Water aerobics reduces a pregnant woman’s risk of suffering a vaginal tear during labour by nearly 13 TIMES
- Perineum – area between the anus and the vulva – can tear due to force of labour
- Medics may also cut the area to make the vagina wider and ease childbirth
- Water aerobics helps strengthen our core, reducing the force needed to ‘push’
Water aerobics reduces a pregnant woman’s risk of suffering a vaginal tear in labour, a study suggests.
Expectant mothers who took part in ‘aquatic exercise’ from weeks 20-to-37 were nearly 13 times more likely to have an ‘intact perineum’ following childbirth.
The perineum is the area between the anus and the vulva. This can tear due to the force of the baby coming out.
Researchers believe water aerobics helps strengthen a woman’s core muscles. This may lower the force with which she has to ‘push’ during childbirth.
Water aerobics reduces a pregnant woman’s risk of suffering a vaginal tear in labour (stock)
The research was carried out by San Cecilio University Hospital in Granada and led by Dr Raquel Rodríguez Blanque, a midwifery and nurse supervisor.
Exercise during pregnancy has been shown to reduce a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes, boost her sleep quality and ward off postpartum depression, the scientists wrote in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing.
However, studies looking into the effects of staying active on a woman’s perineum ‘remain insufficient’.
Pregnant women experience changes to their pelvic floor due to the increased weight of their uterus. A surge of ‘new’ hormones also causes their pelvic muscles to relax.
Injuries and ‘perineal trauma’ can also occur during childbirth. To avoid these complications, expectant mothers are typically advised to do exercise that strengthens their core.
However, concerns over the safety of being active during pregnancy puts many women off. This is despite inactivity raising their risk of needing a C-section, or forcep or vacuum delivery.
PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD SLEEP ON THEIR SIDE
Pregnant women should sleep on their side in their last trimester, research suggests.
A mother-to-be’s sleeping position has a significant effect on her baby’s heart rate, according to a study by University of Auckland.
A foetus’ heart becomes less active when its mother lies facing upwards as opposed to on her side, the study found.
Sleeping on your back in late pregnancy has been shown to put excessive weight on the blood vessels that supply the uterus, resulting in reduced oxygen supply to the baby.
Lead author Professor Peter Stone said: ‘We are suggesting there is now sufficient evidence to recommend mothers avoid sleeping on their back in late pregnancy.’
Water-based exercise has been shown to be safe during pregnancy, largely due to the ‘elimination of gravity’ and ‘cushioned resistance to movement’.
To uncover how this affects a woman’s risk of a perineum tear, the researchers compared 65 expectant mothers who took part in an ‘aquatic exercise’ programme three times a week to 64 who did not.
The one-hour routine consisted of 45 minutes of aerobic activity and strength-endurance exercises specifically designed for pregnant women.
This was followed by a 15-minute wind-down of stretching.
After all the participants gave birth, the researchers evaluated their perineums for tears and evidence of a episiotomy.
Results revealed the women who exercised in water during pregnancy were 12.5 times more likely to have an intact perineum than those who did not.
The extent to which the participants gained weight while expecting did not affect their risk of tearing.
And the women who had previously given birth and did the water exercises were 9.1 times more likely to have an intact perineum.
The water-based activities also influenced the women’s need for pain relief.
The results further revealed 85.9 per cent of those who did not complete the aquatic programme used analgesics during labour compared to just 72.3 per cent of those who did the water routine.
However, there was no difference between the rate of episiotomies – a procedure to open up the vagina and make labour easier – in the different groups. The length of time in labour was also similar between all the participants.
The researchers hope their study will lead to water-based exercises being included in guidelines for pregnant women.
Future studies should uncover whether aquatic activities lead to outcomes like fewer medical appointments as a result of a ‘stronger’ perineum, they add.
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