Aquatic natal classes (2019 updated)

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Since some of the earliest written history, water has been identified as a great tool to promote healing and wellbeing in all kinds of people. Through years of scientific observation, trial and error and the improvement of scientific methodology in medicine and physiotherapy, more effective and safe forms of Hydrotherapy exist today than ever before. Aquatic therapies are used by expert physiotherapists and medical practitioners in the management of patients with musculoskeletal problems, neurologic problems, heart conditions and for wellbeing and specific issues during pregnancy. Antenatal and Postnatal Hydrotherapy has become a popular and effective way for women to overcome some of the pain and discomfort during pregnancy and for staying active, healthy and happy during and after their child is born.

WHAT IS ANTENATAL AND POSTNATAL CARE?

Antenatal (sometimes called prenatal) care refers to the period of time whilst you are pregnant, but before your baby is born. Antenatal care revolves around ensuring mum and bub are regularly monitored and that the pregnancy is progressing smoothly and that specialist intervention or treatment is sought as early as possible, if required. During the Antenatal period, many healthcare providers like to share care and treatment approaches between your GP, obstetrician and physiotherapist.

The postnatal period starts once your baby is born and is a period of adjustment in many ways, with your physio being available to discuss any physical challenges you may be having and to create a personalised treatment plan. Some women find aches and pains (especially rheumatoid and other arthritis’) come back with a vengeance during this time and exercising may be more difficult and painful than before your pregnancy.

WHAT DO AQUANATAL CLASSES INVOLVE?

Lane Cove Physio’s Aquatic natal classes provide the opportunity for expectant mums to exercise in a warm pool under supervision, utilising the transformative properties of water. Facilitated by a trained physiotherapist with a special interest in Women’s Health, classes are conducted in a beautifully warm 35 degree indoor hydrotherapy pool to maximise the therapeutic benefits in a safe, weight-reduced and relaxed environment. Lane Cove Physio has private change rooms, a plethora of equipment and state of the art facilities. Classes are run weekly and private health fund rebates are available. A simple screening test prior to entering the pool is essential for safety purposes and if you are at risk, you may need to consult your doctor before beginning.

The classes include a series of strengthening and cardio exercises specifically designed for pregnancy. With no more than 6 participants per class, exercises are personalised to the abilities of the participants and our specialist, Ashley is highly trained and interested in pregnancy and pregnancy related exercise and body changes. The classes also allow a setting for education and discussion on issues that pregnant women face such as preparing for labour, strategies for pain management, comfortable sleep positions, posture at work, aching legs and even talking about tummy time for bub and early child development. This can be helpful to both first time mums and those with more experience.

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“Being in the pool feels totally amazing! The class involves a workout that is tailored for pregnancy so you know that the exercises you’re doing are safe. You’re closely supervised and you can work at a level you are comfortable with. Being able to exercise free from pain and the extra weight of pregnancy was awesome and I left every session already anticipating the next one” – Local mum Nat

WHY IS HYDROTHERAPY EFFECTIVE FOR PREGNANCY?

Hydrotherapy is particularly effective during pregnancy for a number of different reasons. First of all, a hot tub or hot spa during pregnancy is a no no and is not a substitute for aquanatal classes and can actually be quite dangerous to yourself and your baby. It’s very important to keep your body temperature in a safe range think a soothingly warm pool or bath, not blisteringly hot.

One of the reasons prenatal aqua and pregnancy fitness classes in Sydney are so effective and popular is because the body’s physiological response to water helps to improve your circulation, ease your aching back (and feet, knees, hips and everything else) and ease the pain of labour and delivery. The effectiveness of hydrotherapy for many types of arthritis have been well researched and proven and hydrotherapy during pregnancy has been shown to increase blood flow to your baby through the placenta. This is all while the water is working to dissipate that exercise-induced body heat away from the body and into the water at a much quicker rate than exercising in air. It is also proven to reduce common pregnancy side effects such as carpal tunnel syndrome, swelling in the ankles and varicose veins.

WHAT ARE THE MEDICAL BENEFITS OF AQUATIC NATAL CLASSES?

The female body endures many changes during pregnancy, the effects of which can cause many different physical ailments. Women often express concerns about the physical discomforts they experience during pregnancy and Lane Cove Physio staff are trained in many of these areas specifically. The most frequently reported physical discomforts our pregnant patients present with often include lower back pain, lower extremity puffiness or swelling due to accumulation of fluid in certain tissues and leg cramps. Exercise is usually the best medicine for many of these conditions, but pregnancy can make being able to exercise a bit more difficult.

The College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend that women with uncomplicated pregnancies should engage in at least 20-30mins of physical activity per day on most, if not all days.

