Are you pregnant or planning to get pregnant? Congratulations! Having a baby is a huge milestone in everyone’s life. But as a modern mum, we bet you also want to keep your body functional, strong, and safe.
If you’re thinking about having a baby, it’s not too early to get started with priming your body for pregnancy. It’s a time of change in the body, with both positive and negative effects:
This all leaves your body in a very different state to how it was before! Prenatal prep is all about helping those positives, while reducing the negatives, to get the most out of your pregnancy.
It’s also a chance to prepare for the postnatal phase:
Pregnancy is a time of excitement and anticipation for several parents. This period gives the time to clear your doubts and prepare yourself for the challenges of motherhood.
Today, many women begin that preparation even before conception.
Humans have been having babies since the dawn of time, and with modern medicine, things have never been easier. Although you can have a healthy baby without any pregnancy plans, having one will help ensure that you and your baby have the greatest chances of having good health after childbirth.
Prenatal preparation starts with your doctor, and generally involves a discussion about your nutrition, exercise regimen, counselling and the necessity of avoiding alcohol, certain foods, and certain medications.
With your doctor directing the overall plan, you will usually end up with other specialists who have more knowledge in their area. For example, we’re Physiotherapists, and we specialise in keeping the body physically fit, and in shape.
Absolutely! Nobody wants to be a couch potato for 9 months. Your ancestors exercised during pregnancy (mostly because they didn’t have cars and the internet!), and it’s safe for you to exercise too.
Exercise is an integral part of healthy pregnancies. Healthy pregnant women with an uncomplicated pregnancy, are usually advised to participate in at least 30 minutes of low to moderate exercise on most days of the week (1).
And of course, exercise offers a ton of benefits, for both you and your baby. Prenatal exercises can support your baby’s brain growth and development, help you stay in shape and ease pregnancy-related aches and pains.
The real question is: what types of exercise are safe?
But when it comes to pregnancy, there are several elements to keep in mind before beginning any form of exercise:
What your body really needs is a low-impact exercise program such as Beginner Fitness Pilates or Clinical Pilates: exercises that are low-impact, focus on balance and coordination, and that don’t do excessive stretching.
Today, Clinical Pilates is gaining popularity as a great form of exercise in prenatal preparation. It works on achieving muscle harmony through the strengthening of weak muscles and lengthening of tight, unbalanced muscles (2).
This gives you greater control over your body and increases strength and elasticity without damaging your joints. You can begin with Clinical Pilates at any stage of your pregnancy, even if you have never previously trained in this method.
The greatest benefit is that you can continue to do exercise from the first week of your pregnancy, right up until the last week, by slowly changing your personal programme as your body progresses.
Below are some of the reasons Clinical Pilates is a great choice for Prenatal Mums:
Clinical pilates works on your core muscles that provide support and stability to your pelvis, spine and hips. Clinical pilates strengthens these muscle groups and helps you manage the increasing demands of your body weight. Moreover, it also helps you better control the pain during birth (3-5).
As your baby grows, you shall also observe changes in your posture. Often your shoulders become more rounded with your pelvis tilting more anteriorly, placing extra pressure on your lower back.
By becoming more aware of your posture we reduce any posture-related problems during pregnancy.
Working on maintaining good muscle awareness during pregnancy, helps your body bounce back faster and better after giving birth.
The pelvic floor muscles are a broad sheet of muscles and tissue that starts from your pelvic bone in the front of the body and ends at the base of your spine. It’s the group that’s responsible for solving postnatal incontinence, but also so much more.
As you put on baby-weight, there is a lot of stress on the pelvic floor muscle causing them to become weak and overstretched.
Ideally, you want to increase the strength and activation of your Pelvic Floor, while still allowing it to be flexible and ready for birth.
Pelvic movements and exercises help you make your ligaments more flexible. This increases the diameter of the opening of the cervix and facilitates natural births with no need of unnecessary c-sections or instrumental deliveries (6-9).
Clinical pilates focuses on lengthening and stretching of areas that often become tight during the course of pregnancy.
While many women turn to yoga for prenatal exercise, they don’t realise that being too flexible puts your body at risk of additional injuries. During pregnancy, with all of the body’s extra muscle relaxant, you need to be twice as careful.
Good flexibility happens in the muscles themselves, while keeping the joints safe and well-supported. For every flexible point, there needs to be an equally strong point to keep everything safe and functions.
Areas such as the upper back, chest and legs can specifically benefit from low impact exercises by improving their mobility. This is more than just random stretching: it’s creating strength in the right places, and improving functional movement. Clinical Pilates uses a combination of strength and flexibility workouts to make your body feel light and relaxed (10).
