The science and accepted guidelines relating to exercise and pregnancy have changed over the years – especially since the days of my first fitness qualifications with VicFit in 2002!! As Pilates teachers we have to remain well informed and up to date on the latest developments.
Working across a number of Pilates studios, I have experienced varying degrees of understanding and acceptance of the pregnant client. Pregnant clients may be requested to provide a doctor’s clearance to exercise and/or encouraged to attend ‘pregnancy’ only classes. I have also seen pregnant clients turned away from studios.
Integrating a pregnant client into a mixed studio or mat setting may be challenging if the teacher doesn’t have the knowledge, the skills and the appropriate repertoire available to accommodate any special needs, particularly if the client if suffering from any complications such as SIJ instability, a history of miscarriages, lax joints or a separating linea alba. In many cases, a pregnant client may decide to start a brand new exercise program as soon as they become pregnant, without any history of Pilates or exercise at all.
Working with pregnant clients can be very rewarding and making time for my ongoing inspiration and development in this area is very important. In my most recent pregnancy related workshop we were able to review some important reasons why Pilates is so good for the pre and post natal phases of a woman’s life.
In the pre-natal phase it is all about programming by trimester, focusing on the pelvic floor, the breathing, strengthening the whole body and working towards correcting the lordotic spine that often results as the pregnancy progresses. Knowing the ‘golden rules’ and the skills and the knowledge to be able to provide a challenging but safe Pilates workout can be rewarding for both the client and the instructor. In this phase pelvic floor cueing turns out to be one of the most important elements, ensuring the client engages and releases correctly, strengthening the muscles both in the concentric phase, as well as the eccentric phase. In the post natal part of the workshop our skills were refreshed in areas such as measuring the width and depth of the linea alba, if it was present and making decisions on programming accordingly.
In summary, women who keep up consistent, gentle to medium level exercise, before, during and after birth, have a better delivery and recovery. Pilates will help with rebuilding those pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy, condition muscles to protect from backache and strengthen the upper body for all the heavy lifting! The most important thing is to listen to the body and not rush it, particularly following birth, to force it to regain its pre-pregnancy shape – after all, it took nine months to get there! For more information on ‘Pelvic Floor Muscle Training’ go to www.bladderbowel.gov.au.