Contributed by Crystal Parker, Club Pilates

As a Pilates instructor and mom of two kids under 18 months old, I field a lot of questions about practicing Pilates before and after pregnancy.

My own pregnancies motivated me to learn how to better support moms before and after baby’s arrival. A foundational part of the Pilates method is establishing good breathing patterns, and as every woman who has ever been pregnant knows, deep breathing is difficult in pregnancy. The growing uterus prevents the diaphragm (the giant breathing muscle under your lungs) from dropping down fully. That said, breathing is a critical part of learning how to contract and relax the pelvic floor, which aids in childbirth and assists in long-term pelvic floor function.

A common misconception is that women should wait until after the baby comes to strengthen their core. While avoiding the C curve position (including sitting for too long on furniture that sinks you into a C shape, such as a low couch, chair, or hammock), engaging the deep transverse abdominis muscles will actually help create balanced and efficient core musculature. Finding these deep muscles can be as simple as imagining hugging your baby in and up as you exhale, relaxing on the inhale. For some women, figuring out how to relax core and pelvic floor muscles is a bigger challenge than engaging them. We need muscles that can both fully engage and fully relax.  Again: don’t forget about breath!  Holding your breath puts too much pressure on the abdominal cavity.  When in doubt, exhale it out.

The last secret weapon for perinatal Pilates: glutes. Your glutes help stabilize your pelvis and help your spine move back toward proper alignment post-pregnancy.  If you are in the belly hanging forward stage, imagine shifting your thighs and hips back over your heels, keeping the rest of your upper body in place. This helps turn on your glutes and find that good alignment. You’ll need to re-find this alignment daily because your body changes rapidly during pregnancy. Establishing good posture while you’re pregnant will help you postpartum, when your posture is compromised again as a result of lifting, holding, and feeding the baby.

Pilates is a great way to get and keep your body ready for baby.  It will help you move through your pregnancy feeling positive and confident in your body’s ability to carry, deliver, and care for your bundle of joy—and for yourself!

Crystal Parker is a certified Pilates instructor at Club Pilates Huntersville. You can see her bio here: