What I learned teaching Pregnancy Pilates to Pregnant couples

Last weekend was the first of a series of fantastic workshops organised by The Berlin Chiropractors. Last Saturday’s workshop included a session on nutrition, a session on relationships and couple coaching, a session on admin and paperwork before and after birth, as well as my session on movement and exercise during pregnancy, and after birth.

So I started off explaning a bit about what happens to a pregnant woman’s muscles and joints during pregnancy, and how this might affect the way she exercises and the way she feels about moving. I talked about the abdominals – of course! – and what ab exercises are and aren’t recommended as a woman progresses through her pregnancy, and then after her baby is born.

I talked about the spine, posture, and how important it is to move the spine in all directions to keep the spine muscles active and prevent pain and tension. And then we explored different positions and exercises that are good during pregnancy.

And there, I was stunned. As I introduced different positions, that are good because they stretch and open and relax the muscles in all the right places in the body, I kept asking the participants what they thought: why do you think is this good? Why is this important? Would you use this position during labour? And to my surprise, it is not the mums who answered. It is the dads. And they got it right every time.

Why is it that mums-to-be stop following their instincts

The mums were not answering my questions. Why is that?

In my opinion, the answer lies in the fact that, as soon as a woman becomes pregnant nowadays, it’s as if she unconsciously put herself, her body, her pregnancy, in the hands of the medical profession. She becomes a patient, and agrees to being treated as one for 9 months and through the birth of her baby. She surrenders, relinquishes her instincts to turn into a patient who is supposed to be told what and what not to do by a healthcare provider – every step of the way.

So she doesn’t trust herself anymore.¬† And so when asked by a Pilates teacher “is this position good for you?” she thinks – “I don’t know, I have to ask my doctor/check on the internet/ talk to my midwife about it”!

Don’t get me wrong: I am not blaming these women. I was the same the first I got pregnant. It’s natural to become this way, when everyone around us is doing the same and all healthcare professionals around us are telling us it’s the wisest thing to do.

To go back to my workshop: the dads, on the other hand, were following their gut feeling, and getting it right everytime. Because it’s obvious. It isn’t rocket science, our bodies are well designed and our brains well trained to understand what does them good.

Trust yourself, prepare yourself, move your body

It was enlightening for me to witness this. I personally have come a long way from how I was during my first pregnancy (I am now pregnant for the third time). But I hadn’t realised quite how deep this problem runs in other women, just by teaching my weekly Pregnancy Pilates classes.

It has become so clear to me over the past few months that returning to your instincts during pregnancy and birth is key. In my case, and I believe this must be true for most other women too, returning to my instincts paradoxically meant needing to know, learn and understand as much as possible about my body, and myself, and the process of birth, in preparation for this powerful, transforming, sacred event.

I mean, we spend hours preparing ourselves for all the big events in our life, right? Exams, weddings, marathons, races, you name it. That’s how we deal with challenges like these. So why assume that we can go through birth without any preparation? Your doctor or your midwife is not the one who is going to deliver your baby. You are!

And by preparation I don’t mean just attending a 6-hour long birth preparation workshop. I mean really, preparing your body and your mind and soul for what is coming. Learning about your pelvis and pelvic floor and what is going to happen to it during birth. Learning about breath and relaxation. Stretching, strengthening your muscles, learning how to feel them and getting used to that feeling. Moving, exploring possibilities of movement, discovering. This is how we prepare for birth.

You wouldn’t decide to climb a mountain without a little bit of preparation, would you?