What to Know About Pilates During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on August 29, 2022
4 min read

Pilates is a low-impact, highly effective form of exercise. The goal is to grow a solid and stable muscular core. Pilates actively aids in strengthening the trunk muscles, which are part of the body's core. 

However, as an instructor adds moves to make positions and movements more complex, you may wonder if pilates and pregnancy are a safe combination. Thankfully, with modifications and instructions from your doctor, pilates can remain healthy and effective during pregnancy.

Pilates is a collection of low-impact exercises and breathing practices that function to improve abdominal strength, pelvic floor stabilizing, and stabilization of the central trunk muscles. 

The principles that govern pilates are:

  • Control
  • Flow
  • Concentration
  • Precision
  • Breathing
  • Centering 

Because pilates is a low-impact practice, pilates for pregnancy can usually be modified to accommodate different movements and postures. Usually, pilates is done on a mat, but there is also special lightweight equipment that can be used to help isolate specific muscles. 

A mommy-to-be can do pilates exercises with either a mat or specific equipment. Equipment can support specialized postures or strengthen muscles with varying degrees of resistance. Techniques can be individualized to suit pregnant moms or anyone with specific needs. 

In the prenatal period, pilates is used for posture improvement, improvement of joint movement, flexibility, relief of stress, and improved body strength, balance, and muscle tone.

Prenatal pilates exercises engage the entire body by accenting the core muscles, including obliques, abdominals, and Kegel muscles. All of these are important for a successful and comfortable prenatal experience and delivery.

Research on pilates during pregnancy is scant, but the gentle impact of pilates exercises during pregnancy is mostly considered safe. Getting hurt from prenatal pilates exercise is uncommon because of the low-impact movements employed in pilates training. 

That being said, it is always recommended that pregnant pilates should be implemented under the supervision of a pilates instructor or the guidance of a trainer with prenatal pilates experience. If you are already engaged in pilates prior to getting pregnant, you should let your trainer know so that the necessary modifications can be made to the exercise routine. 

You should be careful not to overexert yourself or engage in too much stretching while pregnant. When you reach about 16 weeks, you should also avoid exercises in which you lay on your back. Your instructor should be able to work with you and other pregnant women to adapt exercises that will accommodate the changes in your body at each stage of pregnancy. 

Pregnant mommies should avoid hot pilates, which takes place in heated rooms or with the aid of devices like hot stones. A pregnant mom should not intentionally raise her body temperature. You should stop engaging in exercises that require you to lie on your back after about 12 weeks of gestation to avoid possibly obstructing the blood flow to your growing baby. 

Fortunately, pilates during pregnancy is growing in popularity, in part because of the flexibility of positions. It is one of the few exercise regimens that can be done in a sitting position or while laying on your side. 

That being said, exhaustion and over-stretching of your muscles should be avoided. If you have a medical condition or develop a complication while exercising, you should get medical guidance from your doctor before continuing with pilates. 

Also, try to avoid inversion exercises. These are executed upside down, which increases the risk of artery obstruction by a clot or air bubble. This is most risky during your second and third trimester and the postpartum period. 

The general consensus is that women are able to better adapt to the physical transitions of pregnancy through pilates. This comes from the stabilizing and strengthening of abdominal muscles, the back, and the pelvic floor. Some studies have shown that those who do pilates while pregnant find that it is a great way to decrease the aches and pains encountered during pregnancy.  

Studies have also shown that a conformed prenatal pilates regimen has resulted in big improvements in hand grip strength, blood pressure, spinal curvature, and hamstring flexibility. It also aids in labor improvements. 

Pilates stretches and strengthens your trunk muscles and can aid your body in adapting to the extra weight of your growing baby. It also prepares you for labor and recovery afterward. It does so by focusing on pelvic floor strength, which is vital during labor and recovery. Your strong pelvic floor can also help to avoid urinating on yourself when you sneeze, cough, or exercise. 

A 2018 study showed that pilates is a healthy, feasible, and healthy method of decreasing pregnancy pain. Therefore, it is a favorable exercise regimen for decreasing pain during your third trimester of gestation.

Overall, pilates during pregnancy is valued as a safe and efficient exercise during gestation and afterward. However, just like other exercises, it is recommended that pilates be pursued under the guidance of a specialized pilates instructor, particularly if you are pregnant. The instructor should know when you become pregnant and how far along you are so modifications can be made to your routines. 

If you are trying pilates for the first time while pregnant, consult with your medical provider to determine the safety of this exercise in your case. Also, check to see if any preexisting medical conditions could possibly put you in danger while engaging in pilates while pregnant.