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Water Immersion to Reduce Peripheral Edema in Pregnancy

Irion, Jean M. EdD, PT, SCS, ATC; Irion, Glenn L. PhD, PT, CWS

Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy: May/August 2011 - Volume 35 - Issue 2 - p 46–49
doi: 10.1097/JWH.0b013e318225f18a
Research Reports

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of water immersion as a means of reducing peripheral edema during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy.

Background: Peripheral edema is a common complaint during pregnancy and is associated with a number of activity limitations. Common interventions for edema include elevation and use of compression hose. Immersion in water represents another potential intervention to eliminate or minimize some of the functional limitations associated with peripheral edema during pregnancy.

Study Design: Thirty-two pregnant women in at least their 34th weeks of a normally progressing pregnancy were assigned randomly to either standing water immersion (16) or to sitting upright in a chair with legs elevated at poolside (16). Subjects in the water group (W) were immersed up to the xiphoid process for 20 minutes in a swimming pool (85–90°F). Subjects in the land group (L) sat in a chair with both feet elevated for 20 minutes. Changes in right foot volume were quantified by foot volumetry immediately pre- and post-intervention.

Results: Right foot volume decreased 38 ± 18 mL (mean ± SD) for W and increased 2 ± 14 mL for L (P < .001 for between groups).

Conclusions: Water immersion for 20 minutes is an effective means of decreasing pedal edema during pregnancy.

Department of Physical Therapy, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama.

This project was funded by a grant from the Section on Women's Health-APTA.

Copyright © 2011 Section on Women's Health, American Physical Therapy Association
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