Aquanatal classes are special water based exercise classes, mostly to music, aimed at pregnant women. These exercise classes (at least in our areas) are run by qualified midwives and are gentle, yet prepare the body for childbirth.
Last week I started a course of 6 aquanatal classes in Bicester, Oxfordshire (none are available in Oxford at the moment, I’m afraid). I did classes as my only pregnancy exercise during both previous pregnancies and found them to be magic: These classes not only provide a great workout in water, but also the opportunity to meet other pregnant ladies (often a mix of 1st, 2nd, 3rd time mums-to-be). I met some of my best friends in during my previous classes.
So what happens in our Aquanatal classes?
There are 10 of us ladies this time around, at various points in our pregnancy, expecting between March and June.
Our teacher, Caroline (who has extensive experience as a midwife, an aquanatal teacher, doula, etc) starts us off on our exercise regime in the warm water pool with gentle warm up, slowly revving up the pace and our heart rate. We must be quite a sight: big tummies bopping around in the water, but to be honest you end up giggling so much while springing and dancing around in the water that you forget about everything and everyone around you. Throughout the different exercises Caroline, our teacher makes us practice breathing techniques ( very useful for later on in labour, which I can attest to!). After some 45 minutes we finish off the water-based part of the aquanatal class with some relaxation and floating with the help of floatation aids.
Then a quick hot shower, getting dressed and we head up to a private meeting room in the sports complex.
Next is the discussion part of the aquanatal class. This part is one of the most valuable aspects of these classes: we get to sit around enjoying a drink of squash and some cakes to boost our energy levels while we discuss a topic around pregnancy, labour or caring for the newborn baby. These sessions are excellent! You get answers to things you might not understand around child birth or aspects of caring for your little one. Being facilitated by a highly experienced midwife and only women around you means you really do get into the smallest details and are able to share and discuss (and often lessen if not totally alleviate) your inner most fears. There are often mums-to-be with older children, who can share their very varied birth experiences, as well as give tips about caring for a baby. You get to learn a lot from each other and have a loose network of new friends already around you for when the babies are born…Something that can be invaluable, if you don’t have close family around the corner.
The water is excellent at taking the weight off the joints, while creating some resistance for the exercises. I find it very good for managing pelvic girdle pain (PGP aka SPD). Aquanatal strengthens the core muscles (key in labour and recovery) which I find very difficult to work on otherwise. During the aquanatal classes I work my muscles while laughing and chatting away with the ladies around me. I barely notice any pain and the following day I can feel the muscles so much better toned and supporting my skeleton far better. I can hardly wait till the following week, by which time the baby has grown just a bit & stretched the muscles just that bit too.
Another great benefit : The blood and lymph circulation increases with exercise and the pressure of water gently massaging the body during the water work out, so most of the oedema one may have lessens significantly.
If you are pregnant and have an aquanatal class around I would highly recommend it… even if can’t swim!
Do/ did you do any specific exercise aimed at pregnancy? Is there anything you swear by?