How does Pilates help with childbirth?
We are fairly familiar with the idea that Pilates is helpful during pregnancy. The low impact nature and focus on core strength and stability make it an ideal way to exercise and to help with the constant changes our bodies go through.
But did you know that Pilates also helps you to prepare for giving birth? The strengthening, flexibility, breathing and mindfulness are all very beneficial for your body and your mind as you prepare to give birth.
So exactly how can Pilates help to prepare me for giving birth?
Pilates focuses a lot on stretching out your hips and pelvis, which can help to create space for a vaginal delivery. Lengthening your inner thigh, gluteal, hip flexor and hamstring muscles can help to relax the pelvic floor and enable the pelvic outlet to widen in preparation for giving birth. It can also enable you to get into more positions comfortably during labour and delivery if you are flexible in these areas.
Learning how to relax your pelvic floor as well as engage these muscles can help to reduce tightness or hypertonicity in this area. Our classes focus on teaching you how to work these muscles properly, which includes letting them fully relax towards the end of your pregnancy. In the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, it’s a good idea to focus on relaxation of the pelvic floor rather than strengthening so that you can really let the area go when giving birth.
Strengthening your deep core abdominal muscles helps you to be able to build back strength after your birth. Regardless of whether you have a vaginal or caesarean delivery, your abdominal wall has stretched during pregnancy and needs to be strengthened again. It is much easier to build back strength when you are already familiar with how to engage these muscles effectively.
Strengthening your leg muscles with exercises such as squats and lunges gives you more power to push during a vaginal delivery. It also helps to be strong in your legs after birth to help with all the squatting you do while carrying your baby.
Building upper body strength will help with feeding, carrying and lifting your baby. Although newborns are nice and light to begin with, the sustained positions when holding them can challenge your upper body muscles and cause tension and pain if not strengthened adequately.
Moving mindfully and being connected to your breath and your body can help you to get through pregnancy and labour. Pilates focuses on precision of movement, control and breath so you gain a deeper sense of body awareness through practising this form of exercise.
There is a large range of Pilates out there, so it is important to find an instructor who is experienced in prenatal Pilates specifically. Consistency is also important, so you need to find a class you can attend regularly and that you enjoy going to. For some women this might be online classes, for others it might be a local studio. For me, it was a mix of Our Pilates at home and a clinical class once per week that got me through.
I am always happy to answer any questions, so please don’t hesitate to reach out via DM @ourpilates or email firstname.lastname@example.org.