Before I started any formal training in Pilates I was already lordotic, meaning I had an excessive curve in my lower back. I had no idea where my pelvic floor was, despite going to antenatal classes. I thought that having a weak pelvic floor was an anatomical problem, thinking ”I don’t pee in my pants, so I’m good!” My first pregnancy was normal; while I did not gain too much weight, of course the weight of a growing baby naturally changed how I stood and moved my body.
By the time I had my second child, my spine was pulled into further lordosis. Feeling fine and wanting to get fit, I then started running. I worked up to 10kms a day, three times a week and to my surprise, I started getting twinges in my back. The doctor suggested that I do Pilates and I thought, “how boring!” but it was only when an American friend of mine told me that all the celebrities do Pilates after childbirth, that I was enticed! I joined, and not only learned about my pelvic floor but I felt why having a strong pelvic floor and core is important.
As your pregnancy progresses, the muscles that make up your core (abdominal and back muscles) that help support you and the weight of the baby, become stressed and extremely challenged. So when doing Pilates during and after pregnancy, we work on strengthening and retraining these areas. We focus on coordinating the breath and your pelvic floor, and activating your abdominal muscles. This is imperative as for even a simple task such as lifting your child, you learn how to lift from your centre and not just using your arms!
Women are under so much pressure to snap back into shape after pregnancy. It is a myth that your body snaps back into shape. Of course you will lose weight as the weeks go by but the other myth is that everything snaps back to exactly where it was before!
The pregnancy hormone relaxin, which increases the size and elasticity of connective tissues—ligaments, muscles—will remain in a new mother’s body for up to six months. This means that your body has a higher degree of mobility and is in another state of change. When I work with a postpartum woman, one of the things we focus on is learning to stabilize the joints and learning to initiate from the core to help realign you.
Often women are in a rush to burn off the baby fat and start doing high impact and weight-bearing exercises, learn from the mistake I made – you can end up doing more harm than good!
Did you do Pilates during or after pregnancy and how is your back these days?