Through clinical pilates, we make sure that you do not gain too much weight during your pregnancy and thus reduce the possibility of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure (11).
As we particularly emphasize on relaxed breathing and deep embodiment, clinical pilates helps you prepare for labour and childbirth. It also helps you cope with several emotional ups and downs associated with pregnancy.
Moreover, regular pilates sessions make you feel stronger and energized throughout your pregnancy. This existing foundation of fitness helps you recover faster after the birth of your beautiful baby.
Take it slow, listen to your body, and talk to a professional. Here are some of the Clinical Pilates exercises that help with Prenatal preparation.
As you put on weight, your back suffers a lot as the baby bump grows. The swimming pilates exercise is an amazing move to work on your back extensor muscles.
Generally, pregnant women are recommended not to lie on their bellies. So to enjoy the benefits of the back extensor exercise we are going to show you a modified version of the swimming exercise.
This exercise is pretty simple. Get into a cat position, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and knees directly below the hips.
Take a breath in, and with exhale bring the left arm and right leg as high as possible. Make sure your spine is in alignment.
Hold this position for a moment and then lower it back to the starting position.
Now repeat it with the opposite arms and legs up, making sure your spine is staying in a neutral position. While performing this exercise try to remain in a steady position with minimal to no rotation.
This exercise focuses on your back extensors. It strengthens them, particularly your back and also the support of the lower back with the abdominal wall.
You will need to keep your pelvis and hips strong to help your body support your growing baby. Clams help you strengthen your pelvic and hip muscles, which reduces and prevents the occurrence of pelvic girdle pain.
Begin the exercise by lying on one side, with your head resting on your arms and knees bent in a 90-degree angle in front of your hips. Keep your top hand on your hips or in front of you on the floor.
Stack your hips, one on top of the other with your ribs, waist, spine and pelvis in a neutral position.
In one sleek movement, keeping your fit together open the top knee without allowing your top hips to drop backwards. Once reached on the top, lower it back to the start position.
Repeat on the same side for 10 repetitions before switching to the other side.
As you gain strength in your hips, you can use a resistance band by placing it around your knee or you can also raise your ankles for a challenging variation of the exercise.
The clam is an ideal exercise to strengthen your pelvic and hip muscles.
Side planks are an effective way of strengthening your core without increasing the risk of developing diastasis recti – the thing causing a bulge in the middle of your abdomen.
Side planks are safe to be performed in all trimester of pregnancy.
Lie on your left side while resting on your forearms and keeping your whole body in a straight line. Keep your elbow directly underneath your shoulder.
Gently contract your abdomen and lift your hips off the floor making sure your ribs, hips, knees and ankles are all aligned.
Hold this position for 30 seconds and then change to the other side.
As you progress in your pregnancy, you can first try bending only your bottom leg and keeping the top leg straight. Later, you may side plank with both your legs bent.
We love this exercise as it can be done in endless variations. If you feel strong and confident, try lifting your top leg while performing side planks.
Side planks strengthen your hips and abdominal muscles, especially the obliques. It also stabilizes your shoulders.
As you move closer to your pregnancy date, it is better if we focus our attention towards muscles that will play an important role after birth.
Dumbbell wrist extensors are great for your forearms and wrists. It will build your wrist strength which will help you when the time comes to regularly lift your baby.
Seat in a chair and hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Make sure, to begin with a lighter one before gradually increasing the weights.
Now, lean your forearm onto a table or your thighs and keeping your palm down hang your wrist off the edge of the table or at the end of your knees.
Holding your forearm in place, slowly bend your wrist upward with lifting the dumbbell as high as you can. Now slowly lower it back to the starting position and repeat it for 10 more times before moving onto the left hand.
You can also train your flexors, by keeping your palm facing up and repeating the same movement. This will help you strengthen your forearms.
Dumbbell wrist extensors are excellent in enhancing your wrist and forearms strength and help you prevent any wrist-related injuries after birth.
Clinical pilates is excellent for preparing your body for labour and building strength and flexibility. Regular clinical pilates sessions will make you feel stronger and energetic.
The frequency and type of exercise we suggest will depend on your level of activity before pregnancy. Therefore before engaging with clinical pilates, we carry out an assessment to check your level of fitness.
We specialize in educating and preparing you to be mentally, physically and emotionally ready for the arrival of your baby. So do get in touch and we will make sure you’re all set for your growing ball of love.