Healthy Mamas: Pre- and Post-natal Pilates (Part 1)

Guest post by Pilates-based Physical Therapist, Megan McCoy.

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It was during college and graduate school that I started to fall in love with running.  Not only was it a great way to get in my cardio workout, but it was also a great outlet for stress. During all the years and miles that I’ve been running, I have not had the overuse training syndromes that plague many runners. No ITB pain.  No hamstring tightness.  No plantar fasciitis.  Call me lucky? Perhaps. But I must thank Pilates for keeping me out on the road running.

Pilates has kept my muscles lengthened and core activated. My pelvic stability has been strong enough to train for long distance runs and adapt to all sorts of terrain.  Pilates also has encouraged proper movement patterns and helped prevent against future injuries. Not only has Pilates helped my running, it was conditioning my body before I even became pregnant.

When I first learned I was pregnant, I was overcome with excitement! That excitement was soon met with a wave of nausea that soon made it hard to do anything but the necessities of life.  Green from nausea and a fatigue that I had never experienced before, my favorite form of exercise – running – was quickly out of the picture. I realized I was able to continue with my Pilates practice and was so very thankful to be able to keep moving!

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During the Prenatal Period I quickly realized just how important Pilates is for a pregnant body.

  • Abdominals: Having a strong abdominal wall helps the body accommodate to one’s ever growing belly. The more engaged the core, the less likely one is to suffer from aches and pains. I truly did not have much low back pain during either pregnancy!
  • Back Muscles: Keeping these muscles strong can help reduce the stress on your body as one gets used to her new center of gravity. It becomes difficult to maintain good posture, but it is crucial to help reduce aches and pains from the increased lumbar lordosis (curvature of the low back).
  • Pelvic Muscles: Pilates exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor, which in turn will help support the bladder, bowels, and uterus during pregnancy. Keeping these muscles strong will also aid during the labor and delivery phase.
  • Breath Control: The breath is very important in Pilates and during pregnancy! It’s a great way for pre-labor practice to help breathe through contractions and make the pushes more effective. It’s also a great tool to use when one can’t perform an upper abdominal curl but still engage the abdominals.

Now after having two sweet baby girls, just 15 months apart, I have Pilates to thank for much more! I truly believe I was able to maintain the stamina for 5+ hours of pushing due to breath control and strong abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.

Many new moms experience diastasis recti – which is essentially a split in the abdominal wall muscles. For some it is easily noticeable and others it is not. The good news is that if you are reading this and you think you may have it, the PTs at IOBT would be happy to help you properly find your abdominals again! With both pregnancies, I have not experienced any split in my abdominals due to all the Pilates strengthening. Also many new moms say, “Oops I pee accidentally when I sneeze/cough/etc…” This is NOT normal. Again we would love to help you strengthen your pelvic floor if this sounds like you. I have not had any issues with these pelvic floor problems, even with both babies being at normal and above average birth weights! I truly believe I can thank Pilates for not having a lot of these common issues post delivery.

During the Postnatal Period, Pilates has helped me realize just how strong our bodies are. It has been a great complement to starting to tone and strengthen my postnatal body. While we are all eager to get back to our pre-baby bodies, take time to heal and listen to your body. My daughters are just about 22 months and 6 months old, and I am still re-learning my body. In the first 2 to 6 months postpartum, the body is at the highest risk for injury. Enjoy your favorite form of exercise and all the benefits it gives you and your body. Instead of getting hung up on trying to run your pre-baby mile time or getting back into your skinny jeans, enjoy the ride. Also, remember to cut yourself some slack – you just gave birth to one of life’s greatest miracles.

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Check out Megan’s full bio on our staff page and call the studio to set up a Pilates-based Physical Therapy evaluation (919-361-0104).

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