Guide to prenatal pilates

Guide to prenatal pilates

Pregnancy can be a beautiful and magical time but it can also be a challenging time. Many new risks are introduced for both mum and bub which can leave many mothers, particularly new ones, wondering what they can and can’t do.

When it comes to exercise for pregnant women, it is both important and beneficial to maintain a healthy routine however many women are left wondering; what exercise can I do while pregnant?

Pilates is often recommended by doctors for pregnant women as it’s a low impact workout that can be modified and also strengthens the pelvic floor muscles. That being said, special care does need to be taken before undertaking any exercise whilst pregnant. Always ensure you have gotten clearance from your doctor and be sure to let your instructor know you are pregnant so they can recommend modifications. Make sure you’re across the different requirements at each stage of pregnancy.


Benefits of prenatal pilates

Pilates is one of the most popular forms of exercise recommended for pregnant women by doctors. Beyond the mental health benefits are the unique benefits that can only be gained from prenatal pilates. These are:

  • Improve posture and reduce back pain. This is particularly important during pregnancy where the weight of the baby starts to affect posture and cause back pain
  • Strengthen pelvic floor. This can better prepare a woman for childbirth and even make for an easier labour
  • Breathing control. This is helpful for learning how to breathe through the pain of labour
  • Diastasis Recti prevention.* Diastasis Recti is when the abdominal muscles separate causing a bulging belly. Pilates can help with prevention due to the high core focus. *Tightening your core muscles too much can actually lead to diastasis recti which is why it’s important to avoid certain exercises in the later trimesters 
  • Improved flexibility and core. This can assist pregnant women with maintaining their mobility and balance in the face of changing posture and a growing baby
  • Strengthen arms, back and legs. Reformer pilates in particular helps women focus on only exercising certain body parts as they can undertake seated and/or modified exercises
  • Maintain healthy weight. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight throughout pregnancy to avoid long-term effects on the baby’s health and help mitigate the risk of gestational diabetes



Is pilates during pregnancy safe?

Pilates is generally safe during pregnancy however modifications will be required as not all exercises are safe for a pregnant person. Always let a trainer know as soon as you know you are pregnant so they can make the correct modifications. Not only is pilates safe during pregnancy but it can reduce recovery time and prepare you for labour. As such, pilates is an excellent and safe choice for pregnant women.


Pilates in the first trimester

The first trimester of pregnancy is often characterised by nausea, fatigue and hormonal as well as physical changes. As soon as you find out you are pregnant, let a trainer know. The first trimester holds the highest risk of miscarriage and while pilates is safe at this stage, it is best to take it easy, avoid overheating and avoid too much abdominal work. Focus on your t-zone – the transversus abdominus and pelvic floor muscles. Leg raises can be a good choice here.


Pilates in the second trimester

By the second trimester, you may be feeling less nauseous but are starting to feel the aches and pains of a growing body. Your belly is starting to show but it’s still best to let a trainer know you are pregnant. By this stage of your pregnancy, you will require modifications as not all exercises will be appropriate. Avoid doing abdominal work outside of leg lowers to avoid rectus diastasis. Lying on the stomach may be uncomfortable and lying on the back is not recommended as there is less oxygen going to the baby. Overstretching, particularly in your inner thighs, can lead to injury. During pregnancy the tissue between the joints can soften and some women can experience pelvic girdle pain which makes separating the legs painful. Draw a sword can be a good exercise for the second trimester.


Pilates in the third trimester

In the third trimester your posture is dramatically affected by the baby as the baby is getting bigger. The same recommendations as the second trimester apply for the third trimester except ALL abdominal work should now be avoided including leg lowers, as well as inner thigh work. Remember you can exercise up until the day you give labour but make sure to listen to your body and not push yourself. Seated back and arm work remains safe here, as well as exercises that engage your pelvic floor muscles.



Prenatal pilates tips & tricks

  • Stay cool, mums-to-be have higher basal temperatures and faster heart rates making it easier to overheat
  • Move slowly and use support where needed
  • Avoid laying on your back
  • Core work such as planks should be avoided
  • Avoid overstretching as your joints may be affected by pregnancy and this can lead to injuries
  • Stop at any sign of discomfort
  • Always let a trainer know you are pregnant
  • Get clearance from your doctor to engage in pilates


If you’re expecting and want to continue, or start, your pilates journey at Vive Active please reach out to us and let us know! We’ve got knowledgeable trainers as well as resources on pregnancy modifications to help you and bub stay safe and comfortable.



– Written by: Jana Lepojevic