Kroc Center Peripartum water class + how to fuel your body for a healthy pregnancy

Apr 27, 2023 | by Joanna Foley, RD

Whether you are currently pregnant, hope to become so, or are recently postpartum, it is so important to take care of your body in order to promote the best health and birth experience for both you and your child.


As a registered dietitian and recently postpartum mother myself, I prioritize health by being physically active and by nourishing my body with nutritious foods. When I learned about the KROC center’s peri-partum water therapy class, I knew that it would be a good fit for my lifestyle. Here’s all you need to know about what this class is, my experience taking it, as well as what the best foods are for pregnancy so you can take care of your body both inside and out.


What is the peripartum water class?


The peripartum water class is an aquatics group exercise class that focuses on mobility and conditioning, with an emphasis in pelvic health alongside core and lower body work. It was specially created for women who are wanting to become pregnant, are currently pregnant, as well as postpartum mothers. However, women from all stages can also take this class.


I showed up to my first class on a weekday late afternoon. I appreciated that the timing was after normal work hours so that I could leave my two young children at home with my husband and go and do something that prioritized my own health and wellbeing. The class was held in an indoor pool that was heated to just the right temperature to be comfortable without overheating. I joined the class with just a few other women, ranging in age. Some were currently pregnant, while others were either postpartum, desiring to become pregnant, or were simply there for a low-impact workout.


The instructor was warm and friendly, and I learned that she was a certified physical therapist who had a passion for women’s health. She put on some fun and upbeat music and invited us into the pool for the hour-long class. We started with a gentle warm-up, followed by a variety of exercises that focused on pelvic health, including breathing, movement and conditioning drills that worked both the upper and lower body and were designed for all stages of the pregnancy journey.


Since about one in three women will experience a pelvic floor disorder in her lifetime, the focus of this class was highly relevant. Pelvic floor disorders are especially common in postpartum women who had a vaginal birth, since pelvic muscles and tissues can weaken during pregnancy and are strained during childbirth.


Thankfully, research has shown that doing exercises to help strengthen and train the pelvic-floor before, during, and after pregnancy can help prevent pelvic-floor dysfunction. This made this peripartum water class all the more beneficial.


As I followed along through the exercises, I took comfort knowing that I was doing my part to support the physical health of my ever-changing body. The class was a perfect balance between relaxing yet challenging enough to really feel and experience my body at work. We jogged, bounced, kicked, and pushed our way through the water using our own body weight and the natural resistance of the water. The instructor also provided the use of kickboards and optional water dumbbells for a few of the exercises. I enjoyed being able to chat with some of the other women while also getting a gentle workout in, and left the class feeling accomplished.


Along with physical activity, the time periods before, during, and after pregnancy are also a crucial time for optimal nutrition for both mom and baby. So in addition to physically preparing your body for labor and delivery, it’s essential to be eating the right foods.


Best foods for pregnancy


Since nutrient needs increase significantly during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it is so important to be eating a variety of nutritious foods to help fuel and nourish both yourself and your rapidly developing baby.


Here are some of the best foods to eat before, during, and after pregnancy:

  1. Lots of produce, including leafy greens. There’s a good reason why it is recommended to get at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of antioxidants, B vitamins, fiber, vitamin C, and many minerals which are all essential for a woman’s and her growing baby’s health. Leafy green veggies in particular are one of the best sources of folate, which plays a crucial role in the baby’s brain and nerve health and protects against certain types of anemia.

  2. Eggs. Eggs are a versatile and nutrient-dense food that can be eaten any time of day. The whites contain satisfying protein, while the egg yolk provides essential B vitamins, iron, vitamin D, and more. Eggs are also a great source of choline, which is important for a developing baby’s brain, and DNA production. Eating the whole egg is the best way to receive these nutrients and health benefits.

  3. Low mercury seafood. Not all fish are off limits! In fact, the FDA suggests eating between 8-12 ounces of low mercury seafood per week during pregnancy.  This is because some fish, like salmon and chunk-light or skipjack tuna, are a great source of nutrients, including omega-3 essential fatty acids. DHA, which is a type of omega-3 fat, is crucial for brain and eye development, and may even help prevent brain and mood disorders after birth, such as ADHD and autism. Seafood is also a great source of other essential nutrients like selenium, protein, and iodine.


It is still important to limit your intake of high mercury seafood like shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, but you can safely enjoy many others including salmon, chunk light or skipjack tuna, shrimp, tilapia, and cod.

  1. Legumes. This includes beans, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts. These are a good source of plant-based protein, and also contain nutrients like fiber, iron, and folate. The pregnant body needs higher amounts of each of these nutrients, so eating legumes is a great way to help reach the recommended amounts.

  2. Fermented dairy products. This includes many types of yogurt as well as kefir. These provide the nutritional benefits of dairy, Dairy products are a good source of the nutrients calcium, potassium, protein, B vitamins, iodine, and many of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fermented dairy products have the added benefit of providing a natural source of probiotics, which support healthy digestion, a strong immune system, and may also reduce the risk of preterm birth. It is best to choose low or full-fat dairy without a lot of added sugar.

  3. Whole grains. Foods like oats, quinoa, brown rice, and products made from whole wheat flour are all types of whole grains. They provide a rich source of fiber as well as B vitamins and magnesium. These nutrients all play a role in nourishing a woman’s body while also helping support a healthy digestive system. 


In addition to eating these foods, it is always a good idea to be taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin at least a few months before becoming pregnant and to continue all throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.


In summary


Supporting your body with healthy foods and doing the right types of exercises can make a big difference in the health of your body, your baby, and the type of labor and delivery you have. Strengthening your pelvic floor through exercises like the peripartum water therapy class and eating nutritious foods like low mercury seafood, produce, and legumes can help ensure you have a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby.


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