There’s always so much focus on actresses’ exercise routines, particularly before, during, and after pregnancies. Sarah Jessica Parker and Julia Roberts are among the stars who have raved about practicing Pilates right through their pregnancies. I started wondering if Pilates was as good for the average, everyday pregnant woman as it is for pregnant celebs?
I am so fortunate to know Maurine Joy, owner of MidCoast Pilates Studio and a certified Power Pilates instructor. She recently added pre-pregnancy classes to the spring schedule at her studio, and plans to offer prenatal classes this summer. Maurine was kind enough to answer some of my questions about Pilates during pregnancy, and I’m delighted to share her wisdom with you!

Lots of people think of yoga as a good form of exercise during pregnancy. Why should they consider Pilates?
Pilates is a great form of exercise. It strengthens your pelvic muscles, increases shoulder stability, helps you maintain correct posture, and improves balance during pregnancy. Pregnant women have found that the Pilates method helps them develop good breath control, carry their pregnancy more comfortably and strengthen their body for a smoother delivery.

If you are practicing yoga while pregnant you must take care not to over stretch your tendons and ligaments. The exercises may seem easier because of the hormones that are flooding your body while pregnant, so it is very tempting to push even further. This can lead to injury. This is a time to go easy–don’t push yourself!

For women planning a pregnancy, when should they start Pilates?Six months to a year before you actually get pregnant. You want to build good core abdominal muscles before you get pregnant.

What if you’re already pregnant—should you start Pilates?
You hear good things about Pilates—it’s non-impact, tones your body, and strengthens your abs —so you think, “I’ll do Pilates!” This is NOT an exercise program to start in pregnancy. If you’re shopping around for a program several months prior to pregnancy, then Pilates is a good choice.

How often should I do Pilates during pregnancy?
I would suggest at least 3 times a week. With the low number of repetitions for each exercise, it is easy on the joints, so you can do Pilates every day without overdoing it. This does not mean you have to take classes 7 days a week, but doing classes twice a week would be great.

Better yet, spend some time with private instruction especially in the beginning and towards the end of pregnancy. Private instruction will include working with the machines which is easier especially with the big belly.

What are the benefits of Pilates during pregnancy?

  • Strong abs support a growing fetus.
  • The exercises strengthen your back muscles which can relieve lower back pain caused by carrying the extra weight in your belly.
  • As the baby grows your posture changes, shoulders may roll in, back arches, etc. Pilates helps to decrease the impact these changes make on your body.
  • As your stomach grows the exercises will be modified to accommodate these physical changes. As your delivery nears, working out on the machines will be recommended as it is easier than the mat work.
  • Regular exercises during pregnancy helps to overcome some of the physiological and emotional changes. They can also reduce many of the aches and pains of pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a time in your life that your deserve flowers, romantic dinners and gifts from the guy who did this to you! You can give yourself and your baby the gift of good health.

How does Pilates help prepare you for labor?
The exercises help develop strong abdominal muscles before you get pregnant and maintain them during pregnancy. The exercises keep the pelvic floor muscles toned for delivery and help you to get them back after delivery. The breathing in your Pilates exercises will also be helpful in your breath work during labor.

How about the benefits after delivery?
Being fit during your pregnancy will speed up your recovery. The upper body strengthening will help during the hours of nursing and holding your baby (not to mention lifting all the baby stuff, car seat, diaper bag, etc.). The abdominal strength and awareness you developed prior to delivery will help you to rebuild the core connection much faster. And you will get your figure back so much sooner.

What should I look for in a Pilates instructor?
With the popularity of Pilates growing by leaps and bounds, many “Pilates training” schools have popped up. Unfortunately, most do not require more than a few days of training in order to teach this very complex exercise program. Pilates Method Alliance is a non-profit that oversees reputable training centers. Visit the website and check to see if your future teacher or the training program is listed.

Talk to your future Pilates teacher and ask how long they practiced Pilates before they started training to become a teacher. Where and when did they complete certification? How much time did it take them to complete the Pilates training? The answer should be between 400 and 600 hours. This process can take 1-2 years. What method do they teach? (They should be able to tell you.) Do they have experience teaching pregnant clients?

About Maurine Joy
Maurine started as a student 9 years ago and within a year knew that she wanted to become a Pilates teacher. She started the process at Power Pilates in NYC and completed her 600 hour apprentice training in 2004. She continues to attend numerous continuing education courses including “Empowering your Pregnancy.” Her studio is also a participating training center where future teachers can come to apprentice and learn.

Maurine’s new Prepare for Pregnancy class will begin on March 2 at 7 pm. Each session lasts 45 minutes, and the class runs for 8 weeks. This class is a prerequisite for the Prenatal class, coming in summer 2009. For more information, visit the MidCoast Pilates Studio web site, or contact Maurine at (207) 373-0872.