The Pilates Reformer & Pregnancy

Pregnant women standing in a line
Three pregnant women's stomachs all in workout clothing. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Incorporating physical activity, such as Pilates on a Reformer, when pregnant is ideal because strength gains will help during childbirth and will facilitate recovery once the child is born. Because your body is undergoing constant changes, however, you’ll need to limit your session to particular exercises and only work at a comfortable intensity to avoid injury and complications.

Paying Attention to Trimester

During the first trimester of pregnancy, you can continue your Pilates Reformer workout as usual. However, throughout the second and third trimesters, because of hormonal changes and your weight gain, you should avoid exercises on the Reformer that involve lying face down or lying on your back. Instead, build strength on a Reformer with standing, kneeling and sitting exercises to limit major safety concerns.

Benefits of Pilates Reformer During Pregnancy

Incorporating Pilates helps to strengthen a woman’s core muscles, which in turn can help them prevent low back pain and improve mobility. Kim Kraushar of the IDEA Health and Fitness Association notes that pregnant women who work out on a Reformer will be able to increase their strength while keeping the body properly aligned. The daily changes your body experiences can affect your center of gravity and balance due to increases in weight in your stomach and breasts; a Reformer allows you to perform exercises while maintaining postural alignment. In addition, hormone changes during pregnancy cause your ligaments to become lax, which can cause instability and increase your risk of muscle strains and ligament sprains. Either your arms or legs are grounded when you’re on a Reformer, however, which helps limit your range of motion.

Avoiding Front-Lying Exercises

During pregnancy, your rectus abdominis, which is the major ab muscle that runs down the front of your torso, spreads apart at the center slightly. While this is a normal occurrence, Master of Physical Therapy Debbie Goodman recommends avoiding Pilates exercises that force the abdominals to strongly contract against the pull of gravity, as they can cause your abs to spread further apart. This includes exercises that challenge you to lift your head and shoulders or legs off the Reformer, such as the hundred, single leg stretch, double leg stretch and roll-up.

Limiting Back-Lying Exercises

Many exercises on the Reformer involve you lying on your back and they can pose problems during the second and third semesters when you’ve gained significant weight in your belly. The weight of your stomach can cause your veins and arteries to be compressed, which in turn can limit blood flow to your baby. Not all expecting mothers have a problem, however, and you can feel if there’s an issue by watching for dizziness. If you feel dizzy, sit up to alleviate symptoms. Health professionals recommend avoiding back-lying exercises beyond the second trimester, which includes Reformer exercises like the swan, breastroke, pulling straps, overhead press and swimming.

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