Clare is a specially trained Level 3 Pre and Post Natal Exercise Instructor and Level 3 Mat Pilates Instructor based in Brighton, who is experienced in working with pregnant and post natal woman who have had a range of experiences of pregnancy, birth and new motherhood.

In Part 1 and 2 we spoke about how Pilates can help post natal women to restore pelvic floor and abdominal strength. In this post we focus on the more general (but no less important!) physical health benefits of Pilates for post natal women in the form of strengthening and toning muscles throughout the body.

The changes in your body during pregnancy are exciting and fascinating but can also be troubling for some women who feel uncomfortable with the inevitable weight gain. Once the baby is born, many women are desperate to lose the weight, regain their previous body shape and fit back into pre pregnancy clothes as soon as possible.

Some women find this easier than others for a number of reasons such as whether or not they are breastfeeding, as transferring the nourishing and high fat breast milk to the baby assists in natural weight loss. Time, energy, commitment, metabolism, diet and self-esteem also play significant roles.

The problems I see most often in new mums wanting to get back in shape are:

      starting exercise too early post partum
      going straight back to high intensity exercise
      doing the wrong abdominal exercises
      being so confused they give up altogether

This is why I encourage all post natal clients to have a 1:2:1 pre exercise assessment with me, where I can: assess your physical condition, prescribe essential core and pelvic floor exercises to start straight away and discuss your health and wellness goals so we can plan your safe return to your chosen style of exercise.

Whether you want to run, roller blade or rock climb, you can’t go wrong by starting with Pilates (and continuing with it actually!). Pilates exercises are undertaken in a range of positions which can be adapted based on your comfort and ability. Whilst core strength is clearly a focus for the exercises, Pilates aims to strengthen and tone all the muscles in the body. This is because weakness in one area has repercussions for the connecting muscles and joints. Since everything is connected, muscular strength and tone throughout the body is essential for great posture and balance.

So in one of my Pilates classes, you can expect to do a wide range of exercises that will help you gently tone and strengthen muscles from head to toe. We focus on moving slowly and with precision in order to get the maximum work out of the muscles being exercised. We also use small equipment (resistance bands and balls for example) but focus on quality of movement and low resistance so as not to stress the joints or muscles. This is especially important for post natal women who continue to release the hormone ‘relaxin’ for up to 6 months post birth and which can have the effect of destabilising joints.

Subsequently, Pilates is a hugely safe and effective way for post natal women to strengthen and tone the whole body due to it’s low impact. Pilates therefore not only helps you deal with the physical demands of motherhood (lifting and carrying your baby and all their equipment!) but can help you feel back in control of your body and boost confidence and self-esteem, particularly in the early months of motherhood. Having set a solid foundation, there is no reason why post natal women can’t return to pre pregnancy exercise routines and body shape.

Clare offers group Pilates classes for new Mums (and their babies!) at various locations in Brighton. She also offers private sessions for those who want or need individual attention and ‘Pre Exercise’ assessments for those seeking guidance on safely returning to exercise after having their baby.