Exercise both during and after pregnancy is important. And pilates is one of the best exercise methods during pregnancy, not to mention to help regain strength after pregnancy.
I did pilates all throughout my pregnancy, and taught pilates until I was 35 weeks pregnant. I felt better for it, without question. No issues with my pelvic floor post-delivery, and I retained a fair bit of muscle tone throughout my pregnancy. Pilates kept me moving, which in turn helped me stay active and mobile. It also gave me a great excuse to breathe during the day, and I slept better after a pilates workout. I was also more aware of the need for daily stretching and had a great repertoire of stretches to choose from.
Sure, I had days where I was tired or sore - I was pregnant, after all. But I never regretted rolling out the mat and getting a workout in. It generally left me feeling energised and refreshed.
I had been doing pilates for a few years before getting pregnant, so my body was used to the movement and how to engage the right muscles. But that's not to say you can't take up pilates once pregnant, and trying pilates for the first time whilst pregnant wouldn't prevent you from reaping the benefits.
During pregnancy, women's bodies are particularly susceptible to injury, so choosing the right exercises is critical. There are exercises you simply won't be able to do while pregnant, and there are positions that won't be comfortable for you, even if an exercise is technically OK to do at your stage in a pregnancy. You have to listen to your body, even more than you would at any other time. Remember: you're growing another human inside of you, and nothing is worth the risk when you are pregnant.
A good pilates instructor will ensure they are modifying their exercise list for you, or, if you're fortunate enough to attend a studio where they offer pregnancy-specific classes, go with those. The exercises will be specifically chosen to ensure you get the most out of the class.
How long should you continue to attend pilates classes?
That answer really depends on you. Some stretches and exercises are safe to do right up to your due date, but if you're not feeling up to it, or if you're finding exercise so uncomfortable that you're ultimately not getting any benefit, then you need to call time on your workouts.
There is no use overexerting yourself at this time, as it can lead to injuries. With everything else your body is dealing with at the moment, you don't need the added stress of an injury or worse. Overexertion can also be dangerous for your baby, especially during the first trimester when there is an increased risk of miscarriage.
Here are a few guidelines for pilates during pregnancy:
1) Speak with your instructor. Let them know how far along you are in your pregnancy, whether you've had any issues and whether you're finding any positions uncomfortable. They should know how to modify exercises for each trimester, but they won't know the specifics of your pregnancy. The more you share with them, the safer they can ensure your workouts will be.
2) Listen to your body. If something doesn't feel right, STOP. This rule applies to anyone doing pilates, but at no time is this advice more critical than when you are pregnant. There is no shame in stopping, assessing whether it's safe to continue, and making a smart decision from there.
3) Stay hydrated. Yes, it can be annoying to drink too much water as you're always making trips to the washroom anyway, but you will have heard this from your doctor and in pregnancy books.
4) Don't overheat. There's a reason why they recommend that pregnant women don't hang out in hot tubs. Pilates is a great way to exercise and stay in shape without overdoing it and without getting your heart rate up too high. Your body is already working harder than normal, so be mindful of your body temperature during exercise.
5) Listen to the professionals. You may think that you should still be able to perform certain exercises at 12, 24, 32 and even 38 weeks pregnant, but your pilates instructor may know otherwise. If they are suggesting an alternative exercise for you, a modification to an exercise or that you simply should not perform an exercise altogether, please listen to them. They are looking out for you and your baby, and that's way more important than any exercise.