Q: Is it safe to do Pilates while I'm pregnant?

A: Pilates is the perfect low-impact pregnancy workout (provided your doctor gives you the all-clear to exercise), since it boosts flexibility and balance and prevents back pain by strengthening your pelvic floor and core muscles (your abs), which support your spine. Pilates involves doing a series of controlled movements, mostly on an exercise mat, and can be enjoyed throughout your pregnancy because the moves are very easy to modify around your belly or any pain you may have.

While most Pilates moves are very gentle and safe, you still have to be careful not to overdo it. Here are a few important things to remember before you step into the studio:

- The ligaments around your joints are much looser now that you're pregnant (thanks to increased production of the hormone relaxin), which makes it easier to hurt yourself. So don't do any moves that feel uncomfortable or put pressure on your joints. - Avoid moves that require lying on your back, since this can interrupt your baby's blood supply. Your instructor can help you find a way to modify them. - Since Pilates focuses so heavily on core strength, it is possible to overstrain your abdominal muscles and cause them to separate, a condition known as diastasis. So remember to take it easy. - As your belly gets bigger, your balance may get thrown off. If this happens, be extra careful when working with a balance ball, if you use one, and when getting up and down during mat work.

Your best bet is to take Pilates classes or use videos designed for moms-to-be, which will accommodate your changing needs and physical limitations. If there are no prenatal classes in your area, choose a beginner class and let the instructor know you're expecting.

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