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What are Post-Natal Pilates?

By Jamey M. Bradbury
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pilates is a form of exercise that was invented by Joseph Pilates to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and improve overall health in body and mind. Typically, these exercises are done on the floor with mats and exercise equipment, such as fitness balls and foam rollers. Post-natal Pilates employs the fundamentals of traditional Pilates to target those areas of a woman's body which experience stress during and after pregnancy—namely, the muscles of the abdomen, the back and the pelvic floor. These exercises are generally low-impact and very safe.

Most post-natal Pilates classes or videos teach a new mother how to focus on her breathing and use proper form while performing efficient, repeated movements meant to engage the abdominal muscles, commonly referred to as the "core" muscles. Strong core muscles are crucial for preventing lower back injuries. In post-natal Pilates, students are instructed to draw the naval in toward the spine, activating the core. Not only do Pilates exercises help prevent injury; they can lead to a flatter, stronger abdominal wall, and a well-toned belly.

Post-natal Pilates also strengthens the pelvic floor, the network of muscles that supports the internal pelvic organs. When a baby passes through the uterus, the pelvic floor can become weakened, leading to urine leakage after delivery; a strong pelvic floor can help prevent this from occurring.

With all the carrying and lifting a new mother must do, she may develop frequent backaches; Pilates exercises can help relieve this type of lower back pain. Other benefits of post-natal Pilates include improved posture, increased energy and stress reduction. Additionally, by taking time out for herself and exercising, a new mother can help prevent the "baby blues," a mild form of postpartum depression.

Practicing Pilates can also be a social time for a new mom. Some fitness centers offer Pilates classes specifically for new mothers, which can not only be a good opportunity for exercise, but also to meet other new mothers. Post-natal Pilates videos also are available, allowing a new mother to exercise at home, making it easier for her to fit a workout into her daily routine.

Most women can start doing post-natal Pilates within two to six weeks after giving birth. Women who have had a Cesarean section, or C-section, will usually be advised by a doctor to wait at least six to eight weeks before doing Pilates in order to give the abdominal muscles time to fully heal. Although the benefits of post-natal Pilates are numerous, it is important for a new mother to consult with her doctor before embarking on any new exercise regimen, regardless of the type of delivery she may have had.

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