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The benefits of aquanatal workouts

by Susie Murphy, BSc (Hons), RGN, RM, aquanatal professional level 3 specialist pre/postnatal, medical acupuncturist

Keeping fit and active during pregnancy can help you to adjust to the changes your body is undergoing as you approach your due date. Staying healthy and active can also help you to cope with the demands of labour and to recover more quickly once your baby is born.

Susie Murphy suggests aquanatal exercise as a perfect way to stay on the move during pregnancy whilst also easing painful PGP symptoms.

Aquanatal classes offer a holistic workout in water led by a specialist instructor. The classes can offer an enjoyable way to remain active in pregnancy and are really beneficial in the following ways for pregnant women who also experiencing PGP symptoms:

  • Buoyancy. Uniquely, water can provide reliable support and stability for a pregnant woman to enable her to move freely where this ability may be compromised on dry land. Moving in water can strengthen the supporting muscles around the pelvis, both above and below. All muscle movement in water is concentric (shortening) so post-exercise soreness doesn't occur in the same way as it would on dry land.
  • Pelvic floor. A suitably experienced and trained teacher will include guidance during the gentle aerobic workout about how to maintain a healthy and strong pelvic floor. This will include movements to promote muscular strength and endurance of the pelvic floor which will help to keep the integrity of the muscles as well as maintain continence. 
  • Tummy muscles. Frontal resistance of the wall of water can help to strengthen tummy muscles and this occurs naturally as the woman moves through the water, carrying out the exercises included in the workout. The natural resistance of the water can also support the pelvis and strengthen the adductor and quadricep muscles. 
  • Pelvic rocking. A common movement within an aquanatal workout is pelvic rocking which is supported safely by the buoyancy of the water and can help to work both the back extensors and the abdominals.
  • Wellbeing and stress relief. The aquatic environment can bring temporary but immense relief from stress and pain. Evidence suggests moving through water can release four times the endorphins (the body's natural opiates, designed to relieve stress and pain while enhancing pleasure) than are normally released from movement on dry land. This is because movement in water causes the water molecules (which resemble a 'v' shape) to tumble over each other, sticking to the skin, the largest organ of the body, and stimulating it. 
  • Relieving trigger points. Women with PGP often experience painful trigger points (small contraction knots within muscle) in the gluteus muscles resulting from tension caused by pubic pain. In aquanatal sessions there is always a static stretching phase to prepare the muscles for the next exercise. This can be of great relief because the muscles benefit from moving rather than remaining in a jarring, tense state (acupuncture can also be very useful in releasing these trigger points or knots). 
  • Appropriate movements. Aquanatal workouts under the supervision of a properly trained teacher will include only those exercises that are appropriate during pregnancy. For example, deep squats, wide leg side step, plyometric jumps and twists are not considered appropriate because they could cause strain or injury. 

Baines, S. and Murphy, S. (2010). Aquatic Exercise for Pregnancy. Keswick: M&K Publishing. ISBN: 9781905539420.

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Please note, the Pelvic Partnership consists of volunteers who have had Pelvic Girdle Pain and wish to support other women. We aim to pass on information based on research evidence where available. We are not medical professionals and cannot offer medical advice. The Pelvic Partnership takes no responsibility for any action you do or do not take as a result of reading this information.
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