Pilates for pregnant women

Do you know what to do if a client of your studio becomes pregnant or if a pregnant woman reaches your studio for Pilates classes? Do you know the special care you need to have when working with pilates for pregnant woman?

If you want to get into this market segment, there is some more information you need to have. The woman’s body changes a lot at this stage, and in order for the method to be practiced safely, certain limitations must be understood and respected.

And if you still don’t have pregnant clients in your studio, but have an interest in investing in this market segment or maybe even opening a specific group of pilates for pregnant women, this content is also for you.

We spoke with Pilates professional and physiotherapist Lívia Godoi, owner of Studio Liv, in Brazil, who works with pilates for pregnant women, to bring you all the information necessary to work with this market segment.

Pilates for pregnant women: Medical exams

For a pregnant woman to practice pilates, it is essential that she has medical approval. According to Livia, each pregnant woman presents particularities regarding the physiological changes related to the pregnancy, and it is important to know all of it, in order to follow up the evolution and know witch conduct apply in each case.


The professional warns that the instructor should be aware of absolute or relative contraindications, such as:

  • Preeclampsia;
  • Acute infection;
  • Placental abruption;
  • Respiratory disorders (asthma, bronchitis);
  • Anemia;
  • Gestational diabetes;
  • And others.

Warning Signs

In addition to the contraindications, Lívia advises that the professional should be aware of the warning signs,to interrupt the physical activity if necessary. Some of them are:

  • Vaginal bleeding;
  • Dyspnoea to small efforts;
  • Headache;
  • Chest pain;
  • Non-physiological uterine contractions;
  • Loss of amniotic fluid;
  • Among others.

Benefits of practice

If the pregnant woman presents favorable medical exams and obtains the approval to practice pilates, it can bring several benefits to her.

The main ones, according to Livia, are related to specific complaints, such as: low back pain, sacroiliitis, pubalgia, piriformis syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, urinary incontinence, lower limb edema and cervical and scapular pain.

Although there are many benefits, Livia explains that many doctors do not indicate Pilates for pregnant women because they have little knowledge about the method.

“Despite the long existence and reliability and effectiveness of the pilates method are proven for pregnant women, it still needs to be more widespread”.

Since gestation is a time when a woman redoubles her attention to her body and searches for benefits for her and her baby, Livia believes that a doctor’s recommendation for pilates is a must.

“The doctor is the authority in recommendation and medical release. This gives women tranquility to look for a studio and start practicing”.

Limitations on exercises

Despite the great benefits, Pilates for pregnant women requires some limitations. The physiological and biomechanical changes of pregnancy call for a more individualized choice of exercises, in order to guarantee safety and increase care, to avoid exposing the pregnant woman to risks.

Some of the major points where caution is needed, according to Livia, are:

  • Unstable bases and heights: Exercises performed under unstable bases and heights require the most care. As the center of gravity changes, the reflexes are diminished and you can not risk a fall;
  • Joints and ligaments: Attention is needed regarding joint instability and ligament hyperfouling, due to the relaxin hormone;
  • Intensity: It is not recommended to perform very intense exercises, such as jumps in Reformer, for example. Pregnant women should not go to exhaustion.

Progressive care

The professional who works with pilates for pregnant women needs, from time to time, to be attentive to modifications in the positions during the exercises, adapting apparatuses to provide comfort to pregnant women.

Lívia recommends, for example, the use of the Reformer jumping board, to raise the trunk during a dorsal decubitus exercise.

“It is always necessary to observe the new modifications and requirements of the period in which they are.”

Another point that the instructor should be aware of is when to interrupt the activity. According to Livia, this varies according to the particularities of each pregnant woman. It is necessary to observe to what point pregnant women are able to proceed and if they have medical approval to be doing such exercises.

Even with medical release, other issues that may impact the continuity of practices and which the instructor should be aware of are:

  • Arrangement of the pregnant woman;
  • Considerable enlargement of the abdomen;
  • Increased joint instability;
  • Static and dynamic balance reduction;
  • Greater weight gain;
  • More anxiety;
  • Supine hypotension syndrome;
  • Emergence of the first contractions.

Levels of practice

Women who already practice the method, when they become pregnant, they need to take it slowly. We have already mentioned that Pilates for pregnant women requires a few restrictions, and this also applies to clients that have an advanced level in Pilates.

Lívia explains that this is necessary because many changes occur already in the first trimester of pregnancy: Emotional changes, drowsiness, nausea, breast enlargement, blood pressure decrease, etc.

Due to these factors, the professional emphasizes that women who already practice Pilates should not go beyond pre-pregnancy level. Those who did not practice, and were sedentary, should start the activities with a program of light intensity, on a very basic level.

As for the advanced exercises, Lívia emphasizes that they are not indicated in Pilates for pregnant women, for raising the body temperature a lot and being strenuous.

“It is common for the student who was of an advanced level to continue the degree of greater difficulty. But with body changes, we need to respect the body and baby, focusing on exercises that will bring benefits to them, without requiring a high level of difficulty.”


Pilates classes for pregnant women can be collective or individual. Livia says that when it matches that pregnant women can form a class at the same time, that’s inspiring.

“They share information and feel more comfortable and motivated for exercise,” she says.

As for the equipment and accessories used in groups of Pilates for pregnant women, the professional says that they are the same as other classes, the difference is that some modifications are necessary in the equipment and practices, as we have already mentioned.

The temperature of the studio can not be too high. Pilates for pregnant women requires a calm and airy environment.

Pilates exercises for pregnant women

Now that you are well-informed about all the limitations and care that are needed for pregnant students, let’s practice.

Lívia brings us some Pilates exercises that can be used for pregnant women:

Footwork in Chair


  • Benefit: Strengthens quadriceps, gluteal and ischiosis.


Practice: Sitting on the chair at the front, with the heels resting on the pedals, keeping the spine aligned. Push the pedals down while maintaining the alignment of the spine.

Quadruped in Solo

  • Benefit: Strengthen upper and lower limbs.

Practice: In four-position position, with arms well stretched and wrists well below the shoulders and knees well below the hips. Legs and arms in parallel. Perform hip and knee extension while exhaling, raising leg in air. Breathe in, returning to the starting position.

Front Splits on Reformer

  • Benefit: Stretching of the anterior leg chain and strengthening of the gluteus maximus and hamstrings.


Practice: Standing on the side of the Reformer, right foot leaning on the shoulder support and left foot resting on the floor, with knee flexed. Take the cart back, doing extension of the left hip.

Bridge on the ball

  • Benefit: Body control, strengthening of the posterior musculature of the body and mobilization of the spine.


Practice: Lying in dorsal decubitus, arms outstretched at side of trunk, legs extended and supported on ball. Begin by moving the pelvis, rolling the hip (only removing the sacrum from the ground) and raising the trunk, taking “vertebra by vertebra” of the soil, until it is supported between the shoulder blades. Return by unrolling the column until you return to the starting position.

Tower Bar Hamstring Series in Cadillac

  • Benefit: Thigh muscle strengthening



Practice: In dorsal decubitus, with the head to the opposite side of the tower bar, arms stretched to the side of the body and feet supported in the tower bar with extension of knees. Start by pushing the tower bar to the ceiling, pivoting the spine and extending the hip until you reach the position of the bridge. Return by pivoting the spine until you reach the starting position.


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