We get a few enquiries asking if someone can join our classes during pregnancy. The short answer is usually no, which is such a shame. Why don't we allow a pregnant woman to join our classes?
Sadly that's pretty much what it comes down to. If you are pregnant most exercise instructors will not be able to teach you in the first trimester because our insurance providers will not cover us to teach you. The main reason for this is that one in four women will miscarry and the first trimester is when most miscarriages occur, it's such a shame because let's face it, if you have another one or two already at home, or still working and trying to keep the house clean, you will be doing WAY more than in an hours pilates class. Please read on for more useful help.
In your second trimester, you should be ok to exercise but how do we cope with you in a beginners class?
All our classes are geared to good spinal health, joint mobility and strengthening the core. All great stuff and perfect for someone pregnant, after all you are not ill.
Just one small problem, a growing bump and totally different requirements to everyone else in the class.
The logistics of trying to teach 11 people one exercise and all the reasoning behind it, then teach one person another exercise..with all the reasons behind it would be frustrating for everyone.
The best option would be a class with everyone at the same trimester.
If you can find a class where you can join others at the same stage, clearly that would be the perfect outcome.
What if you can't find a class?
You could consider a one to one, or if you have friends from your ante natal class or other groups please feel free to contact us and we can perhaps organise a group session. Or get hold of the Body Control Pilates Pregnancy Book. It's full of information about what you can safely do at each stage of your pregnancy. We could even organise a session around the book and give you the hands on pointers for bits that you can't always get from a book.
What is safe to do?
Your exercise priorities change when you are pregnant and change month by month too. It's definitely NOT the time to look to get mega fit. Here are some ideas to help you through the three phases.
Take your time doing your workout and stop if you feel nauseous or tired. Stay simple and keep it short. Consider your alignment at all times, less is more here because you want to get your back strong to support your growing bump.
OK, your hormones are all over the place, you may feel more tired than usual.
Your breasts will get heavier so that puts more strain on the mid back (thoracic area) so keeping your spine healthy is only going to help, along with the shoulder girdle which will also be taking the strain.
Your body is about to start to loosen things off in preparation for the big push at the end of your pregnancy. This is not the time to do big movements, particularly the legs, avoid putting strain on the pubis symphysis . Don't stretch hamstrings (back of thigh) and adductors (inner thigh), they need to support you during your pregnancy, so strengthening is better than stretching. During months 4 to 7 your pelvis is much more unstable, so keeping things closer together is much better.
Pelvic floor exercises are good at this stage and you can still do an Ab Curl but don't go mad for these, keep them smaller and practically beginner level, your Rectus Abdominis is about to part company.
What exercises are safe?
Zip up and Hollow, as in zip up your pelvic floors, and hollow in your abdominal wall a little bit. You don't need to go mad at this, but every time you do it, you are putting a bit more tone in those supporting muscles. BUT you must be able to let go of the pelvic floors as well, so do make sure you can ! You could do small squats, Pilates Knee circles, Star Fish, back exercises such as The Star, The Dart, The Diamond Press, Single Leg Kicks, The Cat, Thread the Needle, Ankle Circles, arm exercises such as Bicep Curls, Tricep Dips, Press Ups.
Now your bump is getting bigger and your centre of gravity alters and so might your posture, particularly the lower back. If you were fit and healthy with a good abdominal wall prior to pregnancy your body will cope much better with your growing uterus than a woman who isn't. There may be other reasons that will affect your pregnancy health such as previous pregnancies, abdominal surgery etc.
Also avoid standing for too long and standing exercises all at once, just to help mitigate the fluid retention that can lead to leg cramps. A regular calf stretch will help with this.
Don't lie on your back too long as after 16 weeks, the weight of the uterus may compress the vena cava ( a major blood vessel) and restrict blood flow back to your brain and cause dizziness. So limit lying on your back to 3 minutes max. Varying your exercises here and keep moving.
Your joints are not more mobile, so be particularly careful with the pubic symphysis at the front of your pelvis and the sacroiliac joint at the back. Pelvic stability is key at this stage.
What exercises are safe?
Stick with the zip up and hollow, although the bump is growing you can still do gentle pulling in on the lower ab wall. Pelvic floor every session, ie the Pelvic Elevator, pelvic stability with Knee Circles, Knee Drops, Leg Slides, Star Fish, The Dart (if you are still ok laying on your front), Hip Rolls, Roll Downs against a wall, Squats, Dumb Waiter, Bicep Curls, Tricep Dips, 4 point kneeling work might be easier now than laying on your front, so Table Top or Leg Lifts - no ab or oblique curls now.
So now in 27 to 34 weeks and probably the most uncomfortable. The uterus is right up under the ribs, weight gain, baby kicking as its got less room to move. So now you need to keep going assuming all is still well, but keep your sessions short and sweet, not loads of reps here. Change position, no long standing or laying on your back.
Side lying stuff here is great, and maybe a cushion under your bump too. 4 point kneeling will also feel much better at this stage too. Your baby will be using your pelvic floor as a trampoline so keep going with those exercises.
What exercises are safe?
Calf stretches, Walking on the Spot, Side lying leg exercises such as Oyster, Lift and Lower, Circles, 4 Point kneeling stuff, Table Top, The Cat, Squatting, Arm Circles, Bicep and Tricep work to keep those arms strong.
If you have a healthy pregnancy and keep active it will all help you with both the labour and the recovery afterwards.
Don't rush to get exercising too strenuously after the birth either. Your body needs time to recover from the past months and giving birth.
Take your time letting your body get back to normal. There is a lot it has to do and wearing yourself out trying to get back into your pre pregnancy clothes will not do you any favours. If the baby is asleep, catch up on yours too.
You are a mum now, so enjoy it, it's a time to celebrate.
Karen Grinter, Mum, Pilates Teacher, Back Pain and Exercise Specialist, Business Owner and Millie's Owner!
"Pilates in my practice is mainstream, and Northants Pilates is a first class outfit that I wholeheartedly endorse."
Mr Nick Birch, Consultant Spinal Surgeon