Water aerobics has significant psychological benefits in pregnant woman however, it did not affect the quality of life (QOL) of the participants reports a study from Brazil.
Dr. Ana L Vallim of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medical Sciences, University of Campinas (UNICAMP), São Paulo, Brazil and her colleagues, along with her colleagues from Centre for Research in Reproductive Health of Campinas (CEMICAMP) undertook a study to evaluate the benefits of physical exercise program such as water aerobics on the quality of life (QOL) on sedentary pregnant women,
Concern with the quality of life of pregnant women in Brazil and other parts of the world has always been discussed. It is one of the points emphasized in the Program for the Humanization of Prenatal Care and Childbirth launched in 2000 in Brazil. However, there are few references in the literature on the role of either land or water-based physical exercise on women's quality of life during pregnancy.
It is well-known that pregnancy introduces physical and psychological changes into women's lives that may affect their individual perception of quality of life. The transformations women undergo during pregnancy may offer satisfaction and personal fulfilment; however, many women feel unattractive and heavy, and may also have difficulty with some movements and in performing routine activities.
The increase in body mass and its concentration in the upper body region result in greater mechanical load. The burden on the spine, principally in the lumbar segment, affects posture, balance and locomotion.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists state that pregnant women should be encouraged to engage in regular physical exercise programs of moderate intensity, a practice that has been shown to be safe and effective during pregnancy.
Various studies previously have indicated a series of benefits resulting from the practice of water aerobics by pregnant women such as, reduced impact on articulations, less edema, increased diuresis, a significant reduction in arterial pressure, an increase in the volume of amniotic fluid, less need for analgesia, control of body weight, less back pain, and a reduction in postpartum depression
In addition, psychological benefits such as improved well-being, satisfaction, self-confidence and body awareness have been reported. Therefore, practice of this type of exercise may be one of the resources available to enable women to enjoy a good or better quality of life during pregnancy.
For the study sixty six pregnant women with access to routine antenatal healthcare through a public health service were split up into two groups, one comprising of 35 women and the other of 31 women. The first group had access only to antenatal healthcare, whereas, the second group were additionally given three classes of water aerobics every week.
The study was performed on women who were low-risk pregnant, and bore a single fetus with gestational age less than 20 weeks at the time of admission. The end of the research period was 36 weeks of pregnancy.
The trial was performed in conjunction with a controlled, randomized clinical environment, to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of a program of water aerobics of moderate intensity for sedentary pregnant women with respect to the outcome of the pregnancy, maternal weight gain, physical capacity and maternal cardio-respiratory parameters during labor and childbirth.
Exclusion criteria consisted of women with a history of two or more Cesarean sections, women with neurological, cardiovascular, pulmonary, musculoskeletal or endocrine abnormalities confirmed by clinical and/or laboratory diagnosis, women with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, and those with any factor identified at the prenatal obstetrical evaluation as placing their health at risk.
QOL for both groups was evaluated by applying the WHOQOL-BREF questionnaire at the 20th, 28th and 36th weeks of pregnancy. On the same occasions, women also answered another questionnaire about their experience with pregnancy and antenatal care. At the end of the study it was seen that the great majority of the participants considered that the practice of water aerobics had benefited them in some way although QOL scores were found to be high in both groups during follow-up sessions.
There was, however, no statistically significant association between the practice of water aerobics and QOL.
The researchers found that the study was limited by small sample size, a uniform socio-cultural context, and one kind of instrument to evaluate the QOL of women during pregnancy. It was concluded that further studies involving larger sample sizes should be conducted in different socio-cultural contexts and/or using other instruments.