I’d always had some interest in pre and postnatal Pilates and GYROTONIC® training and had done several trainings and much reading on the subject. I felt confident working with pregnant and postpartum clients, and they all seemed to benefit from the work. But it was in 2009 that I became pregnant myself with my son, Graeme, and at that point my moderate interest exploded into a near obsession.
In going through the experience in my own body, working with talented midwife, Pat Kramer, and comparing my experiences with those of other very knowledgable movers, many answers came into place for me, as well as many new questions, all of which led to deeper exploration and understanding.
Here I will share with you some highlights, all of which I knew before my own journey, but never fully “got” until I’d been through it!
1. You must move through your pregnancy! We hear this, but most women don’t understand exactly how. We hear general guidelines, mostly of contraindications; “don’t work your abs after the second trimester, don’t lie on your back, don’t stretch”, etc. Which may leave you thinking “Really??” and “Then what on earth DO I do???”
This is a great time to work with a pre-natal pilates or GYROTONIC® trainer, even for just one or two introductory private sessions, or to take a small group class (small being key here- if there are 20 people in your class you won’t get the attention you need to move safely and effectively).
2. Training for labor is training for the most intense, demanding, and, for those who haven’t experienced it before, unusual athletic event ever. One must be prepared physically for any number of scenarios. Imaging training for a triathlon, not knowing if it would last for hours or for days, not knowing if when you went to get your bike if you’d have a race bike, mountain bike, tandem bike, or unicycle. Labor unfolds as it goes, and I want the women I work with to be prepared for whatever may be needed.
In my case I came down with a horrible chest cold the day before I went into labor, and ended up taking from Saturday evening until Monday afternoon to have him. His elbow was poking into my spine and so I had to float in the birth tub with my arms supporting me for several hours. I ended up coming out of the tub to have him in a full squat position with my husband supporting my arms with such effort that I had bruises on my forearms for days afterward! Thankfully I’d kept up my general strength throughout my pregnancy to carry me through an extended labor, trained my upper body strength and endurance to be able to support my weight on my arms for an extended time, and had the mobility to attain and maintain a squat position (which many women do not).
3. Work consistently, but not intensely. Your energy is most needed to build a baby. This is not the time for intense training, but rather specific, deliberate training tailored to your changing needs. Those needs will change for day to day- and even hour to hour. You can work your abdominals, and need to do so, but in a manner that is very different than how you would work them before or after pregnancy. You will need to stretch some, but in a way that protects your loosening ligaments and doesn’t create strain on the positioning of your pelvic bones. Pregnancy is a time to work at a consistent, deliberate, focused, adaptable, and mellow pace.
4. Plan ahead for your postnatal recovery! In your final weeks of pregnancy you should already have a plan and an understanding of what are the basic pelvic floor and deep abdominal movements you can -and need to- do safely in the days following the birth. Many women wait until their six week check up with their doctor to resume any type of exercise. But if you haven’t been working with some basic breathing work and gentle muscular contractions for pelvic floor and transverse abdominals, you’ll have already missed a crucial stage of your reconditioning. But many movements during this time are contraindicated, meaning they should be avoided. The sleep deprived newborn days are not the time to start researching pelvic floor conditioning!
In the final weeks of pregnancy I start to give my clients a movement plan for recovery and a link to my online postnatal video. The plan is easily adaptable for variables such as C-section or tearing. I also make myself available by phone, email, or Skype, to assist them if needed before they are able to get back to the studio to begin their postnatal sessions.
5. A strong, healthy mommy who takes time for herself is key to a happy, healthy baby and to enjoying motherhood. Learn to see time for yourself and your body as a GIFT to your baby and your partner!