Pregnancy is a remarkable journey, but it brings significant changes to a mother's body.
From abdominal separation to weakened pelvic floor muscles and back pain, the postpartum period can be challenging. Postnatal Pilates offers an effective way to regain strength, tone, and overall well-being after giving birth.
Many new mums experience a wide range of physical changes during pregnancy and childbirth & face such as abdominal separation, pelvic floor issues, and back pain, making postnatal Pilates an appealing option for recovery. So let's start with the most asked question “When can we start postnatal Pilates?”..
When Can We Start Postnatal Pilates?
The simple answer is that it is generally safe to start postnatal Pilates approximately six weeks after giving birth. However, it's important to consider individual circumstances and medical advice, particularly if you've had a C-section. This time frame allows your body to recover from the physical stress of childbirth and gradually rebuild core strength, flexibility, and overall fitness. It's crucial to listen to your body during this process and not push yourself too hard, especially in the early stages.
On the other hand, mothers who have undergone a Caesarean section should exercise extra caution. C-sections involve major abdominal surgery, which necessitates a longer recovery period. It's generally advisable to wait for your postnatal check-up, which usually occurs around 6-8 weeks post-surgery. Your healthcare provider will assess your recovery progress and give you the green light to start postnatal exercises like Pilates.
Always remember that each individual's postpartum recovery is unique, and it's essential to consult with your healthcare provider before initiating any postnatal exercise program.
Moreover, recent research conducted in 2020 suggests that a six-week Pilates program can be effective for women experiencing postpartum back pain. This program not only helps manage pain but also strengthens abdominal muscles and reduces inter-recti distance, making it a clinically approved method for postnatal recovery. These findings can be a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and new mothers looking to safely incorporate Pilates into their postpartum fitness routine.
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Benefits of Postnatal Pilates
1. Repair Abdominal Separation
Diastasis recti, a common issue in pregnancy, occurs when the growing uterus exerts pressure on the abdominal muscles, causing them to separate. Postnatal Pilates focuses on strengthening the deep core muscles, such as the transverse abdominis, to bring these separated muscles back together.
The controlled movements, like pelvic tilts and leg slides, engage the core effectively, promoting alignment and function. This targeted approach helps new mothers regain core strength and a flatter abdominal profile, effectively addressing the issue of abdominal separation that arises during pregnancy.
2. Improves Pelvic Floor Strength
The pelvic floor can weaken during pregnancy and childbirth due to the increased pressure it bears. Weakened pelvic floor muscles can lead to urinary incontinence and other related issues. Postnatal Pilates places strong emphasis on pelvic floor engagement during exercises.
Controlled and coordinated movements, including kegel exercises, help in gradually rebuilding pelvic floor strength. This, in turn, reduces the risk of incontinence and improves overall pelvic health, effectively addressing the issue that arises from pregnancy-related pelvic floor weakness.
3. Alleviates Back Pain
The additional weight and altered posture during pregnancy commonly strain the lower back, leading to postpartum back pain. Postnatal Pilates is tailored to address this issue by emphasising posture improvement and strengthening the back muscles.
Incorporating exercises like cat-cow stretches, spinal curls, and leg slides, these workouts alleviate strain, promote proper spinal alignment, and enhance overall comfort for new mothers.
Studies have shown that postnatal Pilates specifically targets posture enhancement and back muscle strengthening, providing much-needed relief and improved comfort for new mothers dealing with postpartum back pain. This focus on alleviating discomfort contributes to a smoother postnatal recovery process.
4. Aids in Weight Loss and Body Toning
Pregnancy often leads to weight gain and shifts in body shape due to hormonal changes and increased calorie needs. Postnatal Pilates, characterised by its gentle yet effective exercises, plays a significant role in shedding post-pregnancy weight.
It achieves this through calorie burning, muscle building, and metabolic rate enhancement. These exercises help new mothers lose excess weight, tone their bodies, and regain pre-pregnancy fitness levels.
This holistic approach effectively addresses the physical changes that occur during pregnancy, assisting in both weight management and body toning, supporting new mothers in their postpartum journey toward a healthier and more toned physique.
5. Reduces Stress & Enhance Mental Well Being
The demands of tending to a newborn are both fulfilling and challenging. Postnatal Pilates extends beyond its physical benefits by prioritising relaxation and stress reduction. The deliberate, controlled movements involved in Pilates are inherently mindful, offering a means to diminish anxiety, elevate mood, and enhance overall mental and emotional well-being.
These psychological effects are invaluable, particularly during the demanding postnatal phase, as they effectively tackle the emotional and psychological challenges that often accompany the journey of new motherhood. Postnatal Pilates provides a holistic approach to health, addressing not only physical but also mental well-being, aiding new mothers in navigating this transformative period.
