Back in our grandparent’s generation it was common for a pregnant woman to ‘eat for two’. Many women would give up work or lose their job due to being pregnant or having a child. It was not unusual for her to almost stop what she was doing physically and rest for a majority of the 40 weeks.
Fast forward to today’s world where, despite being more aware of weight gain due to media and tabloid coverage, the pregnant person is far more tempted by the super-sized portions or large quantity of sugary options available and on-the-go food. They are also more likely to work much closer to the day they go into labor than in previous generations as well as be back to work within weeks of giving birth. To an extent, this can be determined on the maternity leave regulations of where she lives, which can vary greatly. Leaders of this are Estonia at 84 weeks full pay and Bulgaria at 70 weeks. The UK follows behind offering a substantial 52 weeks of maternity leave. On the other end of the spectrum, the United States are alongside Suriname and Papa New Guinea in not giving new mothers any paid leave. Overall, our lifestyles have become more hectic, with far more pressure and expectations than in our grandparent’s generations.
Attending an aqua aerobics/fitness class is particularly effective for the natal and post-natal woman as it offers a wide range of therapeutic and health benefits without the hard impact of land exercise. Regardless of an individual’s current fitness level, aqua aerobics allows for each workout plan to be personalised by changing the speed, intensity or amount of rest based on the participant’s needs. It is ideal for cross-training workouts, simple to advanced fitness workouts, as an aid to recovery from injury, or management of chronic conditions.
In comparison to land exercise, it is far safer for mother and the fetus to exercise in water. Being in the water, supported by the buoyancy, the mother-to-be can literally take weight off her feet and feel weightless as she exercises. With the hydrostatic pressure assisting venous return there is an increased blood flow & oxygen up-take to both mother & baby, without having to exert a lot of effort or become breathless and fatigued. The assistance of blood travelling back up to the heart helps with swelling (oedema) and varicose veins, which can easily occur during pregnancy. The calming influences the water has on the nerves of the body means that their sympathetic nervous system relaxes, and their body and mind can be more at rest. If this workout is following a busy day at work, running around after the older children, or even just feeling emotional, anxious and stressed, this time can be really soothing.
During the mother’s time exercising in the water, we as instructors can focus on their postural changes. As their tummy grows and the breasts enlarge it is usual for them to complain about having back pain. The American College of Obstetrician and Gynaecology (ACOG) states that 60% of all pregnant women experience lower back pain. We can help improve their pregnancy posture, strengthen up the weakened muscles and develop their endurance.
Current ACOG recommendations for expectant mothers aim to reduce issues such as obesity, diabetes and other health concerns is 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Pregnant women who are already active should be encouraged to maintain their physical activity levels with adaption made over the course of the 40 weeks. We have to consider that birthing a child is the equivalent to running 3 marathons as labor can continue over a few days and these pregnant individuals need to be fit and strong for this event. We must prepare their body for labor and birthing, which a series of exercises to do this are much different than marathon training. During their time in the pool our goal is to help guide them to be gentle on their body, yet keep them fit in preparation of the challenge ahead.
Furthermore, continuing activity and exercising once the baby is born has many benefits including reducing the chance of developing post-natal depression and stress relief. Attending aqua fitness classes during their pregnancy can help reduce labor time, decrease the recovery time, and allow them to return to exercise sooner with their bodies returning to their pre-pregnancy state quicker. The amount of time they can return depends upon their labor and birthing, minimum of 6 weeks (vaginal delivery with no complications) & 3 months (c-section delivery).