Postpartum and Prenatal Fitness Classes and Exercises

Philadelphia Exercises and Fitness Classes for pregnant women

Philadelphia Exercises and Fitness Classes for pregnant women

I had just given birth to my third child and was 6 weeks postpartum when I founded Belly Pilates in order to offer postpartum and prenatal fitness classes to new moms. It was a huge endeavor but I felt that it was important to draw upon my recent experience while it was still fresh in my memory and body.

My first task was to design the optimal prenatal Pilates class. Thankfully, I could still recall what felt good in my pregnant body. Even though my goal was to design a prenatal exercise program, my thoughts kept drifting back to labor and sitting on the birthing ball. I must have been on that darn thing for hours. The rocking and swaying was rhythmic and entrancing. It felt so good to move and ride the waves of contractions rather than fight them.

Why had I not been on this ball the whole time? Why had I not been moving an exercising on the ball during my whole pregnancy?
My journey through motherhood gave me amazing insight into how a pregnant body craves movement but my training as a Pilates fitness instructor was the icing on the cake! It taught me that if a woman is familiar with the birthing ball during her prenatal period, she will be more likely to use the ball during labor.

So, the Belly prenatal program was born. In every prenatal class we invite you to strengthen your body physically for the demands of pregnancy & labor by utilizing both the mat and the ballBelly classes prepare you with the sensation of sitting/exercising on the ball before labor. Practicing these exercises on the ball will give you the confidence to use a birthing ball at home, just as I had done.

However, it was my training & experience as a labor doula & childbirth educator that made me keenly aware of the importance of the use of the ball for allowing the body to follow the natural process of opening and releasing the pelvic joints. I discovered that most every childbirth educator recommended utilizing fit balls during pregnancy and labor. They felt that fit balls are an essential tool in balancing strength during pregnancy & comfort during labor.

Going through labor exerts stress on particular muscles and joints. Using a birthing ball during labor opens the pelvis and utilizes gravity (possibly making birth shorter and less painful). These exercises can help decrease the risks of medical interventions (such as episiotomies) and quicken your postpartum recovery.

A few examples of exercises we practice in class are:

  • Hip circles, pelvic tilts or rocking. All great movements that ease tension and back pain during contractions without getting too fatigued.
  • Forward kneeling stretches on the ball. Place your arms on ball. Gently rock from side to side while helping open up the pelvis for birth. Prenatal mat/ball
  • Experiencing back pain? Your baby may be in a posterior position, which means that the baby’s spine is against the mother’s. Start from the previously suggested forward kneeling position then put your head upon the ball as well. Shift your weight forward to allow the ball to support your head and chest. This position will allow the baby’s body to drop away from the mother’s spine.

Exercising on a ball & practicing these movements will not put excessive strain on your joints. These exercises are safe and should be practiced through every trimester. BONUS: most all ball exercises introduced in Belly’s class can be practiced within days of an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. They will realign your spine, retrain your pelvic floor and reawaken your poor battered belly muscles.