduced.  As the foetus develops is likely that any supine lying will be gradually omitted.
  • Any wide leg movements (taking your knees away from you) should be reduced.
  • Stretches just need to be held to ‘normal’ length and not held for any longer.
  • In the third trimester, women tend to feel heavy and uncomfortable and hormones designed to loosen the pelvic joints can cause back pain.
  • The additional weight of the baby can throw your centre of balance, legs can become swollen and varicose veins can develop. Pilates helps all of these conditions associated with pregnancy by strengthening the central or “core” muscles, which in turn leads to improved posture and circulation.

28 – 36 weeks

  • Rapid change in growth (for both you and foetus), centre of gravity, and balance occur, and rapid changes in direction need to stop.
  • Your joint stability is compromised and intensity and duration needs to be reduced to ensure you remain comfortable and safe.
  • Possibly less mentally alert; slower to react and finally, most exercises should be modified further (see later for details).
  • Increased likelihood of diastases or increased diastasis
  • Increased likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome and supine hypotensive syndrome.
  • Due to the extra stretch on the abdominals and the possibility of increased blood pressure you may feel more comfortable reducing the number of repetitions of an exercise and feel you need to rest your abdominals more.
  • You may feel you need to rest and put your feet up during the day – any why not???
  • Practice relaxation exercises
  • Take your time between when moving in and out of positions.
  • Increase the amount of time you spend during relaxation.
  • Continue with the Pilates exercises that are appropriate for your fitness level and duration of pregnancy.
  • Continue to practice pelvic floor exercises and try to maintain good posture.

36 – Term

  • Take your time between when moving in and out of positions.
  • Increase the amount of time you spend during relaxation.
  • Continue with the Pilates exercises that are appropriate for your fitness level and duration of pregnancy.
  • Continue to practice pelvic floor exercises and try to maintain good posture.


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