Expert advice: 5 pilates exercises to do during pregnancy
Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy, some visible and some not.
One of the most obvious changes is your expanding bump. As your abdominal muscles stretch to allow room for your growing baby, your posture can change, leading to more pressure on your spine and surrounding muscles, explains physiotherapist Aoibhin McGreal. Pilates is a fantastic form of exercise during pregnancy as it focuses on gently strengthening the core and the pelvic floor muscles, stretching the back and maintaining flexibility in the trunk and limbs. Many women also use the breathing techniques that they become familiar with in pregnancy pilates classes to help them during labour. If you are thinking of signing up to a class, it is very important to do a specific antenatal pilates class with an instructor who has specialist training in this area. The following five exercises are a good start for all expectant moms. Try to get the movements right before you worry about the breath patterns. If you experience any pain or discomfort, contact your doctor or chartered physiotherapist in women's health and continence.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises
This will really stand to you after baby arrives. Sit in a comfortable, upright position or lie down with your head and shoulders elevated on a pillow and your knees bent. Imagine that you are trying to stop yourself passing urine, and at the same time trying to stop yourself passing wind. The muscles should feel as though they 'lift and squeeze' at the same time. Aim to hold this squeeze for up to 10 seconds, then relax the muscles fully. Keep breathing normally throughout the exercise. The buttock and thigh muscles should remain relaxed, but a gentle tightening in the lower part of your tummy muscles is quite normal. Repeat 10 times.
Deep tummy strengthening
These exercises increase support for your back. Lie on your side with your knees bent. Allow your tummy to relax as you breathe in gently, then as you breathe out, gently draw your lower tummy in towards your spine. Think of this one as hugging baby in towards you! Try to squeeze your pelvic floor muscles at the same time. Hold this for up to 10 seconds. Make sure you keep breathing gently. Release your tummy muscles. Repeat 10 times.
The cat stretchThese are great for the lower back and pelvis. Lie down with your head and shoulders elevated on pillows and your knees bent. Breathe in gently to prepare, then as you breathe out, use your abdominals to press your lower back into the mat, allowing your pelvis to tilt and your tail bone to rise gently. Hold this position as you breathe in, then breathe out gently as you return to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 times.
Upper back stretchThe is a really effective spine stretch. Start on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Breathe in gently, allowing your tummy to relax. As you breathe out, draw your tummy inwards and, starting from your tail bone, flex your spine into a curve, arching up to the ceiling like a cat, allowing your head to drop and look towards your tummy. Breathe in gently as you hold the position, then as you breathe out, return your spine to neutral, starting at your head and upper back and finishing at your tail bone. Repeat 5-10 times.
This exercise will help to improve your posture. Sit cross-legged with your back in an upright neutral posture and your hands behind your head. Breathe in gently. As you breathe out, draw in your tummy and extend your upper back as you look up to the ceiling. Breathe in, hold the position, squeezing your shoulder blades back while aiming to keep your lower back in a neutral position.
Gently breathe out as you return to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 times. See these exercises in motion on this YouTube video