Policy Prenatal Pilates!

Updated: May 11


What is your policy for prenatal clients in your Pilates or fitness studio? If a prenatal client in week 20 wanted to start Pilates at your studio and had never done Pilates before, would you let her attend?

I often hear that Pilates studios will not allow pregnant women new to the method start at their studio. This is unfortunate as Pilates is one of the safest methods of exercise, and pregnant women should be encouraged to exercise.

Pregnancy may be one of the most important times to adopt a routine of regular exercise, given that lifestyle during pregnancy imprints the future health of the child. That being said it is important to learn as much as possible about pre and postnatal changes and know when to get professionals, such as pelvic floor physiotherapists involved. Some prenatal clients may experience specific issues related to pelvic girdle pain such as SIJ and SP dysfunction, abdominal separation, and pelvic floor issues or prolapse. Pilates instructors working with prenatal clients need to have a good understanding of these specific issues and what exercises are recommended to help with each unique issue as well as what exercises should be avoided.

Studios may be weary of selling larger blocks to Prenatal clients, however, most prenatal clients will continue postpartum and beyond. So keep them coming back!

In my experience in working with prenatal clients for over 19 years, prenatal clients can become regular clients. After a natural delivery they can come back to Pilates in 6 weeks. For caesarean section it is three months. I have worked with clients up the the day before delivery and after delivery I have had clients for another 10 years! This has been a wonderful process to know the child before and after delivery and to see them grow!

I have also heard reports that some instructors say that Pilates is not safe for the prenatal client.

Pilates is safer than sex!

Maybe you might be saying to yourself "NO. No. no. And by the way, no."

But prenatal Pilates can really assist the pregnant client in so many ways!

Here are just a few:

  • Assist with fitness for pregnancy, labour and early motherhood

  • Improve self esteem and feelings of wellbeing

  • Aid in the prevention of excessive weight gain

  • Improve mental health and reduced symptoms of depression

  • Heighten body awareness

  • Give a greater awareness of the pelvic floor muscles. Clients will feel the encouraging sensation of being able to lift up through the pelvic floor as well as slowly relax pelvic floor. Practiced daily, the pelvic floor will become more elastic, which is a bonus during labour, and supportive – to assist in bladder control and prevent future weakening

  • Assist with stress relief

  • Enable a quicker return to fitness after giving birth

  • Improve posture and condition muscles to protect from backache

  • Strengthen the arms ready for the all the lifting demands of Motherhood. Pilates equipment allows your client to strengthen and tone safely

So I feel it is a little unfair that we turn our prenatal clients away when there is so much to benefit!

We must however follow certain guidelines such as:

  • No exercise prone

  • Avoid high intensity exercise (such as jumping on the reformer) that can increase the heart rate potentially causing foetal distress as well as create musculoskeletal issues for the mother to be such as SIJ dysfunction and SP dysfunction. Hypoglycaemia and overheating can also occur through an intense exercise program

  • No supine exercise after 16 weeks due to the weight of the placenta on the vena cava reducing the return of blood flow to the mother and baby

  • No excessive intra-abdominal pressure exercises after 20 weeks when there may be separation of the rectus abdominis and a more vulnerable pelvic floor due to the increasing weight of the pregnancy and the hormone relaxin. It is wise to avoid any exercise that places significant load on the abdominals and pelvic floor including abdominal curls, sit ups, planks and hovers

  • Avoid exercise that stand on one leg or that are asymmetrical. Any lunge type activities are best avoided to prevent injury to pelvic connective tissue including Standing Leg Press, Lunges and Going Up Front on the Chair, Scooter and Russian splits on the Reformer, Ballet stretches on the Cadillac and Ladder Barrel

Maybe you are thinking if it’s to strengthen pelvic floor ‘that horse has bolted’, and yes it is true that the pelvic floor will weaken due to the change in body tissues and the weight of the pregnancy. But we can really assist with pelvic floor strengthening in a Pilates session - the horse has not bolted yet!

Do you or your studio have a policy about working with pre and postnatal clients? I would love to know your policy!

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Melbourne, Australia