Benefits of Aquatic natal classes include:

  • Improving or maintaining physical fitness
  • Helping with weight management, circulation, fluid retention and swelling
  • Reducing and managing pregnancy-related back and pelvic pain
  • Reducing the risk of gestational diabetes in some populations
  • Assisting in controlling blood pressure
  • Enhancing psychological wellbeing and sleep
  • Promoting relaxation
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THE SCIENCE BEHIND AQUATIC THERAPY DURING PREGNANCY

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Every woman has a different experience during pregnancy and many women even have radically different experiences each time they’re pregnant. The most common pregnancy symptoms, such as fatigue, body aches and weight gain can be managed with hydrotherapy, but how does science explain these benefits?

  • The warm water

When you are immersed in warm water your body temperature rises, which in turn makes your blood vessels dilate.  This dilation results in increased circulation and endorphin levels, strengthening the immune system, reducing inflammation, healing injured tissue, improving well-being and energising the body. After 5 minutes immersed in warm water your pulse rate and blood pressure begins to drop a little. 8 minutes immersed in warm water your circulation begins to increase in both your hands and feet, which can make them feel warmer. After 12 minutes immersed in warm water your muscles will be getting very relaxed, your tissues become more responsive to any stretching you may do which helps the release of toxins and lactic acid. After 15 minutes immersed in our hydrotherapy pool you will notice that your minor pains you’ve been experiencing start to disappear.

  • The extra buoyancy

While you are floating in water, you are part of an almost weightless exercise environment. In fact once you are submerged up to your neck in water your weight is actually reduced by around 90%.  While removing bodyweight for exercise is going to be beneficial for everyone, those with the added weight of pregnancy gain additional benefits. One of the major difficulties with back pain during pregnancy is that the best way to avoid the pain is to strengthen the muscles in your core. In the water, aquatic exercises can be done painlessly in order to strengthen the core and leg muscles to help reduce back pain and keep it at bay. The safety that the extra buoyancy of water provides is ideal to continue working out during pregnancy without fear of falling over or injuring a ligament or joint.

  • Minimisation of weight gain

Although healthy weight gain is important for the growth of the baby, many people want to find ways to control their pregnancy weight. Although some weight gain is inevitable during pregnancy, water therapy can reduce the amount drastically. By reducing your weight by up to 90% in the water, any movement will be easier, pain decreased and more relief felt than pain. Aquanatal classes offer an environment not found in other pregnancy exercise classes in Sydney with the viscosity of water adding resistance without adding weight. This means that exercise will be effective without adding strain and pain to your growing body. Staying active will keep excessive weight gain at bay and keep yourself and baby healthy.

  • Combating swelling and pain in the extremities

Water is an ideal environment to help reduce the swelling that pregnancy can cause to the extremities. The hydrostatic pressure of water will help to naturally increase your circulation and decrease swelling in the lower extremities. Hydrostatic pressure is defined as the weight of the water from all directions on your body. Your increased circulation will help to send the fluid upward in the body, resulting in decreased swelling to your lower extremities.

  • Reduction of stress and anxiety and promotion of better sleep

According to research aquatic therapy water therapy is also great for improving sleep patterns and lowering overall anxiety and stress. For pregnant women this can have dramatic effects. Often during pregnancy sleep becomes more difficult in later trimesters, which is unfortunately when it is most important. Exercising in water can provide the extra boost one might need in order to get a good night’s sleep.

  • Aquanatal exercise is beneficial for your baby too

The benefits of aquatic pregnancy fitness classes don’t just stop with you. Aquanatal therapy has also been shown to regulate fetal heart rate changes more effectively during exertion than land exercise.

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER ANTENATAL AQUATIC THERAPY

There are also a few things to consider while looking into whether to perform aquatic therapy and during and after your aquatic exercises.

pregnant-woman-drinking-waterIt is very important to remember to stay hydrated while working out in water. Being surrounded by water can cause a false sense of hydration and you will not notice if you are sweating or becoming thirstier. Keep some water nearby and make sure you stop and drink often during exercise.

Don’t push yourself too hard and overdo it. Working out in water might feel easier than exercising on land without the impact of one’s full body weight. Warm water therapy can be deceiving in that the ease of performing the aquatic exercises can cause you to overwork without noticing the signs of fatigue as quickly. The exhaustion can come quickly once you step out of the pool and it’s important to communicate with your physio if you are feeling tired or pushing yourself too much.

It is also important to consult your GP or obstetrician before commencing aquatic therapy while pregnant. Although aquatic therapy and aquanatal classes are safe and effective for most healthy pregnant women, your doctor will know what is best for your specific condition.

Pregnancy massage and pelvic floor physiotherapy assessments and treatments are also available.

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