Hydrotherapy Can Help Pregnant Women With Arthritis

By Rebecca Davey
Chief Executive Officer Arthritis ACT

For pregnant women with any form of arthritis, continuing hydrotherapy can be a vexed question with many pregnancy guides  advising against hot tubs, spas or saunas. However, these guides don’t generally discuss the benefits of hydrotherapy for people with arthritis.

Many women find their arthritis improves during  pregnancy. This is largely due to pregnancy hormones, which relax the ligaments around the joints to allow for childbirth.

All joints are affected, and this usually lasts for around 6 weeks after the baby is born. For women with systemic forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis, up to 70 percent will experience a significant improvement in symptoms during pregnancy. This holds true even if the mother stops taking arthritis-specific  medication, which is sometimes necessary  to ensure  the safety of mum and baby during  the pregnancy, birth and early postnatal period.

But for some women, withdrawing from this medication can lead to in increase in symptoms, particularly the pain they experience. Therefore hydrotherapy plays an important part in their lives during pregnancy.

Spas and saunas aren’t recommended during pregnancy, as the ambient air temperature is high and can lead your own body temperature to rise rapidly to a level that’s not safe for your baby. Hydrotherapy pools, however, are different.

The air temperature is significantly cooler than  the water temperature and you’re generally not fully immersed for long periods of time, which allows your body to regulate its temperature.

Research has shown that women who participate in moderate intensity aqua aerobics for 35 minutes, followed  by lower intensity exercise for 10 minutes, have a rise in body temperature of only 0.16  degrees Celsius in water  of up to 33.4  degrees Celsius.

The benefits  of hydrotherapy for arthritis have been  well researched and proven. As well as the positive effects on your joints and pain levels, hydrotherapy during pregnancy increases the blood  flow to the baby through the placenta while water  works to dissipate  exercise-induced body heat away from the body and into the water  at a faster rate than exercising in air.

It is also proven to reduce common pregnancy side effects such as carpal tunnel syndrome, swelling in the ankles and varicose veins.

It is important to discuss your exercise regime with your midwife, GP, obstetrician and/or  rheumatologist, as everyone’s bodies  are different. It is also important to make sure you are comfortable and not feeling too hot during  any exercise in pregnancy, and always ensure when undertaking any exercise that  you have a bottle of water handy and keep yourself well hydrated.