Yoga and Pilates during pregnancy
Doing yoga and Pilates can be good for you and your baby. However, you should be aware of which positions to avoid during your pregnancy.
What are the benefits of doing yoga and Pilates during pregnancy?
There are many benefits to doing yoga and Pilates while pregnant. However, you should ask your doctor or midwife if they are suitable for you.
Increased muscle strength
Yoga and Pilates for pregnant women provide specific exercises that can help build up your muscle strength.
It's recommended that strength building for pregnant women includes all the major muscle groups.
Better mental health
Both yoga and Pilates use focused breathing and mindfulness. They have been shown to improve mental health by:
- reducing stress
- decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression
- improving mood
- promoting relaxation
Reduced back pain
Yoga may also reduce lower back pain, depending on the type of pain you have. Be sure to let your yoga or Pilates instructor know about it.
If you have back pain, it's best to have it checked by your physiotherapist or doctor.
Stronger pelvic floor muscles
Yoga and Pilates classes especially designed for pregnancy often include pelvic floor exercises. These help to strengthen and tone the muscles supporting your pelvic floor. This which can stop accidental leakage of urine during pregnancy or after your baby is born.
Tips for doing yoga or Pilates
- Aim to do 2 sessions of strength-building exercise per week, with at least one day between sessions.
- If you are just starting, keep your effort at low intensity, building to moderate intensity. Low intensity means you can still talk comfortably while exercising.
- Be mindful of your breathing. This involves exhaling (breathing out) when you are exerting yourself. Your instructor should also include directions on how to breathe when exercising.
- Ensure that your movements are slow and steady.
What should I be careful of?
High impact sessions or activities
Ensure that your yoga or Pilates session does not involve movements that could:
- cause hard knocks to your baby
- make you jump and bounce a lot
- involve you suddenly changing direction
- risk your falling over
Getting too hot
To protect the baby, you should not let your own body temperature get too high. You should avoid doing yoga or Pilates in a room that is too hot or humid.
High temperatures can also cause you to become tired more quickly. Tiredness can put you at greater risk of accidental injury.
Movements or poses in certain trimesters
Some exercises or positions are not suitable as you reach the second and third trimesters of pregnancy:
- After the first trimester, don't exercise while you are lying on your back. The weight of your baby may push against your blood vessels. This can cut off supply to your baby or make you feel faint.
- As your baby becomes bigger, your centre of gravity changes. This may make it more difficult to balance or perform moves that you previously have done. Avoid movements that may cause you to feel unbalanced or to fall.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause your ligaments to become more relaxed. This means you may be at risk of injury if you stretch too hard. Stay comfortable and always warm-up and warm-down.
- As your body weight increases, it puts a greater load on your joints and pelvic floor. Be sure to stay within your comfort zone. Stop if you feel pain or discomfort. Walking lunges and wide squats are not recommended.
- If you develop 'diastasis recti' (a bulge down the middle of your abdomen), avoid doing abdominal exercises
For more information about activities to do and to avoid, visit:
- exercising during pregnancy
- pelvic floor exercises
- pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy
- backache in pregnancy
Make sure you let your instructor know you are pregnant or choose a class designed specifically for pregnant women.
What kind of exercises can I expect at a pregnancy yoga or Pilates class?
Yoga and Pilates for pregnant women should be low impact and contain movements to help with:
- core and leg strength
- breathing and relaxation
- strengthening your pelvic floor
- relieving lower back pain
Movements should be gentle and deliberate and allow you to remain cool and comfortable. There may also be cushions, belts, or blankets available to help you while you go through the movements or poses.
Where to find pregnancy-specific classes
- Look for an instructor who is trained in prenatal yoga or Pilates.
- Explore programs offered by The Royal Hospital for Women.
- For Pilates, you can contact the Australian Pilates Method Association
- For yoga, you can contact Yoga Australia
- You can also ask your local council.
Remember to check with your doctor or midwife before starting or continuing any exercise program.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: July 2022