Over the course of pregnancy the body experiences many changes, the most obvious of these is the physical change in the shape of women’s bodies. This is due to the pregnancy hormone Relaxin, which allows ligaments to ‘relax’, creating physical changes for the fetus to grow.
As the body adjusts to pregnancy women can often feel weakness in their low backs, hips and pelvis. They may also feel like they are now ‘waddling’ when walking, notice that they lean back more as bump grows and have to walk with their feet wider apart for support. The upper back and neck can also become more rounded as women’s breasts grow and to counteract the effect of leaning back. In some instances these changes are associated with feelings of pain and discomfort.
One of the ways to reduce the effects of this is through strengthening key muscles around the low back, hips and pelvis as well as the postural muscles of the upper body. These exercises can also help post-natal recovery.
Strengthening the Gluteal (bottom) muscles help to improve support around your low back, pelvis and hips as these muscles help to control the movement in this area. This area can improve pelvic girdle pain and may reduce the risk of it developing. Practising pelvic floor exercises will also help as these attached under the pelvis in a sling (which is why they are called the pelvic floor) and gentle engagement of the deep core muscle Transverse abdominus also increases control.
Clinical Pilates is often taught by a qualified physiotherapist who has undergone training by a recognised institute such as the APPI. Physiotherapists have an in-depth knowledge of injury, pathology, bodily function, healing and movement patterns. Clinical Pilates is a form of physical exercise that focuses on posture, core stability, balance, control, strength, flexibility, and breathing, all beneficial before and after pregnancy.
Post-natal strengthening is extremely important. This can begin after the six-week check, which should include an examination of the abdominal muscles for any separation. If there is a separation any exercises you undertake need to be modified and working with someone who is familiar with this is essential.
Exercises at this stage aim to gradually build up your core Abdominal and Gluteal muscles which often weaken during pregnancy. Focus can also be placed on postural muscles to improve the spines alignment and reduce the stresses and strains on the neck, shoulders and low back. It can also help prevent development of knee and hip pain as women carry their baby on one hip or find that they are unaware of locking their knees.
It is important that you only undertake pilates with a trained professional and with someone who has undertaken in ante and post natal training. This may take the form of specific small group pilates classes or one-to-one sessions.
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