Prenatal and Postnatal Pilates Guide

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About Pilates and Pregnancy

Widely regarded as one of the best forms of exercise for pregnancy around, prenatal Pilates is specifically designed to accommodate the needs of the expectant mother. Doing Pilates on the equipment, such as the Reformer, or on the mat can safely boost your physical and mental health. Because Pilates focuses on increasing stability, in addition to strengthening the entire body, it can help relieve joint pain—and prevent it from even occurring in the first place. Thanks to the focus on better posture, alignment and body awareness, Pilates is known for helping to relieve back and hip pain and sciatica while helping to alleviate symptoms of pubic synthesis, a common pregnancy condition.

Should You Exercise During Pregnancy?

Exercising during pregnancy offers no shortage of benefits, for both mom and baby alike. Recent studies have shown that regular exercise throughout the prenatal period can support the baby’s brain growth and development, among other things. As for mama, staying in shape while expecting has numerous advantages for her overall well-being, from easing pregnancy-related aches and pains to managing stress and preventing conditions like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.

Benefits of Prenatal Pilates

Prenatal Pilates differs from “regular” Pilates in that there’s more of a focus on the transverse abdominis, which is that deep layer of muscles that “corset” the waist. The core connection becomes about building and reinforcing the support system, instead of increasing the strength of the abdominal contraction. The deep breathing, as well as the mind-body connection, emphasized in Pilates sessions and classes helps to prepare mothers for labor and childbirth. These factors also help increase resolve, to better cope with the emotional ups and downs many women experience during pregnancy.

First Trimester

Though it’s considered safe to maintain your regular workouts during the first few months of pregnancy, you might be feeling low-energy, fatigued and/or nauseous. Take care not to overexert or overheat your body, and above all, don’t push yourself. In terms of your Pilates workouts, there’s nothing specific that you can’t do just yet, but it’s a good time to get educated on the adjustments you’ll need to make throughout the duration of your pregnancy. Instead of trying to go up a level, revisit the basics within your Pilates foundation, like breathing and stabilization. Love the Reformer? Be more moderate with your spring choice, choosing heavier resistance for stability exercises and lighter tension for leg and arm work.

Second Trimester

The second trimester is usually the time when mamas-to-be feel most energetic during pregnancy. You might be tempted to push yourself, but it’s important to be aware that your weight and center of gravity are going through a period of flux, which can throw your balance and alignment off-kilter. To avoid injury, and keep you feeling your best, start incorporating modifications to your Pilates workouts. For one, limit exercises done on your back (and especially forward flexion), which can compress the inferior vena cava and the aorta, making your feel dizzy. Also, it might not be comfortable to work out on your belly anymore. Opt for side-lying, seated or standing work instead, using supportive props when needed.

Third Trimester

You made it to the homestretch! You’re likely feeling tired again and possibly more anxious, given that baby will be arriving soon. In your third trimester, grant yourself more permission to relax—and breathe deeply—in your workouts. Standing exercises are great, but opt for a wider, turned-out stance to accommodate your belly. In addition to the belly, most women find that their breasts are growing, too, which can lead to back pain. Add some chest and back stretching and strengthening to counteract your newfound body alignment. If you feel any pain in your belly button as you move, that could signal a hernia, so it’s best to see your doctor right away.


Congrats on your new baby! Life caring for a newborn can be overwhelming, especially when you add in the sleep deprivation new mothers experience, so self-care is of the utmost importance now. Postnatal Pilates can help prevent common postpartum issues, such as lower-back and shoulder tension; the deep breathing emphasized leads to more energy, mental clarity and patience. Whether you’ve had a vaginal delivery or a C-section, Pilates can help to accelerate the recovery process, making you feel calmer and more connected in the process. The right exercises can also help heal diastasis recti, which is an excessive separation of the abdominals common in postpartum women.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is prenatal Pilates safe?

Although it’s considered safe to maintain your regular workout regimen through the first trimester, starting prenatal Pilates right off the bat can be beneficial. A teacher trained in prenatal Pilates can educate you on the various modifications you need to make throughout the three trimesters, such as avoiding forward-flexion exercises that can cause diastasis recti, avoiding overstretching and using support props, ensuring you feel confident and safe as you move.

What changes should I expect during pregnancy?

As you progress through your pregnancy, your body goes through a series of changes, which can lead to a decreased sense of balance and endurance—and fatigue, lots of fatigue. Pilates is there to support you at every stage, but it’s always important to let your body be your guide. Pregnancy is not a time to try to move up a level or advance in your Pilates practice. Move at your own pace, take breaks when needed and always listen to your body.

What if I'm new to Pilates?

First of all, you can do Pilates safely during pregnancy, even if you’ve never done it before. Note that Pilates during pregnancy will be different, since the focus will be on the transverse abdominis (those muscles that corset the waist). It’s important to consult a Pilates teacher to help guide you through the process. Do your research. Make sure the teacher you choose is educated in prenatal Pilates and understands the pregnant body.

Is the Reformer safe during pregnancy?

The Reformer isn’t only safe, it’s recommended! It’s best to choose a heavier spring tension for stability exercises and lighter for leg and arm work. If you aren’t experienced on the Pilates Reformer, make sure to seek out a qualified prenatal Pilates instructor before hopping on.

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