Exercise in the water and pregnancy: general information
Exercise in the water for pregnancy is a psycho-physical preparation strategy at the time of childbirth.
Today there are numerous courses developed on this principle - also and above all in motor training - which help women to achieve the awareness necessary to face with serenity the moment of "giving birth" to their child, controlling pain and negative emotions such as anxiety and fear.
In order to have the maximum therapeutic effect, prenatal physical exercise DON'T it should start during pregnancy but be a pre-existing life habit; for this reason it is advisable to prepare for gestation by starting the practice of specific exercises even before conception.
It would clearly be advisable for any mother about to become pregnant to consult a doctor before starting this very delicate process. However, in general, every woman should be not only empowered, but motivated and encouraged to exercise both before, during and after pregnancy.
But why is it so important to practice physical activity during pregnancy? Let's take a brief review of what happens to the musculoskeletal system, posture and cardiovascular system of the pregnant woman.
Bodily changes of pregnancy
No physiological event in a woman has as many repercussions and produces as many changes as pregnancy.
As a result of these changes, there are different regions of the body that can be positively influenced and conditioned by the desirable physical activity of sports. It must also be taken into account that pregnancy itself is a form of physical "conditioning"; the cardiovascular system and the musculoskeletal system are in fact significantly stressed by weight gain during gestation; the volume of blood increases, the heart slightly hypertrophies; muscles tend to strengthen but, if not done properly, it can create functional overload of the joints - classic low back pain or cervical pain in the pregnant woman. Just think of the typical swelling of the legs, due to the impairment of the blood and lymphatic circulation, to the soreness of the same, aggravated by overload (weight), to the greater laxity of the ligaments, caused by the specific hormonal action - which acts on the pubic symphysis, for make room for the child - etc.
Speaking of the morphological alterations typical of pregnancy, on the other hand, the most evident is the marked lordosis of the vertebral column, which determines an alteration of the center of gravity and the consequent modification of the global biomechanics, with inexorable alteration of posture as the gestational state progresses.
Exercise in the water
Why Choose Water Exercise During Pregnancy?
The gestation period must be interpreted as a phase of preparation for childbirth, both physical and psychological. In this sense, the aquatic environment offers obvious advantages and benefits to both the mother and the unborn child - see below.
Water is the most abundant inorganic element in nature and constitutes an essential matrix for life itself. We can find this fluid already inside the cell (intracellular liquid), which in turn lives in an aqueous extracellular solution. The entire system of liquids circulating in the human body (blood and lymph) is largely made up of water.
Within biological systems, water performs many functions, for example:
- Conveying of substances - nutrients, waste, corpuscles, immune, etc.
- Osmotic transition - a means of propagation of various substances
- Heating medium or heat dissipation etc.
In the organism, water connects all the districts, allowing to maintain general homeostasis.
Understood as an environmental element, water has a very particular influence, both on a physiological and psychological level:
- Not everyone knows that contact with water alone, perceived at the nervous level, is able to activate the so-called "diving reflex" - causing a slowing of the heartbeat.
- Apart from fears and phobias, contact with this liquid promotes mental and neuromuscular calm. Many relaxation techniques, even based on "maternage" (not strictly psychotherapeutic), take place in low heated swimming pools.
Very important and absolutely not to be overlooked, is the aquatic effect of drastic gravitational reduction. Immersed in a fluid, one can enjoy an upward thrust equal to the weight of the displaced liquid volume - as suggested by Archimedes' principle. This condition allows to decrease the load on the joints, but not the potential muscle work. While on the one hand the legs and back can be relieved of weight thanks to the micro-gravity of the aquatic environment, on the other hand moving under the water is much more tiring, since this liquid is 800 times denser than air.
Use of the swimming pool during pregnancy
Given that physical activity is essential for the health of every individual, it is undoubtedly also for the expectant mother who, in this particular situation, has a greater tendency to be sedentary. As we will see later, contrary to what was thought until a few years ago, the body of the pregnant woman has a strong need to stay fit; this for metabolic, muscular and psychological reasons.
