Joining an aqua natal class is a fantastic way to exercise gently and safely in pregnancy. You will be guided through a program of movements while in the water by someone who knows exactly what they are talking about. These classes will also be a great opportunity to meet other mums-to-be who, no doubt, you’ll ‘bump’ into on a regular basis at health visitor clinics, baby massage or mums and tots groups in the future. It is sometimes difficult to get chatting to new people but being pregnant is a brilliant icebreaker, and if you are all 8 months pregnant and wearing swimming costumes it won’t be long before everyone is comparing notes…and stretch marks!
When we are on dry land, gravity exerts a downwards force on our bodies. The opposite force, buoyancy, is felt when we are in water and reduces the impact stress of exercise on the body and so limits the strain on joints and muscles that are already under increased pressure if we are pregnant. The feeling of weightlessness makes exercise in water more enjoyable for those who are heavily pregnant as their bump temporarily feels lighter, and those with swollen ankles and legs also find short term relief from their symptoms. Buoyancy also allows the body to float and in pregnancy this can be very relaxing.
There are some conditions that mean that aqua natal classes should be avoided such as; Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH), Pre-Eclampsia, Cardiac Disease, Intra Uterine Growth Retardation (IUGR), a history of 3 or more miscarriages, a history of premature labour, Placenta Praevia, unexplained vaginal bleeding. If you are in any doubt whether you should join an aqua natal class talk to your midwife or GP.
Other situations need to be discussed with your aqua natal instructor before you join the class and may mean you are advised not to join. Examples of these are; if you are expecting twins or triplets, if you have a history of palpitations, if you are extremely under or over-weight, if you had raised blood pressure before your pregnancy, if you are Anaemic, Diabetic or if you have Thyroid disease.
How do you find an aqua natal class that will suit you?
Do you have to commit to a certain number of classes or can you just turn up if you feel like it?
An aqua natal instructor is often a healthcare professional, for example, a midwife or physiotherapist who has undertaken appropriate training.
Maintains or improves the body's condition and fitness
Improves muscle tone: core, pelvic floor and all of the others
Prepares the body for labour
Exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the brain that help protect against antenatal or post-natal depression
Hydrostatic pressure (the pressure of the water pressing on the body) pushes against the body causing any fluid, such as oedema in the tissues, to be pushed back into the main blood circulation and helps the kidneys pass this out as urine. This can be very beneficial if a mother's blood pressure is slightly raised as it can help to reduce it.
Many women who are having trouble sleeping find that they always have a brilliant night after a class.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists article on exercise in pregnancy. Conclusion: “A review of the evidence suggests that, in most cases, exercise is safe for both mother and fetus during pregnancy and women should therefore be encouraged to initiate or continue exercise to derive the health benefits associated with such activities.”
Aqua natal Instructor Debbie talks about the benefits of going to aqua natal classes during and after pregnancy to maintain that healthy lifestyle. It has many benefits for both mother and baby.
I loved my aqua natal classes – I think they were my favourite thing about pregnancy to be honest. They were run by a retired midwife. The classes were just the right mixture of exercise and relaxation. Everyone laughed the whole time and because we were in the water the exercises didn’t feel like hard work. Getting changed was hard work towards the end though.