Pilates is a safe and comfortable way to introduce movement, improve posture and regain strength after having a baby. It focuses on improving the function and strength of the core muscles, which have been affected throughout your pregnancy and delivery of your baby.
Basic Pilates principles and exercises are usually safe to commence straight after birth (Pelvic floor, breathing and deep core activation), as well as gentle stretches and moving your joints through their available range of motion. These will help to improve muscle strength, improve posture and reduce muscle tightness and joint stiffness.
These exercises can then be progressed after around 6 weeks, including return to a guided group based Pilates class. Pilates is a low impact form of exercise which does not load or put stress on the joints during the early stages of postnatal recovery.
Can you do Pilates postpartum?
Pilates is a safe and comfortable form of exercise which you can commence as early as day one postpartum, if you follow a guided approach to building up your strength and control. It is an excellent way to guide your body through recovery and strength building after the toll of pregnancy and delivery.
However, it is recommended you wait until after 6 weeks postpartum to return to Pilates class-based exercises. Carrying out pelvic floor exercises and deep core activation through effective breathing techniques helps to re-train and strengthen muscles that have been lengthened and weakened during the 9 months of pregnancy, and through the delivery of the baby (vaginally or via C-Section).
Stretches and gentle mobilisations are also a great way to relieve achy joints that can become tight and stiff from repeated postures, e.g. feeding, cuddling, and carrying a baby, as well as regular nappy changing and lifting (baby, car seats or even toddlers too).
How soon after giving birth can you do Pilates?
Basic Pilates exercises can be commenced straight after the birth if there are no complications (pelvic floor activation, breathing awareness, deep core activation and gentle stretches), and are encouraged to aid recovery.
If you have suffered from 3rd or 4th degree tears, you may want to seek further advice from a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist to ensure that you are performing your pelvic floor exercises correctly, and have an effective technique. Return to group-based Pilates classes is usually recommended after 6 weeks postnatal.
If you wish to return to class-based Pilates exercise, it is a good idea to have a postnatal check with a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist or, a Mummy MOT assessment, to check things over, and give you more bespoke guidance. This is particularly important if you have experienced any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction or pelvic girdle pain during your pregnancy, or Postnatally. Most women choose to wait until after their 6 week GP review before returning to an exercise class such as Pilates.
Can you do Pilates after a C section?
Pilates exercises are helpful after a C-section to aid recovery, regain strength and improve function. The muscles that have been lengthened during the pregnancy (abdominal and pelvic floor) are still weakened, and require specific exercises to strengthen and improve the stabilising roles of these muscle groups.
Gentle mobilising and stretches in the early weeks can also help you manage any stiffness around your joints or tightness in your scar, as well as help you manage the transfers easier, e.g. of getting in and out of bed, or walking. You may need reminders and cues to help remind you to stand tall, even with the abdominal wound.
It is recommended to wait till at least after 6 weeks postpartum before you return to a group-based Pilates class. Check with your GP and Pelvic health Physiotherapist if you have any concerns about your wound, healing or recovery.
Is Pilates beneficial for postpartum?
Carrying out Pilates-style exercises will improve healing and aid recovery, improve posture, strengthen the muscles weakened from pregnancy and delivery, and Improve global muscle strength. This will help prepare your body physically to return to the level of function and physical activity that you hope for.
Improves healing and recovery
Pelvic floor exercises can be very beneficial to help you heal if there has been any stitches or trauma to the perineum after a vaginal delivery, e.g. a tear or episiotomy.
Things are likely to feel, and seem, quite different to how they felt before giving birth. There is likely to be swelling and bruising to the area and by gently activating the pelvic floor muscles, it can help improve the blood flow to the area which aids the body’s healing and repair processes.
Gentle stretches and mobilisations of your body will help keep you energised, reduce stiffness or joint pain, and prevent over tightening around any wounds or scars (perineal or abdominal).
Pilates provides you with cues and reminders to set your posture, and trains you how to reset and scan your posture in different positions. It will help you be more in tune with your body, and will help you to learn how to correct postures that are unbalanced, or at least counteract them with some specific stretches .
With repetitive postures that come with having a newborn baby, e.g. feeding, changing nappies, carrying and cuddles, this is important to be aware of. Remind yourself often throughout the day how to be more mindful of posture and optimise it.
If you have had a c-section, the tendency is to stoop over to feel like you are protecting the abdominal wound but, as soon as it is comfortable to, it is important to retrain your body to stand tall and allow the scar tissue to stretch and allow you to stand fully upright.
Strengthens the muscles weakened from pregnancy and delivery
The main muscles that are affected during pregnancy and delivery are the pelvic floor muscles and the abdominal muscles. These muscles are a major part of our core muscle group. They become lengthened, and therefore weakened, as well as suffering from trauma (from perineal or abdominal scars).
Pilates gives targeted exercises for these areas. It helps to cue, remind, and encourage the correct activation and progressive strengthening for these areas. The pelvic floor muscles are important for supporting the pelvic organs and preventing any symptoms of incontinence, such as urinary stress incontinence (leaking urine when laughing, coughing, or sneezing). Pilates can help strengthen and improve the function of the pelvic floor, and can help reduce the symptoms of prolapse or incontinence.
Diastasis (tummy muscle separation) can be a common presentation postnatally, and through Pilates exercises the diastasis recovery can be optimised. Pilates focuses on the correct technique for breathing and encourages the deep tummy muscles to fire up and work effectively before progressing the load and effort.
Improves global muscle strength
Pilates exercises also help strengthen other major muscle groups including the lower legs, gluteals (bum) and upper body. A progressive Pilates exercise class will give a rounded approach for a total body workout, whilst keeping things low impact, and therefore safe and appropriate postnatally.
Pilates can give you back the foundational strength you need to build up and prepare your body for the demands of caring for your baby, as well as help you work towards returning to your previous level of physical activity or sport.
Pilates classes in Sheffield
We love to welcome postnatal ladies into our classes at Katie Bell Physiotherapy and Wellness, and our Pilates classes cater for ladies who are either new mums or are years after being postnatal!
Check that you are booking onto an appropriate level class(we run a varied programme of classes incorporating all levels). We suggest you go in at the beginners level to be able to regain your strength and body awareness before progressing. We invite you to come and try a complimentary class with us.
Our Pilates instructors are all well trained, and many have additional training to teach postnatal ladies, but it is worth checking that they know your background and postnatal stage before you begin the class. At Katie Bell we ask that you complete a medical form for this reason, and ensure you inform us of any pelvic, bladder, or joint concerns before commencing the class. We will then be able to advise you whether we recommend you have a physio assessment first or are suitable for the class format.
Postnatal specific classes are returning in the Autumn and you are welcome to bring your baby along too!