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The effects of Pregnancy in Pilates

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

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, 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 (see course recommendation by Principal Faculty Ashley Ritchie on “Pilates through Pregnancy and Beyond” part of the BASI Pilates Advanced Education Certificate Course).

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. This can be realised through the appropriate choice of exercises within the BASI Block System, and The Ten BASI Pilates Principles namely, awareness, breathe, balance, control, centre, concentration, efficiency, flow, harmony and precision.

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 body 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, 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 week 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 (220-age=maximum heart rate). Drinking water before, after and during exercise is critical, as the mother needs to stay hydrated and keep her core temperature below 38 degreed. The maternal hormonal changes are that progesterone and estrogen are growing fetal development. The hormone relaxin is higher, this makes the mother more mobile, her energy levels drop and morning sickness may start between 8-12 weeks. The morning sickness and nausea are as 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!