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Preggie belly!

What to know about pregnancy and Pilates.

Pregnancy is a special time for a mother-to-be to slow down, regain her energy, and connect just a little more with her mind and body. When pregnant, mindful exercise that has been approved by a doctor or gynaecologist is advised before starting and or continuing an exercise program. Pilates is one of the safest forms of exercise that is regularly recommended. This is especially true for pregnant women as Pilates allows for a deep mind-body connection while gaining strength, and flexibility and alleviating pregnancy discomforts as well as assisting in the recovery post-pregnancy. This too is made with the assumption that the mother is working with a pregnancy-qualified Pilates Instructor.

When the mental aspect of body conditioning is included in the learning and reeducation process of exercise, it is evident that clients see far greater results. This is because the whole is addressed: body and mind and spirit. This can be realised through the appropriate choice of exercises and the Pilates Principles.

Today’s women have “take-away” pregnancies, “pregnancy-on-the-go”, life is busy and there is often a denial of the intensity and reality of pregnancy. There are many benefits to the mental and physical aspects of Pilates and pregnancy. Through Pilates, women are made more aware of their bodies and minds which gives them more balance and harmony in their lives. This results in greater self-confidence. Physically, Pilates requires good intention and efficiency of movement, while strengthening the pelvic floor, and core muscles and maintaining a healthy balanced body. An emphasis is placed on good posture which minimises pregnancy aches and pains, varicose veins, water retention, and balances blood pressure. There is an enviable result of the flexibility of muscles and tendons, control of breath to help with labour, hip mobility as the stomach expands, and good preparation of the pelvis. This results in a quicker recovery post-pregnancy. When exercising endorphins are released which prevents postnatal depression and greater autonomy over their mental and physical state. What a wonderful gift, the mother has time to herself to just be!

An average pregnancy involves many essential hormones: Luteinizing, Follicle Stimulated Hormone, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, Progesterone, Estrogen, and Relaxin. During the 37-42 weeks of pregnancy, the pregnancy is divided into 3 trimesters each lasting 3 months. Pregnancy is worked out from the date of the last menstrual period rather than the actual conception.

During the first trimester (0-14 weeks) the embryo is formed. Between 5-8 weeks the spinal column, nervous system, limbs and major organs are formed. By 21 days the heart is beating at 180 beats per minute and weighs 30g and is about 7.5cm. By 8 weeks the embryo becomes a foetus. The movement may be small but the mother can feel them. During Pilates the heart rate increases along with the mother’s and after pilates their heart rate lowers. Exercise should not exceed 70% of the mother’s maximum heart rate. This can be calculated by taking 220 minus the age and you will get the maximum heart rate of the mother. Drinking water before, after and during exercise is critical, as the mother needs to stay hydrated and keep her core temperature below 38 degrees. The maternal hormonal changes are that progesterone and estrogen are growing in fetal development. The hormone relaxin is higher, which makes the mother more mobile, her energy levels drop and morning sickness may start between 8-12 weeks. The morning sickness and nausea are a result of higher Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. It is important to recognise that the mother’s mood may also swing with all these hormonal changes. The mother is encouraged to slow down and always listen to her body!

During the second trimester (15-27 weeks) fetal growth continues to develop at a rapid rate. The fetas get nails, hair and internal organs. Interestingly enough the internal organ that is not yet independently functional is the lungs. The skeleton starts to form and the fetus becomes sensitive to light and sound. The fetus is now moving around a lot even though the heart rate drops to 145 beats per minute. The fetus weighs 600g to 750g and is about 22cm from head to gluteus. By 26 weeks the baby’s outline may be felt through the mother’s abdomen. The maternal changes continue with progestogen, and oestrogen on the rise as well as estrogen, while Human Chorionic Gonadotropin decreases along with morning sickness and nausea. The mother will have an increased level of energy, although she will have put on weight making her look pregnant and she loses her waistline. Both core and skin temperature peaks in the second trimester. The gastrointestinal tract slows down. The baby takes what it needs from the mother so calcium levels decrease, resulting in osteopen