Prenatal Pilates on the Reformer

by Kim Krauhsar on Aug 23, 2008

Your female clients don’t have to forgo their Pilates workouts if they become pregnant. With appropriate exercise adaptations, moms-to-be can benefit from traditional mat work variations to modifications on the reformer throughout pregnancy. Prenatal Pilates on the reformer has three main benefits:

  • Prenatal Pilates on the Reformer Increases Postural Awareness While Strengthening the Periphery. During pregnancy the body changes daily. As the baby grows, its added weight can pull the lumbopelvic region into an exaggerated curve, affecting center of gravity and balance. As the breasts increase in size, the thoracic and cervical spinal curves can also become more exaggerated. As these curves increase, so does the stress on the surrounding muscles and joints. Each exercise session on the reformer redefines what ideal alignment looks and feels like for each participant. Once that is established, the reformer exercises will effectively strengthen and support the body through all phases of the pregnancy.
  • Prenatal Pilates on the Reformer Emphasizes Closed-Kinetic-Chain Exercises. Hormonal changes during pregnancy create an increase in ligament laxity throughout the body and most significantly in the low back and sacral area. Therefore, long-levered, open-chain exercises are not recommended. On the reformer, the gliding carriage allows movement through a full but controlled range of motion while keeping the arms and legs grounded for a safe and effective workout.
  • Prenatal Pilates on the Reformer Offers a Large Variety of Exercise. As pregnancy progresses, it becomes more challenging for moms-to-be to find a comfortable position. The variety of exercise options available on the reformer allow pregnant clients to work in 4-points (hands and knees), seated, reclined, kneeling and side-lying positions.

When working with pregnant clients, it’s essential to offer effective cues and additional guidelines as their bodies change:

  • Breathe. Breathing is a basic principle of Pilates. Therefore, effective breathing should be emphasized in any workout. With prenatal Pilates participants, we focus on a natural, relaxed breathing style, encouraging clients to work within the boundaries of their physical bodies (i.e., elevated diaphragm).
  • “Hug Your Baby.” This is a great image for creating the subtle connection to the muscles of the inner core unit (transversus abdominis, pelvic floor, diaphragm, multifidus), rather than using words like “compress” and “flatten.”
  • Mobilize the Ankle Joints. Pregnancy can affect blood flow and circulation in the lower extremities. Tightness and cramping in the lower legs is also a common complaint. Adding ankle and foot exercises to the prenatal Pilates workout will improve mobility and increase circulation throughout the pregnancy. 
  • Focus on the Shoulder Girdle and Scapulohumeral Rhythm. Expectant moms need to think of their prenatal Pilates program as “training” for delivering, carrying, breastfeeding and holding their new babies. Having a strong upper body and a good understanding of how to move dynamically through the shoulders and upper back allows for a smooth transition from the prenatal to the postnatal demands placed on the body.

Kim Kraushar will share more tips on how to apply STOTT PILATES® principles to specific reformer exercises for expectant clients at the Inner IDEA® Conference, September 11-14, in Palm Springs. Drawing on the latest medical information and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines, Kraushar will discuss anatomical and physiological changes, risk factors and movement considerations with an eye toward providing a safe and effective workout. Participants will also learn how to make exercise choices for the prenatal client, what modifications may be needed, and which cues and corrections to use for safety and effectiveness. For more information or to register for the event, visit

Photo credit: STOTT PILATES® photography © Merrithew Corporation

Related prenatal Pilates DVDs: Prenatal Pilates on the Ball, Prenatal Pilates on Equipment

IDEA Fit Tips, Volume 6, Issue 1

© 2008 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Kim Krauhsar

Kim Krauhsar IDEA Author/Presenter

Kim Krauhsar holds degrees in dance and kinesiology. She is a STOTT PILATESĀ® instructor trainer and owns one of the first STOTT PILATES licensed training centers in the country.


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