6. Enhances Posture and Body Awareness
Pregnancy often prompts postural challenges as the body accommodates a growing belly. Postnatal Pilates is instrumental in rectifying these issues by enhancing body awareness. It empowers new mothers to uphold proper alignment and posture during daily activities. This improvement not only enhances one's appearance but also facilitates a more comfortable and pain-free existence while caring for a baby.
By addressing postural concerns through exercises focused on alignment and balance, postnatal Pilates plays a pivotal role in fostering better posture and body awareness, allowing new mothers to navigate the physical demands of motherhood with greater ease and reduced discomfort.
7. Boosts Energy and Bring Vitality
The rigours of motherhood can be physically and mentally draining. Postnatal Pilates can help by enhancing blood circulation, augmenting oxygen flow, and fostering relaxation. This boost in energy not only improves vitality but also alleviates fatigue, allowing new mothers to feel more refreshed and revitalised. Such benefits are invaluable for coping with the day to-day challenges of caring for a newborn.
Postnatal Pilates effectively addresses the physical and emotional fatigue that commonly accompanies motherhood, offering a revitalising and invigorating experience that empowers new mothers to meet their maternal responsibilities with enhanced vigour and vitality.
Learn more about the benefits of Pilates here.
Postnatal Pilates Exercises After Birth
Here are a few of the best postnatal Pilates exercises you can do after childbirth:
Pelvic Tilts - Strengthening the Core and Pelvic Floor
Pelvic tilts are a foundational postnatal Pilates exercise that effectively activates and strengthens the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles. To perform this exercise, begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Inhale to prepare, then as you exhale, gently tilt your pelvis upward by engaging your lower abdominal muscles.
Imagine that you're flattening your lower back into the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds, feeling the contraction in your lower abdomen and pelvic floor, and then release. Repeat this motion 10-15 times. Pelvic tilts are particularly beneficial for restoring core strength and pelvic stability after childbirth.
Kegels - Focusing on Pelvic Floor Strengthening
While not a traditional Pilates exercise, Kegels are of utmost importance for strengthening the pelvic floor. They are simple yet incredibly effective. To perform Kegels, sit or lie down comfortably and contract your pelvic floor muscles by squeezing as if you're trying to stop the flow of urine.
Hold this contraction for a few seconds and then release. Repeat this exercise 10-15 times, several times a day. Kegels play a pivotal role in restoring pelvic health and preventing issues like incontinence that can arise after childbirth.
The Bridge Exercise - Targeting Abdominal Muscles and Core Stability
The bridge exercise engages the transverse abdominis, which is a deep core muscle. Strengthening this muscle can help restore core stability, which is essential for proper posture, preventing back pain, and reducing the risk of diastasis recti. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to increased joint laxity, potentially causing instability in the hips and pelvis.
The bridge exercise can help improve hip stability and decrease the risk of hip pain. Begin with gentle variations of the bridge, such as partial bridges or pelvic tilts, and gradually progress to full bridges as your strength and comfort levels increase.
Single Leg Stretch - Targeting Abdominal Muscles and Core Stability
The Single Leg Stretch is an effective exercise for targeting the abdominal muscles and enhancing core stability. Begin by lying on your back with your head and shoulders lifted off the ground. Hug one knee toward your chest while extending the other leg straight.
Alternate legs in a controlled manner, keeping the head and shoulders off the ground throughout. This exercise not only works the abdominal muscles but also challenges your core stability and balance. It's particularly beneficial for re-establishing core strength and toning the abdominal area after childbirth.
These postnatal Pilates exercises, when practised with care and consistency, can help new mothers regain strength, stability, and overall physical well-being after giving birth.
Frequently Asked Questions About Postnatal Pilates
1. Is Postnatal Pilates safe for all new mothers?
Postnatal Pilates can be safe for most new mothers, but it's essential to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any postnatal exercise program, especially if you've had a complicated pregnancy or delivery. An experienced Pilates instructor can also tailor exercises to your specific needs.
2. Can I do Postnatal Pilates if I had a C-section?
Yes, but you should wait at least 8-12 weeks after a C-section to allow for proper healing. Always consult with your healthcare provider before beginning postnatal Pilates after a C-section.
3. How often should I practise Postnatal Pilates?
The frequency of postnatal Pilates can vary. Starting with a few sessions per week and gradually increasing is a good approach. Listen to your body, and avoid overexertion.
In conclusion, postnatal Pilates can be a transformative and highly effective tool for new mothers looking to regain strength, improve well-being, and address common post-pregnancy issues. It is essential to begin at the appropriate time depending on your delivery method, and to consult with healthcare providers, and experienced instructors.
Discover more about how often you should do Pilates here.