Congratulations – you have a bub on the way. So how do you best prepare your body for one of the ultimate physical challenges – childbirth? We chatted to Lee Hodder from Pilates Studio Townsville to get some tips about how Pilates can help expectant mums.
“If your pelvic floor is already strong or, in many cases, overactive; it’s more important to do release work and stretches for the pelvic floor in preparation for the birth”
What are the benefits of pregnant ladies doing Pilates? While some pregnancy workouts aim to keep the body strong and tight, prenatal Pilates works to open and release the body in time for birth. Prenatal Pilates classes focus on breathing and releasing techniques, ease of movement, preparation for labour positions, attention to the pregnancy posture, and educating clients about the changes taking place during the different stages of their pregnancy.
Are there any precautions to take before beginning? This is very important: Under no circumstances should a pregnant woman exercise if there is any vaginal bleeding, unexplained back pain, swelling or fluid retention, pubic pain… the list goes on. If the mum-to-be is not feeling well, or has any concerns, she should consult with her doctor before commencing or participating in classes. A doctor’s clearance is required before starting any exercise program while pregnant.
What’s your favourite prenatal Pilates exercise and why? I love any of the seated ball work which we use to stretch and release the hips and spine. You can see the pleasure and relief on the ladies’ faces as they do these exercises.
Are strong pelvic floor muscles important for labour? The general consensus is that a strong pelvic floor is of paramount importance and pregnant women are encouraged to do their pelvic floor exercises. This is all well and good as long as the pelvic floor in question is very weak and needs to be strengthened, however if your pelvic floor is already strong or, in many cases, overactive; it’s more important to do release work and stretches for the pelvic floor in preparation for the birth. If the pelvic floor is too strong and overactive it can cause major problems for a natural vaginal birth.
“Look for a nurturing, positive atmosphere where you’re allowed to be emotional, tired and overweight”
What are some of the benefits new mums get from Pilates? While exercise during pregnancy is good, exercising after the birth is crucial. This is a time that presents its own special needs and requirements. It’s about restoring a body that has gone through major changes, combined with lack of sleep, hormonal changes and possibly a C-section, split rectus or pubic bone separation. Postnatal classes work to help with all these issues and start to rebuild overall body strength. There are specific exercises to help heal and correct these problems.
Why do you love Pilates and teaching it? I love Pilates because of the mind-body aspect of the method and the way it has changed my body over the years and the strength and flexibility I have gained, improved posture and a keen sense of body awareness – time stands still for me while doing my own workouts and, even better, the time just flies while I am teaching. I have been teaching Pilates for the past nine years and I get great satisfaction from my teaching, seeing clients reaching their goals or taking someone out of pain. I’m loving having the expectant mums coming to the studio and seeing their tummies growing and their bodies changing and faces glowing – gorgeous! I particularly love it when clients become as addicted to the method as I am!
Last words? These days there is a lot of pressure on women to stay as fit, strong and buff as they are pre-pregnancy and not gain weight during their pregnancies. The classes should not be intense or overwhelming, but give the expectant mums permission to relax and release for the birth. Look for a nurturing, positive atmosphere where you’re allowed to be emotional, tired and overweight.
Pilates Studio Townsville has new Babies on Board classes starting on November 5. Mums can bring their babies along and either exercise with them in a harness, or leave them in their capsule or on a play mat. A doctor’s clearance is essential.
For more information about Pilates studios in Townsville see our Where to Go Guide.