Advantages of Aquatic Exercise During Pregnancy


April 21, 2011

By Karen Woodman, Obstetrics PT

I love to take advantage of our large therapy pool for treating pregnant patients. Why? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends immersion as one of the most effective forms of exercise during pregnancy. ACOG states there have been no reports of harm to the fetus during aquatic exercise.

Benefits include:

  • Buoyancy: The belly floats relieving pressure and pain in the groin and back with immersion. Usually exercise in the pool is pain-free.
  • Hydrostatic pressure: Are your feet and ankles swollen? The hydrostatic pressure of the water pushes edema (extra fluid) right back into your cardiovascular system reducing swelling.
  • Decreased weight-bearing: Working at hip level in the water takes 30% of the pressure off your spine, while working at chest level reduces gravitational pressure by 60%!
  • Thermodynamics: Your body temperature adjusts 25 times faster to water temperature than air reducing the risk of overheating. During pregnancy, your core body temperature (usually 98.6°F) can increase quickly during exercise to dangerous levels with associated risk of fetal deformities. Our pool temperature averages 88°F, warm enough for a comfortable workout while cool enough to be safe for exercise.
  • Resistance: Water provides gentle resistance in all directions, challenging your balance and building muscle with every step. The harder you work, and the deeper the water, the greater the resistance.
  • Hemodynamics: Immersion immediately lowers maternal blood pressure and heart rate promoting cardiovascular fitness. Studies suggest immersion also decreases risk of increased fetal heart rate during exercise.