Exercise during pregnancy has positive health benefits for both mother & baby but can be challenging during later stages or if pain arises. Water based exercise including walking, stretches & some swimming can be the ideal solution.
Some advantages of water-based therapy:
• The buoyancy of the water relieves the pressure on the musculoskeletal system, as body weight is decreased by around 70% when standing in chest-deep water! Water also allows women to adopt positions not usually possible or comfortable while on land, such as floating on their back or tummy. Even one session a week of water-based exercise can help relieve symptoms of low back pain in pregnant women.
• The hydrostatic pressure in the water can boost blood flow to the uterus as well as reduce high blood pressure and maternal heart rate. It is also similar to wearing compression tights, helping to reduce swelling in the lower limbs.
• Water is a great thermoregulator. During pregnancy it is important to avoid overheating and gentle exercising in water assists the core temperature to stay within normal range. This protects the foetus from overheating which can cause birth defects. Recent research has found that it is safe for women to exercise comfortably (not high exertion) in water up to 32oC
Some tips for safe water-based exercise during pregnancy:
• Always check with your doctor or midwife before starting a new exercise program in water. It is not recommended for some pregnant women, such as those with pre-eclampsia
• Monitor your breathing. You should avoid excessive breathlessness and exercise at a level where you can still comfortably continue a conversation
• Be careful when exiting the pool, using ramps where possible. Post-immersion orthostatic hypotension can cause dizziness when exiting the water.
• If you have pelvic girdle pain avoid exercises on one leg and keep movements at the hips small
• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration