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Awareness in the First Trimester of Pregnancy

Exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. It helps prevent disease, is important for

healthy bones and can help reduce stress, manage fatigue and lead to a better overall quality

of life. All of which is very important when there is a newborn to care for.

Pregnancy and childbirth have a major impact on a woman’s body, both internally and

externally. During pregnancy, every system is affected, including respiratory,

cardiac/circulatory, hormonal, biomechanical and musculoskeletal. This can lead to shortness

of breath, tiredness, swelling, morning sickness, varicose veins, postural changes and issues

such as lower back pain, pelvic joint pain, carpal tunnel symptoms, diastasis recti (separation

of the abdominal muscles) and urinary incontinence.

Is Pilates safe in the first trimester?

Yes! Although each trimester is different, in essence, the exercises used are the same. There

are critical modifications that are specific to each stage of the pregnancy, and most

importantly, to each individual. Instead, the focus should be on your Pilates foundation, like

breathing and stabilization. Only do as much (or as little) exercise as you feel comfortable

doing. It is important to pay attention to how you are feeling and start to become more in

tune and aware of the needs of your body on any given day. Pilates workouts can be easily

adapted to accommodate the prenatal body and how an expectant woman is feeling from

day today.

What are the benefits of Pilates in the First Trimester?

In addition to strengthening and conditioning the entire body, prenatal Pilates can help

counterbalance some of the issues that come up during pregnancy in a safe, gentle manner.

For example, posterior work (e.g., glute strengthening) is emphasized to prevent any postural

problems that might surface due to the weight of your growing bump. The breath taught in

Pilates oxygenates and energizes the body while serving as a tool to better cope with the

emotional ups and downs that prenatal women might experience.

Exercises to try

The Reformer is an excellent way to safely challenge the body during the first trimester since

the spring tension can support the body against gravity. The elevated surface of the Reformer,

and the Cadillac, is helpful for prenatal women who might find it difficult to lie down on a

mat. Due to increased blood volume in your body during pregnancy, you may find yourself

prone to dizziness. Mat exercises are another safe, effective way to exercise during this time.

If you find yourself experiencing fatigue, you can reduce your pace but still get the benefits of

a boost in core strength and stability.

Exercises to avoid

Although the Reformer and Cadillac can be a supportive way to work the entire body, it needs

to be introduced in an appropriate way. If you have never done Pilates, it’s important to learn

the movements and body mechanics before adding the challenge of resistance. If you are

already comfortable on the Reformer, it is recommended for moms-to-be to opt for a heavier

spring tension during stability exercises and to go lighter during leg or arm work. The good

news is that there are no specific exercises that are off-limits during the first trimester.

Recommendations when practising Pilates in the First Trimester

• Maintain a moderate intensity. Due to the cardiac changes, the body is already in an

exercised state, therefore we do not want the maternal heart rate to exceed 70% of

the maximum heart rate.

• Keep cool and avoid hot, humid conditions. The maternal core temperature should

not exceed 38 degrees. Wear loose clothing, stand near a fan or air-conditioner if in a

gym, as the baby is not able to regulate temperature.

• Stay hydrated and drink lots of water.

• Due to circulatory changes in the body, warm-up and cool-down well in order to avoid

blood pooling and leg cramps.

• Avoid unilateral exercises, wide lunge/stance positions as this can put extra stress on

the pelvis.

• Activate pelvic floor muscles during all exercises to keep as strong as possible, during

the later stages may be harder to feel.

• Stop if feeling dizzy, nauseous, if vaginal bleeding or leakage of amniotic fluid.

Precautions and modifications

Although all of the exercises in Pilates, on both the mat and on the equipment, are technically

safe to perform during the first trimester, in general, it’s important to take care not to

overexert or overheat your body. In addition to slowing down and taking breaks when

needed, paying attention to your range of motion during Pilates is important for safety. Avoid

overstretching, since the ligaments of the pregnant body are more sensitive. To keep things

within a safe range, support props, such as balls, therabands or foam rollers, especially during

rotation, can be helpful.

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