Pilates for post-natal

Pilates for post-natal: A before and after of a young mother recovering from childbirth by Chiara Cosenza, pilates teacher Pepilates Wimbledon

Ella came to me a year ago looking for a friendly advice on her health, I have known her since we were kids and she just gave birth to a lovely healthy baby. During her pregnancy she gained over 25 kg (3.9st) and her body shape, as well as her stamina, were gone by the time the baby was born. She suffered sciatic pain during the pregnancy and it seemed like the pain was there to stay. So I obviously introduced her to Pilates, by a simple quote of the inventor of this method, giving it to her as if it was a mantra: Be in control of your body and not at its mercy.


Ella gave birth naturally. Besides her extra pregnancy weight to shake off she also presented with sciatic pain and general back pain caused by breast feeding and holding/carrying the baby around. On top of this, Ella presented with a muscle wasting in the pelvic area causing her difficulties in controlling the bladder.

“The main issue I have in recovering is the fact that my back always hurts, and it’s hard to deal with a baby, having chronic pain”. It took me a little time to convince her that pilates would help but, eventually I did!

She started Pilates, attended her classes weekly and religiously. After a year her life is very different; she says her body feels and looks so different! Her back pain had gone for good and she felt stronger than ever. Enough to keep up with her daughter and her life, juggling between work,family time and, of course, Pilates.


Sciatic problems and other back pain as well as posture problems or muscle tension may occur to a woman after child bearing. The changes due to the process of creating a human life are many but trying to keep harmony betweed body and mind is a very important step to enjoy motherhood. Pilates with its holistc approach to the body, offers amazing help after pregnancy. The excercises focus on concentration, breathing and fluid movements and as much as it’s hard work, it is all very grounding as well! As I explained to Ella, it’s an oasis of peace where she could find, not only, new strengths but also help her through the recovery process.

Breathing, one of the main focuses of Pilates, and controlling your breathing means a better control of anxiety, a chance to prevent or manage depression by keeping everyday stress out of your mind and body. The founding principles of Pilates differentiate Pilates from general gym workouts due to its body/mind/spirit-integration mentality. The main principles used for this purpose are : oxygenation, articulation, concentration, control, breath and flow.


While breast feeding is not mandatory, a lot of women still choose to do it. Studies have shown that excercise isn’t a threat to milk production, but it is true that intense physical activity, for example running which increases lactic acid in the system could alter the taste (more acidic) of breast milk. A less strenuous activity such as Pilates seems much better for the occasion. A way to be in control of the body, strengthen the muscles, and feel energized without having to worry about it interfering with the baby’s needs, isn’t this just perfect?


During the pregnancy and for up to 5-6 months after the delivery, the body releases a special hormone called Relaxin. Relaxin, as the word might suggest, relaxes all of the connective tissue in preparation for childbirth. This can cause joint problems, back pain and all sorts of other problems! Intense activity could add stress to or traumatize the articulations especially during the last trimester of pregnancy and during the breast feeding period (up to a year after birth!). The spinal articulation and body movement sought in a Pilates session is intended to increase motor-neuron control at full range of motion whilst avoiding over stretching or to hanging into any “lax” joint.


“For nine months I watched my body evolve into something new. It was a magical time! But once the baby was born and I tried to go back to my original shape, I struggled a lot. Dieting was not doing much and between the chronic pain and the sleep deprivation I was just exhausted”.

To be able to use the abdominals correctly is the starting point for any safe movement in Pilates. Joseph Pilates was convinced that the abdomen was the core of the entire body (the power house!) and that it should be involved in every body movement. This is the most important approach for cases of diasatasis (detachment of the muscles of the abdomen). The right activation of the abdominal wall, helps to bring the abdominal muscles together and to get them stronger in a safe way. To help get rid of the relaxed post partum belly there is nothing better than the deep muscle activity that Pilates provides. No more sits ups and say yes to the Plank!


It’s no secret that when a woman gives birth naturally the pelvic floor has to strech to let the baby make its way into the world. The pelvic floor is the name given to a complex of muscles that sourrounds the vagina, the rectum and the urethra. This maybe the slowest recovery of all, leaving the new mom with the discomfort of not being able to control the urethra as she used to…

“I mean, this was the worst. Suddenly I felt robbed of myself! My body did not respond. I felt broken. Pilates changed my life. I learned to be patient with myself, be constant and more importantly never to forget my breathing!”.

Pilates teaches you about your body. What it likes to do and what it doesn’t. And what is key post partum is retraining the pelvic floor muscles. To get the pelvic muscles to be of support to your abdominal wall for deep and better breathing! It is all connected, yes!

The magic thing about Pilates is that you can’t try it without feeling stronger, more flexible and most importantly more in charge of your own body!

For a healthier lifestyle no matter what changes you are asking for – the answer is Pilates!