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Swimming During Pregnancy: Different Strokes For Different Moms

Should You Swim While Pregnant?

Swimming is a great way to relax and stay fit when you’re pregnant. It can also reduce pregnancy symptoms like back pain or water retention. Just ensure the water is clean so you don’t catch recreational water illnesses or expose yourself to problematic pool disinfectant byproducts. A little care can help you make the most of this low-impact aerobic workout.

Now that you have a baby on board, are you wondering if swimming is off the cards? If you are a water baby who can’t bear to miss a day at the pool, there’s some good news. Whether you are in your first trimester or edging into your last one, swimming is a safe exercise to indulge in – with some caveats. Here’s why swimming could be a great way for you to stay fit and exercise when you have a baby on board. Also pick up tips on precautions to do this safely.

Regular aerobic exercise is recommended for anyone who wants a healthy lifestyle. And pregnancy is a time like no other, with your health also impacting the health of another little life on board. While you can choose from a variety of aerobic exercises like walking, running, dancing, or even aerobics, swimming is a low-impact cardio workout that is easy on your joints and on your baby when you’re pregnant but still burns plenty of calories.

Swimming can improve your endurance, helping you carry the extra weight with more ease and making you stronger for labor. It can also help boost your mood and ease stress from those hormones bouncing all over the place during pregnancy.1

In addition, researchers have noted specific benefits for pregnant women from water-based exercises like swimming. Have a look:2

  • Lower edema or water retention
  • Increased urine production
  • Significant decrease in blood pressure in arteries
  • Increased volume of amniotic fluid
  • Reduced requirement for pain medication
  • Better control over body weight
  • Reduced back pain during pregnancy
  • Reduced incidence of postpartum depression
  • Reduced gestational diabetes risk3

But Avoid Swimming If You Have Pregnancy Complications

If you’ve had a history of miscarriages or early labor, or have experienced a weakened cervix or ruptured membranes with prior pregnancies, check with your doctor if you need to avoid swimming. The level of activity could be too strenuous for your body. This is especially important for women in their first and last trimesters.

Of course, anyone who has been advised bed rest or minimal movement or activity or has a complicated pregnancy should avoid swimming or get a clean chit from their doctor before getting into the pool for a workout or swim. If you have placental complications, cervical insufficiency, or preeclampsia, you should give swimming a miss.4

Be On The Guard Against Water-Borne Infections While Swimming

In addition, another area of concern stems from the quality of water in which you plan to swim. Stagnant water bodies are a magnet for germs of all manner. Swimming in a lake can be great but you do run the risk of exposing yourself to germs and bacteria if the area isn’t clean. With a swimming pool that’s well maintained the water is constantly cleaned, though there are some who prefer fresh natural water sources to the clinical surroundings of a swimming pool.

The CDC in the United States warns against what are known as recreational water illnesses (RWIs), contracted when you inhale, swallow, or come in contact with water that is contaminated while you are swimming. Those who have compromised immune systems are more at risk.5 As someone who’s pregnant, it is therefore vital that you choose a really clean water body to do your swimming in.

Choose Leaner Periods In The Pool To Avoid Pool Disinfectant Reactions

Some concerns have been raised that the byproducts of disinfectants used to clean pools may present a problem for pregnant women. Specifically, the trihalomethanes (THMs) produced when chlorine interacts with the skin cells, organic matter, and skin care products in the water. Fears around them causing urinary tract or neural tube defects, low birth weight, and miscarriage are rampant though not established. One group of researchers studying the phenomenon concluded that there was no direct association between swimming and adverse reproductive outcomes like preterm births, congenital problems, small size of the growing baby, or other poor growth indicators of the fetus.6

Swim when the pool is less crowded both for the THMs to be lower and to avoid getting bumped by other swimmers.

But if this has you worried, there is a way around this problem. One study found that the levels of THMs in swimming pools correlated with how many people were in the pool as well as the temperature of the water. The more people in the pool, the more the organic matter and the higher the THMs. Warmer water temperature was also linked to higher THMs.7 So if you’re trying to avoid exposure to THMs, pick a time of day when the water is likely to be cleaner and less littered with organic matter or have more people.

Follow These Safety Tips And Precautions For Swimming While Pregnant

Once you’ve taken adequate precautions, it’s time for a refreshing round of swimming! Here are some simple tips to ensure you have a swim that’s satisfying and safe:8

  • Use non-slip footwear at the pool so you don’t risk slipping.
  • Use sunscreen since your skin may already be sensitive at this time with the possibility of dark patches or spots called mask of pregnancy.
  • Never jump or dive into a pool. Lower yourself in gently from the ladders.
  • Avoid letting your heart rate exceed the 140 beats a minute mark.
  • Swim in water that’s at a temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or less. Anything higher and you may run the risk of fetal hyperthermia which may harm the baby.

Avoid swimming too much or too hard. Stick to gentler strokes like freestyle or the breaststroke rather than the butterfly stroke. Warm up gently before you start.

Besides swimming, water aerobics, aqua zumba, or just walking in the water can make for a great low-impact aerobic workout that’s easy on painful joints. This is especially good for later in your pregnancy when you’re feeling too heavy and bulky to properly work out on land. The water adds buoyancy and makes you feel light and more limber and you don’t run the risk of hurting yourself on a hard floor should you slip. So even if you feel you’ve had two left feet and couldn’t do zumba, doing an aqua fitness class may be a very different experience. Go ahead and try whatever feels good to you!

References   [ + ]

1. Swimming – health benefits. Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia.
2. Vallim, Ana L., Maria J. Osis, José G. Cecatti, Érica P. Baciuk, Carla Silveira, and Sérgio R. Cavalcante. “Water exercises and quality of life during pregnancy.” Reproductive health 8, no. 1 (2011): 14.
3, 4, 8. Water Exercise for Pregnant Women. Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.
5. Parasites, Water. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
6. Juhl, Mette, Manolis Kogevinas, Per Kragh Andersen, Anne-Marie Nybo Andersen, and Jørn Olsen. “Is swimming during pregnancy a safe exercise?.” Epidemiology 21, no. 2 (2010): 253-258.
7. Chu, H., and M. J. Nieuwenhuijsen. “Distribution and determinants of trihalomethane concentrations in indoor swimming pools.” Occupational and Environmental Medicine 59, no. 4 (2002): 243-247.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.