Pilates and pregnancy
It is safe to start pilates during pregnancy if you do not have any complications. If you are already practising pilates, it is safe to continue but you may need to change some exercises as you get further along in your pregnancy.
You do not need any special equipment to start pilates other than a mat.
Benefits of pilates
Being active during pregnancy is safe and healthy for you and your baby.
There has not been much research into the benefits of pilates during pregnancy. But it may help you get ready for labour and birth and speed up your recovery afterwards.
Pilates can also help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which support your womb, bladder and bowel. Strong pelvic floor muscles can stop you from leaking urine when you cough or sneeze.
“As a first-time mum, I knew I wanted to try and stay active in my pregnancy to prepare for birth and life with a newborn. I found a pregnancy pilates class which I believe helped with labour and was also a great way to meet other mums-to-be!”
Doing pilates safely
- It is a good idea to go to a class specifically for pregnant people if you can find one or choose an instructor who is qualified to teach pregnant people.
- Tell the instructor that you are pregnant before you start. They should be able to adapt the exercises to suit your changing body at each stage of your pregnancy.
- Your centre of gravity will change during pregnancy so you are more likely to lose your balance. Move slowly and use support, such as a wall or a chair.
- Follow your teacher’s advice on which exercises are suitable if you have any particular conditions during pregnancy. For example, you may not be able to move your legs apart if you have pelvic girdle pain (PGP)/symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). If you have separated tummy muscles (diastasis recti), you should avoid exercises that involve a lot of core strength, such as the plank.
- Keep cool ‒ avoid types of pilates that involve heat.
- Be careful not to overstretch or push yourself too hard. You are more at risk of injury during pregnancy because your body produces a hormone called relaxin, which softens the tissue between your joints.
- If lying on your front is uncomfortable, try using pillows to support your body or do the exercise on your hands and knees.
- Avoid lying on your back for too long, especially after 16 weeks of pregnancy.
- Do not hold your breath – keep breathing deeply and evenly throughout the exercises.
- Stop if it hurts or you feel dizzy or out of breath.
- Smith L (2022) Can Pilates help strengthen your pelvic floor during pregnancy? Patient. https://patient.info/news-and-features/can-pilates-help-strengthen-your-pelvic-floor-during-pregnancy
- POGP (2022) Pilates in Women’s Health Physiotherapy. https://thepogp.co.uk/_userfiles/pages/files/resources/pogppilates_final.pdf
- Pelvic Partnership. Exercise and PGP. http://pelvicpartnership.org.uk/treatment-exercise-and-pgp/ (Page last reviewed: 2017)
- POGP. Tummy muscle separation (DRAM) in pregnancy. https://thepogp.co.uk/patient_information/womens_health/tummy_muscle_separation.aspx (Accessed December 2022)
- Mottola MF, Davenport MH, Ruchat S-M et al. (2018) No. 367-2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy. Joint SOGC/CSEP Clinical practice guideline. 2018; 40(11): 1528-1537.
- NHS Tyneside Integrated Musculoskeletal Service. Health & Fitness in Pregnancy. https://www.tims.nhs.uk/self-care/health-fitness-in-pregnancy/