Updated: Jun 19, 2022
Pilates has plenty of benefits for everyone, including pregnant women. It’s a low-impact exercise that is generally safe to do however, when pregnant you will absolutely want to get approval from your healthcare professional first. In fact, as a Pilates Instructor and a mom of two, I don’t recommend you start a Pilates regimen after becoming pregnant. It’s important to establish a Pilates practice that involves deep core and pelvic floor muscles, before becoming pregnant. This will ensure your safety throughout your pregnancy.
As for anyone, Pilates can help improve the body's flexibility, mobility, balance, and core strength. But, Pilates during pregnancy can specifically help prepare the body for labor, recovery, pelvic floor health and maintaining overall fitness.
The body is constantly changing throughout the course of pregnancy and luckily Pilates is very accommodating for a growing belly. As your pregnancy progresses, it will be important to focus less on the abdominals(such as the rectus abdominus) and more on the legs, gluteals, upper back, shoulders/neck, and arms. Posture is a huge challenge but, by strengthening your legs, stretching your lower back, and strengthening your upper back, we can work towards this goal.
By keeping up with your prenatal Pilates workout now, you will help support your body through all it’s changes and allow yourself to recover faster and safely. Soon enough you’ll be ready for our postnatal Pilates exercises!
8 Pilates Exercises While Pregnant
1/2 Roll Down
This is a classic Pilates exercise that can be done throughout your pregnancy, as long as the belly permits and for as long as it continues to feel good. As you get into your second and third trimester, the focus will shift from working the rectus abdominals muscles to actually releasing those muscles and allowing the lower back to open. As you round back towards the mat, focus on the lower back reaching towards the mat. This exercise is so essential because, your lower back will gradually tighten and shorten as your belly grows. And this exercise will help to bring you some relief!
Side Leg Kicks
Side lying exercises will be great during the first and second trimester as it will be the perfect way to keep your obliques strong. But, into your third trimester, you'll probably want some support for your belly so feel free to add a small pillow or folded towel under your belly in this position. While pregnant, it is also comfortable to bend the bottom leg in order to give yourself more stability. In short, do what you need to do to make any position comfortable and do whatever makes you feel good!
Suggested series: Front/Back, Side(keep it small), Small Circles, Bicycle.
Normally done on the reformer, this exercise can be done on the edge of a chair or bench. Step your feet a comfortable distance away from the chair, lift your hips forward and off the chair. Make sure to keep your shoulder girdle strong, don't sink. Then, simply bend your elbows. Keep the range of motion small and all the work in your triceps. This will be an essential exercise that can be done all the way through your pregnancy to help maintain good posture! (Think: open the chest, strengthen the upper back)
Shoulder Bridge - The Wall
As the belly grows, it will become more and more uncomfortable to lie down on your back. And one can only do so many squats in a day. This exercise will keep the gluteals strong and your core engaged without added strain. Simply stand with your back against the wall, step your feet forward about 2 ft. and while pressing your arms into the wall, lift your hips off the wall. If you would like an extra challenge for balance, try lifting your right leg and then your left leg.
A growing belly has major effects on your spine and therefore, your center of gravity. It is so important to keep your spine limber and strong!
While on all fours, imagine a hammock supporting your belly from the front all the way through the back. In prenatal Pilates classes, we sometimes describe this as "hugging your baby". While doing this, round and arch your back like a cat. You can also add a child's pose in between to get some work for the hips. During my pregnancy, I found this exercise to be so therapeutic. And good news— this one is safe to do all the way till the end!
The entire Arm Weight Series is great to do during all three trimesters, but I find that this one gets everything working in a really beneficial way. Standing with your legs hip width apart, knees bent, lean the upper body forward only as much as you want to(doesn't have to be to tabletop position). First, just feel your pelvic floor muscles pulling up, then try shifting the weight from one leg to the other, placing your hands on each thigh as you shift your weight. Then, if you'd like you can add the arms punching forward with the right and back with the left, then switching. Try to elongate your spine as much as possible. Again, thinking of that hammock to support your belly.
The Clock - The Wall
Outside of pregnancy, this exercise can be used to stretch the shoulders and back, but I found that during pregnancy this stretch continues all the way down into the hips and legs. It's not often that the pregnant body twists, but this is a great way to do so naturally and, more importantly, safely.
Simply stand close to a wall(about 6-12 inches) with your right side towards the wall. Take your right hand, placing your palm against the wall, and trace a big circle up and around in a clockwise motion. Keep looking at your hand the entire time, causing your upper body to twist. Then reverse the circles in the other direction. I recommend only doing 3 circles in each direction. Finish by repeating on the other side.
Legs over the couch
Last, but certainly not least! This exercise is great to do anytime, anywhere. As you get into the third trimester however, you may not be able to stay in this position for very long. Laying down on your back, with your backside close to a couch or bench, simply allow your legs to bend at a 90 degree angle, over the couch or bench. Release your hips. Breathe. This exercise is so good for blood flow. I recommend using a pillow to support your head. Enjoy!