Above we highlighted how important we can consider water, both from a biological and "mental" point of view. Having said this, it is logical to deduce that motor exercise in water can be considered "ideal" for gestation and preparation for childbirth. The swimming pool is obviously considered the ideal place for water gymnastics. However, if on the one hand it offers many advantages, on the other it requires more attention to certain details, such as temperature and hygiene.
Criticality of swimming pool exercise during pregnancy
The criticalities of physical training during pregnancy are linked to possible pregnancies at risk, to any excessive commitment and to the problems that could lead to falls or trauma of any kind. It is also good to move reasonably, training moderately, since excessive physical activity on the part of the mother could also consume too much oxygen and nourishment, causing a reduction in the flow to the placenta and / or a situation of hyperthermia of the fetus.
Speaking of those specific to exercising in the water, rather than critical issues, it would be good to talk about necessary precautions or attention.
The "ideal" warm-up level for practicing motor exercises during pregnancy should be around 30-31 ° C. However, it should not be forgotten that swimming pools without a specific pool for training during pregnancy, for small children and for rehabilitation, generally maintain a lower temperature (between 26 and 28 ° C) - due to the presence of activities at competitive character such as swimming, synchronized and water polo. Such temperatures could also reconcile with being pregnant, but care should be taken not to catch a cold and give more emphasis to dynamic exercises - which help keep the body temperature high.
The hygienic state of the environment is crucial, as is the attitude of future mothers. An aqueous, warm-humid environment, rich in substrate - mucus, residues of skin, urine, etc. - and assiduously frequented is ideal for the development of bacterial strains (Gardnerella vaginalis, Mycoplasma hominis, Mobiluncus spp. And Prevotella spp.), Of yeasts (such as Candida albicans and other species) and for the transmission of pathogenic viruses (Herpes simplex type I and Papilloma virus).
Genital herpes, bacterial vaginosis and mycoses are the most frequent diseases that pregnant women can contract in swimming pools. An infected pregnant woman can have problems of relative severity, or face very serious consequences. Some bacteria, fungi and viruses that can be contracted in swimming pools give rise to diseases included among the so-called "sexually transmitted" - even if for the contagion it is not necessary to have intercourse inside a swimming pool; sometimes it is enough to sit on the edge of the tub.
The consequences of such diseases can be serious in the case of STDs such as syphilis, HIV and gonorrhea (which however DON'T have nothing to do with the pool environment) - early onset of labor, premature rupture of the membranes surrounding the baby in utero, postpartum uterine infection, impaired health of the fetus, etc. - or milder but not negligible, such as the contagion of the child during delivery (typical of candidiasis), the formation of condylomas external to the vagina and the uncomfortable symptoms of vaginal infections (itching, burning, foul-smelling secretions, etc.).
For this it is necessary to maintain a high level of hygiene, avoiding contact of the private parts - even when wearing a bathing suit - with the floor and with certain fitness equipment (for example floats), avoiding sharing towels or placing them on benches or steps, washing well after activity but without exaggerating in daily life - so as not to damage the physiological bacterial flora - etc.
Note: all pregnant women it is not recommended practice water exercise alone; instead, it is more appropriate to be part of a training group, followed by a professional.
Advantages and Benefits
Advantages and benefits of exercise in water during pregnancy
Exercise during pregnancy promotes blood circulation and respiratory function, which lead to better oxygenation not only of the mother's tissues but also of the placenta and therefore of the fetus. Note: in water, the pregnant woman's breathing is facilitated and becomes deeper, quieter and more effective.
Motor activity increases energy consumption by helping the pregnant woman to keep weight under control. The "general metabolism of metabolism" also benefits from this, with specific reference to cholesterolemia, glycemia, triglyceridemia, uricemia and blood pressure.
