Being pregnant can be a joyful time, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Over the course of 40 or so weeks, your body goes through so many changes that can leave you in pain and discomfort. Your abdomen, back, and pelvis will bear the brunt of it, but you don't have to just grin and bear it. There are exercises you can do that can help you cope with any issues, or even help prevent them if you're not experiencing any trouble yet. There are some amazing benefits of doing pilates when pregnant, including that it works the areas most likely to be causing your aches and pains.
To find out more about the benefits of doing pilates when pregnant, Romper spoke with Jo D'Agostino, the Director of Pre- and Postnatal Programming at Core Pilates NYC. D'Agostino has been a pilates instructor for more than a decade, and she's been leading classes for pregnant women and new moms for about eight years. She's a true believer in the power of pilates to make pregnancy, labor, and post-birth recovery more enjoyable. Although you might think fitness classes are all about keeping your pregnancy weight down, D'Agostino's focus is on helping expectant moms stayed toned and strong for childbirth and beyond.
Here are five big benefits of hitting up a prenatal pilates class.
1. It Teaches You How To Push
"The reason why pilates is so important for pregnant ladies is teaching the women how to access their transverses abdominis, which is their deepest layer of abdominals," D'Agostino says. These are the muscles that you'll use to push your baby out, and knowing how to work them properly can make a world of difference. D'Agostino adds that keeping these muscles toned with pilates builds both strength and endurance for child birth, and she's heard from many clients who credit their short labors to their time in her classes.
Although Sutter Health noted that the average American woman spends about two and a half hours pushing during birth, many of D'Agostino clients have needed less than half an hour. "I had one OB-GYN doctor come to our class because he was so impressed by his patient that was one of our regulars," she says. "He was so impressed by her efficient pushing that he wanted to come and see what we were doing."
2. It Can Help Manage Back Pain
Back pain plagues many pregnant women, and it can get worse the further along you are. D'Agostino says that your abdominal muscles are designed to give your spine support, but you lose some of that as the muscles stretch. Working those muscles through pilates can help prevent the muscles from stretching out too much, causing even worse back pain. "People who do pilates have happier pregnancies because their spines, their lower back doesn’t bother them as much," she says. "They’re giving their uterus the support it needs to be held against the spine instead of just spilling forward."
3. It Can Help With Pelvic Pain
Back pain isn't the only issue pregnant women deal with. You might also have lots of pelvic pain. For some women, it's simply a nuisance, but for others it can stem from a condition called symphysis pubis dysfunction, or SPD. D'Agostino says that a good prenatal pilates workout can help manage that condition.
4. It Can Help You Avoid Diastasis Recti
As mentioned above, your abdominal muscles are going to stretch as your belly grows during pregnancy— there's simply no way around it. "Your abdominals stretch over 50 percent their original length during pregnancy. You want those abdominals to remain toned even while they’re being stretched," D'Agostino says. That's because letting them stretch and separate too much can result in a condition called diastasis recti, which can cause your belly to stick out and stay rounded long after you've dropped your pregnancy weight, according to WebMD. Pilates can help avoid that while you're pregnant, and even after you've given birth— when many women don't realize it's still a risk.
5. It Can Make Your Recovery Easier
Giving birth is an amazing experience, but it's an incredible ordeal for your body. Whether you deliver vaginally or by C-section, the recovery is rarely easy. Taking care of your abs, back, and pelvis through pilates can make your pregnancy easier, which in turn aids your recovery. Plus, simply knowing how to manage your movements and your body after birth can save you discomfort. "We teach women even how to pick up and put down their baby so they’re being safe with their spine and with their abdominals," D'Agostino says.
If you're interested in prenatal pilates, do yourself a favor and find an instructor as knowledgable and passionate about it as D'Agostino. "If you’re going to take pilates when you are pregnant, you should ask the person what kind of training they have," she warns. "If they don’t have specific pre- and postnatal classes that’s an indicator right there."