Pregnancy is one of the most exciting and beautiful events in a woman's life, but it can also take a physical toll on her body. The added weight of the baby coupled with the hormone induced increase in flexibility of the joints and muscles can cause pain in the low back, hips and pelvis, an inability to sit for long periods of time, reduced range of motion, and painful sex. Furthermore, childbirth, whether vaginally or by caesarean, can often result in serious pelvic floor damage such as urinary incontinence, bowel incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
In order to avoid these problems, it's vital that women learn how to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles by practicing some form of preventative rehab such as Pilates and Gyrotonic. By teaching the mother how to strengthen her core muscles and improve her breathing patterns, Pilates and Gyrotoic help prepare her both physically and mentally for the challenges of childbirth.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends daily, low impact exercise for all healthy pregnant women. It's been shown that expectant mothers who exercise have shorter labors, easier deliveries and greater self esteem. Pilates is a fantastic, non impact way of improving overall strength and stability, something that pregnant women lose as their homones surge and their muscles and joints become hyper mobile.
Pilates focuses on the core which includes the pelvic floor. In a study conducted in Norway, women with pelvic floor training had a lower rate of prolonged second stage labor and experienced less urinary incontinence. Since the pelvic floor muscles form a sling or hammock across the opening of the pelvis , they are responsible for keeping all of the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, rectum) in place and functioning correctly. Their strength becomes particularly important during pregnancy when the added weight of the fetus can cause these organs to prolapse or slip through the hammock.
Pilates is not only a great way to strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, but it's also highly adaptable which makes it ideal for pregnancy, a time when women's bodies are literally changing daily. As the fetus grows, a mother's center of gravity shifts forward, often throwing her back into a state of lumbar lordosis. This lordosis or curve in the lower back compresses the vertebrae and as the surrounding muscles struggle to compensate, they're thrown into a state of imbalance. This imbalance results in pain. Each Pilates session is individually tailored so an instructor trained in pre-natal Pilates simply picks and modifes the appropriate exercises to lengthen the mother's back out of compression by loosening the muscles that are too tight and tightening the muscles that are too loose thus restoring balance to the body and eliminating pain.
An expectant mother's abs will stretch over 50% of their original length during pregnancy. It's therefore imperative that they stay strong. Abdominal training in pre-natal Pilates focuses on the transversus or deepest layer of the abdominals. A strong transversus supports the growing uterus, decreases pressure on the lower back and pelvic floor, helps control the size of diastasis recti that usually occurs around 20 weeks, and assists the mother in regaining her pre-baby body postpartum.
Also, many mothers express worry about "pushing". Since the transversus is the muscle that aids with pushing, Pilates can help make a mother feel more confident in her abilities thus reducing anxiety. Pilates is also a mind/body exercise that uses the breath to keep the mother focused on, and connected to her changing body during the seismic shifts of pregnancy. This connection becomes especially important during childbirth.
Like Pilates, Gyrotonic is a great method for strengthening the core muscles of the pelvic floor, abdominals and back, but while Pilates tends to focus on linear movements, Gyrotonic is more three dimensional. The exercises are often performed seated, and its circular movements are noted for increasing flexibility, overall body strength, and mobility.
Gyrotonic is also non impact, but there is a cardiovascular element to the exercises. This makes it an ideal choice for pregnant women. The increase in blood circulation helps prevent swollen legs and varicose veins, energizes the body to combat fatigue, and helps to relieve the constipation that's often associated with pregnancy.
Gyrotonic is also taught one on one so that the instructor trained in pre-natal Gyrotonic can adjust the exercises to not only fit each individual mother, but each stage of her evolving pregnancy.
Stress and Fertility:
Science reveals that chronic stress can contribute to a variety of dis-ease in the body, including heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, as well as a significant disruption on reproduction. Chronic stress leads to chronic elevation of stress hormones. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, can impede reproductive hormonal function, impacting the system in a variety of ways, including:
Studies performed on the benefits of yoga and meditation has shown these practices lower blood pressure, decrease levels of stress hormones and significantly improve the subjects’ sense of wellbeing. “Reproductive health experts have long wondered about the impact that stress may have on fertility, thus impeding a woman’s ability to conceive,” says Alice Domar, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health and a renowned researcher in fertility. One of the studies she conducted took ‘infertile’ women (those trying to get pregnant for at least a year with no success) and put some into a 10-week mind/body program that included yoga, meditation, nutrition & lifestyle education and support to change negative thought patterns. Fifty-five percent of participants in this program became pregnant within the next year, compared to 20 percent of women in a control group.
Yoga and Fertility:
What is Strong Yoga® 4Fertility?
Created by Brenda Strong (national spokesperson for the American Fertility Association), Strong Yoga® 4Fertility is a proprietary approach to yoga for fertility which “uses the ancient healing wisdom of yoga and applies it to the modern issue of reproductive difficulty.” This unique program offers expert instruction specific to and ideal for fertility. The specificity of these teachings is a key element in understanding and honoring the body’s needs while trying to conceive.
By combining yoga, breath work, meditation, visualization, and the incorporation of the Fertility Ball Yoga Method® specially formulated for fertility, this practice helps to:
Strong Yoga® 4Fertility is a registered trademark of Strong Inspiration, Inc. and is used with their permission.
Why Beverly Hills Posture & Rehabilitation Institute?
We at BHP believe in the importance of training expectant mothers for the nine month marathon of pregnancy and childbirth. Our teachers are certified in pre-natal Pilates and Gyrtonic and our facility features a full gym as well as three private Pilates rooms. On staff, we also have two physical therapists, an occupational therapist, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist and Dr. Walker Ozar -- a highly trained, respected chiropractor who also happens to be the father of three and has seen first hand, how important pelvic floor training is to a successful, pain free pregnancy.