Teaching with Confidence: What you need to know during the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Trimesters-Part 1 of 3

Teaching with Confidence: What you need to know during the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Trimesters – Part 1 of 3

Pregnancy is arguably the most amazing experience your women clients can go through. And you have been chosen as a trusted instructor to carry your pregnant client through THE experience of her LIFE.

Visible changes in a woman's body during pregnancy

The responsibility of teaching a pregnant client can be overwhelming; scary; a bit daunting.

It was for me.

And if you feel that way, know that it is totally normal.

And actually a great sign that you CARE, and that what you are doing is IMPORTANT.

The 1ST AND MOST IMPORTANT thing you want to do is make sure your client has received clearance from her doctor.

Once mom-to-be has been cleared for exercise, you can be confident that what you will take her through will be highly beneficial to her, instead of having the fear that you will hurt her or the baby.

Even with doc’s clearance, you’re not alone if you still have some concerns.

The following guidelines will help you design a safe, well-rounded, energizing series of Pilates sessions.

As always, I am here to help. So if you have questions, please e-mail me at AlisonB.Marsh@YourPregnantCore.com


General Goals During Pregnancy:

1. To establish a routine of exercise and movement throughout her pregnancy including:

Cardiovascular
Strength
Stability
Flexibility

2. To prepare her for:

The changes her body will go through during and after pregnancy,
For labor and birth, and
For new mommy-hood; physical and emotional rigors of parenting

Key is MODERATION     Keep mom-to-be MOVING.

Talk Test: should be able to carry on a conversation during exercise

The ACOG-American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommends 30 minutes of exercise on most, if not all days of the week. You can access a variety of pregnancy and postnatal resources at their website: http://www.acog.org/Patients

Click here to read my post on ACOG’s newest exercise considerations-It’s a Win for us!


Now we will get into what to expect during each trimester of pregnancy, and precautions to consider when teaching.

Pregnancy Fundus Trimesters
Pregnancy Fundus – the top of the uterus

First Trimester-Conception -14 weeks

  • The First trimester is the most vulnerable stage of pregnancy.
  • If your client HAS been doing Pilates before conception, she is usually fine to continue, with her doc’s approval, as always.
  • Miscarriage is most common during this stage.
  • It is also when the body begins to rapidly change, being flooded with pregnancy hormones.
  • Nausea and fatigue are common, but exercise can help reduce the severity of these symptoms.
  • Precautions to Take:
    • It is generally recommended that women wait until about the 14th week of pregnancy (2nd trimester) to start a new type of activity. 
    • If your client has NOT been doing Pilates before conception, you don’t have to turn her away.

Second Trimester – 14-27 weeks

  • The second trimester is considered the most comfortable stage.
  • The body has become adapted to the hormonal changes; nausea and fatigue have usually subsided.
  • Mom feels great and energetic.
  • Precautions to Take: 
    •  Mom may be uncomfortable on her back towards the later part of the 2nd trimester due to the weight of the uterus pressing on the vena cava artery. Symptoms are shortness of breath, dizziness
      • Limit laying flat to about 3 minutes at a time. Let mom be the judge of that. She may be fine laying for 10.
      • Modify laying down exercises by either sitting up, or propping heart above the belly or “heart over baby”
    • Relaxin, a pregnancy hormone responsible for the loosening of the joints and ligaments, begins to rise, leaving mom vulnerable to sprains and falls.
      • Be careful not to overstretch, especially the hamstrings and adductors (inner thighs)
    • Clumsiness is common due to a drop in testosterone. Be aware of this when giving exercises that test balance.

Third Trimester – 27-40 weeks

  • The 3rd trimester is where mom starts to become uncomfortable, especially towards the end of the pregnancy, due to how big her uterus has become – from the size of a lemon to the size of a watermelon.
  • Fatigue tends to return.
  • Mom-to-be is now carrying around 20-50lbs. (and sometimes more) more than she is use to. To get into your pregnant client’s shoes, put on a weight vest for a few hours while doing everyday activities.
  • Towards the end of the 3rd trimester, the hormone progesterone spikes, and pelvic joints begin to loosen significantly. Progesterone is one of a few hormones responsible for loose limbs, specifically smooth muscle relaxation, which the pelvic floor is a smooth muscle.
  • Precautions to Take:
    •  Keep movements in the pelvis contained; work more for contraction and release of the pelvic floor.
    • Think of keeping the limbs, particularly the legs, close to the body (midline).
    • Although we are preparing for labor and birth, make sure not to over do the stretching.
    • The risk of pulling a muscle rises significantly in the 3rd trimester

Know that any fears or insecurity you have about teaching your pregnant client, can be subsided when you follow these guidelines and trust your expertise as a Pilates instructor.

With your knowledge and awareness, mom’s judgement on what she can and can’t do, and communication between the two of you, your Pilates sessions will be the highlight of you and your pregnant client’s journey to motherhood.

It is crucial she continues to exercise, even though she may not feel like it. That’s where your motivation is critical in making sure she gets into the studio. And if she just can’t do it, here are some options:

Give her exercises to do at home. Even in 5 and 10 minute increments

Ex: Walk up and down the stairs 5 times, reach for the top of the door-way to give an easy stretch, clean your own house (cleaning is a great workout, especially in the 3rd trimester.

The most important thing to remember is to keep the lines of communication open with your client. Ask how she is feeling. Nothing you do should hurt her. Remember, we are going for moderation.


Thank you for hanging out with me! Awesome that you have taken the time to educate yourself!

I want to hear from you! Let me know if you have found this helpful. Please fill in the contact form below, or e-mail me directly at alisonb.marsh@yourpregnantcore.com

If you haven’t done so yet, please pick up my complimentary PDF Pre & Postnatal Pilates Instructor Crash Course Freemium 2 Crash Course

Happy Hundreds!

Alison Marsh

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