Physical training is protective against various discomforts, such as fatty liver disease, alterations of the hive, joint diseases, etc. Let's not forget that a mother's condition of greater basal health can only favor the good progress of gestation.
It is important to underline the importance of a good tone of the core muscles, directly involved in the phase of natural childbirth (pushing and expulsions), as well as of the muscular flexibility and joint mobility which are essential to maintain the full efficiency of the locomotor system. It is shown that pregnant women with previous and maintained physical preparation have fewer problems during gestation, during childbirth and in the recovery of the post-partum form.
In addition, various kinds of problems can occur during pregnancy such as constipation, pressure and blood sugar imbalances, excessive weight gain, impaired circulation and swelling of the legs, etc. Training helps prevent and sometimes control many of these uncomfortable conditions.
Any form of gymnastics during pregnancy is able to improve mood, counteracting depressive symptoms, anxiety and preventing the onset of postpartum depression - for which it would be desirable to resume training as soon as possible. This aspect is based on both purely psychological and organic (hormonal) foundations. In particular, forms of collective exercise - such as courses in the pool - contribute even more to a good mood, thanks to the marked social component.
Not to be overlooked is the possibility that physical activity during pregnancy can reduce the perception of pain during labor, thanks to the constant secretion - throughout the gestation period - of beta-endorphins, substances capable of raising the personal threshold of pain tolerance.
There are also advantages specifically related to exercise in the water for pregnancy. We begin by emphasizing that work in water, practiced with the due load, allows to avoid critical issues that are far from remote in other types of exercise, such as accidental falls, repetitive rebound stress, road accidents, etc.
Then, the water one is the ideal preparation exercise for those who wish to give birth in the water. In the context of preparing for childbirth, any relaxation techniques are particularly facilitated by immersion, improving effectiveness. Let's not forget that immersion in hot water is an effective means of calming muscular and nervous tensions and of inducing sleep.
From a "strictly motor" point of view, the main advantage of exercising in the water over those on land is the lower joint load on the back, hips, knees and ankles. Nonetheless, many women report that exercising in water reduces leg swelling compared to exercising on land.
Some argue that the slowing of the respiratory process and the increase in its depth - with a greater diaphragmatic component - is felt by the fetus thanks to the pressure variations of the uterus. Less labored ventilation could benefit the fetus, allowing you to maintain moderate exercise intensities without running the risk of them being excessively stressful.
In general, thanks to the positive impact on both the mind and body of the mother, exercise in the water offers multiple benefits for the unborn child.
Organize exercise in the water for pregnancy
Generally speaking, water exercises for pregnancy, performed with a certain workload (intensity, density and volume), determine the cardiovascular and respiratory component; therefore, training "in toto" has the properties of a medium-low intensity aerobic training (which we are not going to list).
However, these exercises also have an effect on specific muscles. Based on the district concerned, they are divided into two "macro-groups":
- Upper part (from the sternum up): the main objective is to tone the muscles of the upper core and trunk, but also of the arms. Well organized, this part of training can facilitate the mobility of the shoulder girdle, shoulders and reduce tension on the cervical
- Lower part (from the sternum down): these are exercises aimed at improving the tone of the core (pelvic floor, rectum, transverse and oblique, etc.), the mobility of the spine - with particular reference to the lumbo-sacral segment - and the hip joint -femoral, circulation of the thighs and legs.
Note: being the area most directly affected by childbirth, it is also the one that most needs training and preparation during pregnancy. Of some importance are the exercises that work on the legs especially in the last period of gestation, when a considerable weight of the body has to be supported.
Keeping in mind the respect for individuality, it is good to take into consideration the level of subjective physical preparation. A woman who has always been sedentary should not train in the same way as another sporty woman during pregnancy. What matters is not to train hard, but to train enough, since the limit is absolutely subjective. It is therefore necessary to observe the effect of the exercise through the feedback of the body and modulate the load of the next session accordingly.