Having had two babies myself, I know the difference between a birth that I was prepared for, and the one I wasn’t. When I finally got pregnant with no.1 son, I did what my mother suggested, and put my feet up anytime I could. And then ate for at least two. I was still working full time; I came home, ate, slept and when vaguely awake, googled pushchairs and car seats. I was huge, I swelled up, I waddled, I did a bit of swimming/bobbing about, but I was, well, a bit precious really. Having miscarried before, I was scared I’d pull something or hurt the baby. No.1 son was late, quick, painful and a bit traumatised and the whole experience left us both a bit battered, and having used my pelvic floor as a trampoline for 9 months…well, you can guess…
So, by pregnancy no.2, I was already fitter – running after a toddler and working and wishing I could bottle sleep. But I did exercise – I had learnt the hard way that our (pretty amazing) bodies are made to grow and give birth, but they do need a bit of help preparing. It is called labour after all. And the no.2 pregnancy and birth was better, for both of us, flippin’ hard work, but I was prepared and my body was ready: to stand up for longer, breath better, use less pain relief, and I recovered so much quicker. No.2 son had already had a much firmer trampoline to bounce on, stronger arms to hold him, a stronger spine to walk him around with, and stronger hips to rest him on.
Regularly practising Pilates during your pregnancy will benefit your body from the outset. As soon as you begin to grow that little person, your body is flooded with relaxin – the hormone that loosens up all the ligaments so they can stretch. If you have done Pilates before, you can carry straight on into an Ante-natal class, ensuring your teacher is aware. If you are new to Pilates, we recommend waiting until 12 weeks to begin, and perhaps start with a 1-2-1 session.
In the second trimester, from around 13-26 weeks, once lying on your back is no longer recommended (or indeed comfortable!), the classes work on helping your balance and co-ordination as the baby grows and throws any sense of your body-awareness way out. We work at strengthening and keeping each joint mobile, in standing, sitting and kneeling and do lots of squats and glute work to develop hip and leg strength and stamina. It’s so important to keep good posture so the baby can move, and you can breathe. And we do lots of Pelvic floor control work. Even though we still use our core stability, working the abdominals is strictly off the plan. Those big muscles that go up and down and wrap around our bump need to be able to stretch – they are best left to do their job and dealt with slowly and carefully afterwards.
From 27-40 weeks we keep gently but powerfully working those spines, hips and shoulders, knees and ankles, chin tucks and neck rolls, and pelvic floor. Preparing our bodies to be strong for the birth and after. We focus on learning how use breathing to stay focused during contractions, and how to be conscious of controlling the body and moving safely. The aim of Ante-Natal Pilates (pregnancy Pilates) is to get you through your pregnancy with as few complications as possible, prepare you mentally and physically for labour and beyond, and give you a precious hour once a week to spend focused solely on you and your changing body and baby.
Samm is a fully qualified Body Control Pilates Matwork teacher, with an additional Level 3 Diploma in Ante-Natal and Post-Natal Pilates – and a mum of two.