While your baby-to-be bobs around in the comfort of your watery womb, you can reap the benefits of immersing yourself in aqua-therapy. Biokineticist Jenna-Lee Field explains why this is a great option for pregnant women.
Aqua-therapy during pregnancy is one of the safest, most efficient forms of exercise and something you can do through all stages of your pregnancy. And that’s not all: fatigue and body aches can all be relieved by aqua-therapy, plus it provides relief from more severe pregnancy symptoms such as pain caused by pelvic muscles shifting.
Numerous studies have shown that pregnant women who participate in aqua-therapy experience physical benefits. In addition, studies have also shown that these women are less prone to postpartum depression. Pregnant women who choose to find relief in the water note that in addition to the physical relief, they value this as an important way to focus on themselves before the arrival of the baby.
What is aqua-therapy?
Aqua-therapy refers to treatments and exercises performed in water for relaxation, fitness, physical rehabilitation and other therapeutic benefits. Treatment is supervised by a trained aquatic therapist (registered biokineticist) and is performed in a heated swimming pool.
It’s a well-balanced workout that includes all components of physical fitness – cardiovascular training, muscle strengthening and endurance, and flexibility. The exercise system can easily be adjusted to suite the individual by making use of the water to either assist or resist movements.
Benefits of aqua-therapy during pregnancy
An almost weightless exercise environment is created when you immerse yourself in water. Once immersed up to your neck, your weight is reduced by approximately 90%.
Most pregnant women appreciate this feeling of weightlessness. It also helps to reduce compression on the spine and joints, helping to strengthen muscles without the normal pain associated with land-based exercises.
Many pregnant women experience pain, discomfort and tiredness during their pregnancy. Studies have shown that aqua-therapy is great in assisting with pain relief for a wide range of conditions including chronic pain, fibromyalgia and arthritis. Women participating in aqua-therapy during their pregnancy will at the very least be relieved of the feeling of carrying extra weight and additionally, may experience pain relief should they have a pain condition. Furthermore, aqua-therapy could assist with injury recovery and post-surgery recovery. As a person’s body doesn’t carry the weight in the same way as they would on land, they can start therapy much earlier.
Being immersed in warm water
If you are wondering about the effect of warm water on your little one, considering that body temperature increases should be avoided during the first trimester, not to worry. The pool temperature is kept at approximately 33 degrees and sessions at 30 minutes for exactly this reason. Your body temperature might rise slightly, but this occurs within a range that is completely safe for you and your baby.
The slight increase in body temperature will dilate your blood vessels, resulting in an increase in your blood circulation, which has various effects at different times:
If you are Immersed in warm water for:
- Five minutes – there’s a slight reduction in your heart rate and blood pressure
- Eight minutes – there’s improved circulation in your hands and feet, which is great for those swollen ankles!
- Twelve minutes – your muscles start to relax, and your body feels more receptive to passive exercise and responds better to stretching, which helps to release toxins and lactic acid
- Fifteen minutes – minor pains (and for some, more severe pains) start to dissipate.
No pain, lots of gain
Many believe when it comes to exercising you should go through pain to gain benefits, but this theory does not hold true when it comes to aqua-therapy.
The benefit of exercising in water is the resistance provided in all directions, which can be increased or decreased by changing the speed of the movement or adding certain equipment. By providing resistance and cardiovascular training simultaneously, you are burning off the calories and toning your body without the sensation of over-training.
Many women approach us because their gynaecologists have advised them to manage their weight gain more effectively. The majority of these women manage to stop gaining more weight, and maintain a healthy weight to the end of the pregnancy.
The wonders of hydrostatic pressure
Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure the water exerts on your body – this happens due to the higher density water has in comparison to air. When standing in chest-depth water, you’ll have more pressure around your ankles than your knees, and more pressure around your knees than around your hips, for example.
The benefits of hydrostatic pressure include reduced swelling, potential pain relief and improved circulation. And this can all be achieved without even moving in the water, as it is the water doing the work for you.
The feel-good factor
Your body undergoes various changes and adaptations while you’re pregnant, and this can take its toll on your body, leading to the inability to continue with your normal exercise routine. This, in turn, leads to frustration and, often, a feeling of unhappiness.
Because of the feeling of weightlessness provided by aqua-therapy, the reduced pressure on back and joints, its ability to reduce pain and a safe exercise environment, it is a great alternative when you no longer feel comfortable doing land-based exercises.
Not only are you getting some healthy exercise, but there are numerous other positive effects taking place at the same time, creating an overall feel-good factor.
Place noodle around back. Activate core and pull knees up towards chest. Push legs out in front of you, pull knees up towards your chest and push legs out behind you. Repeat.
Activate core and pull knees up towards chest. Push both legs out to one side, then pull knees up towards chest and push legs out to the opposite side. Repeat.
Cycling Legs with Breast Stroke Arms
Place noodle between legs and sit on the noodle. Start with cycling legs (resembling riding a bicycle) and move arms in a breaststroke movement. Continue with these movements as you move forward in the pool.
Alternating Knees to Chest
Holding the noodle around back and under arms, lie on your back and activate core. Pull one knee up to your chest, with other leg straight. Alternate.
For more information and prenatal class schedules, please visit www.ffbiokinetics.co.za