Swimming During Pregnancy – Is it Safe?

Swimming During Pregnancy – Is it Safe?

Although it may feel as if everything is restricted while you’re pregnant, the good news is that when it comes to swimming, you won’t face any barriers. You’re no doubt already aware that staying fit, healthy, and getting some gentle exercise is important at any time, but it’s especially true when you’re expecting.

Swimming can have a big part to play in that. In fact, it’s one of the best forms of exercise for pregnant women since it can really help to reduce the burden of the extra weight you’re carrying around with you.

Why Go Swimming While I’m Pregnant?

The average pregnant woman gains around 25lbs over the whole nine months, and that can prove to be a major deterrent to exercise. Who on Earth wants to go for a jog or take a dance class when you’re carrying all those extra pounds?

The good thing about swimming, though, is that when you’re in the water you weigh only 1/10th of your weight on land. You’ll feel light and limber while you bob around in the pool, and that can make swimming during pregnancy not only a great way to work out, but also a real pleasure, especially as the months go on.

Benefits of Swimming While Pregnant

Experts recommend that pregnant women do at least 30 minutes of exercise most days or every day. Swimming is one of the gentlest ways to work towards this goal since it won’t aggravate your joints, which naturally loosen during pregnancy. Swimming helps to relieve tired joints and muscles and offers a host of other excellent benefits.

Relieves Swelling

When you submerge your legs in water, fluids are pushed back into the veins from the tissues where they can go to the kidneys and out via your urine. This helps to reduce swelling in your lower limbs while also boosting circulation which helps to stop the blood from pooling in your legs and feet.

Eases Sciatic Pain

When you’re in the water your baby is floating too, and this means that the pressure is lifted from the sciatic nerve. If you’ve been suffering from sciatic pain as a result of the baby pressing down on this nerve, swimming can help to relieve it and bring you temporary comfort.

Reduces Morning Sickness

if you’ve been suffering from vomiting and nausea, especially in early pregnancy, swimming in cool water can bring you some welcome relief.

Staying Cool

When you’re pregnant, your sweat glands go into overdrive and it can be difficult to stay cool, particularly on hot days. Taking a swim in cool water can be very helpful.

Eases Labor

When you swim, your muscle tone is maintained and your endurance increases. Both of these things can be invaluable when you go into labor.

How Do I Stay Safe When I’m Swimming During Pregnancy?

a pregnant woman by a pool wearing a swimsuit and suffering from the heat

Although swimming is generally safe and, indeed, even recommended by medical experts during pregnancy, it’s still important to make sure you take steps to avoid any pitfalls. Here are some tips to help you remain as safe as possible while you’re in the water.

Check the Water

If you’re going to be swimming in a lake or other small body of water, make sure you do your research first.  You don’t want to be exposed to water-borne illnesses. It’s best to only swim in a properly-chlorinated swimming pool for your own safety.

Avoid Recreational Water Illnesses

Unfortunately, bacteria and germs can easily spread in even a public pool. Make sure to avoid swallowing any water or getting any in your mouth while you swim, and always dry your ears thoroughly after exiting the water. This will help you to avoid catching any recreational water illnesses.

Steer Clear of Hot Tubs

Although relaxing in a hot tub sounds like a wonderful way to bring comfort to your tired, pregnant body, if you spend over 10 minutes in the hot water, your body temperature can rise above 101 degrees Fahrenheit and this can increase your chance of your baby developing neural tube defects, and spinal cord and brain abnormalities, particularly during the first 4 – 6 weeks of your pregnancy. You could also be putting yourself at an increased risk of miscarriage.

Even a standard swimming pool may be too warm for use during pregnancy. You shouldn’t swim if the water temperature is over 32 degrees Celsius. If there’s no sign at the pool to indicate the temperature, ask a staff member to find out for you.

Watch Where You Step

Your growing stomach can disturb your natural center of gravity, and this means you need to take extra care while you’re walking on uneven or slippery surfaces in locker rooms and on pool decks. Slips and falls could be dangerous for you and your baby. Don’t dive into the water as the impact could be risky. Take care to slide or step carefully into the water instead.

Stay Hydrated

Although you won’t feel as if you’re sweating when you’re swimming, you still do and this could put you at risk of overheating. You can avoid this by staying well-hydrated. Drink a bottle of water around 2 hours before getting into the pool and put a bottle of water at the edge of the pool so you can sip from it throughout your swimming session.

Stay Energized

Even before you work out, you’ll require around 300 additional calories every day to sustain your pregnancy during your second trimester and an additional 500 calories a day during your third. Therefore, when you’re swimming, you’ll need some healthy snacks to keep you energized.

Eat some toast, fruit or cereal with milk to fuel you up around 30 minutes before working out and then enjoy a post-swimming protein-rich snack after, such as a pot of Greek yogurt or a turkey sandwich.

Which Swimming Stroke is Best During Pregnancy?

In general, all swimming strokes are perfectly safe during pregnancy, but you should choose one that feels comfortable and that you enjoy. If you alternate between floating on your back and swimming on your front, you’ll get a good workout all-round but be careful to avoid arching your back and remember to kick your legs gently.

If you’re experiencing pelvic pain you may find breaststroke uncomfortable. Your midwife or doctor may be able to give you a referral for physiotherapy and after treatment, many women discover that breaststroke is comfortable again.

What Can I Wear to Swim During Pregnancy?

If your old one-piece swimsuit no longer fits due to your expanding bump, you could switch to a bikini. A two-piece will allow your stomach to be free to grow without any restriction. If you’re too self-conscious to reveal your stomach, though, a tankini is an ideal alternative. It will give you a little extra coverage without restriction.

There are also plenty of specially designed maternity swimsuits available both in stores and online, so you shouldn’t have any difficulty in finding something to wear to get into the water.

How Can I Exercise Safely in the Water While Pregnant?

Whether you’re a regular swimmer or you rarely take to the water, going swimming during pregnancy is usually safe and an excellent way to stay active while expecting. Swimming in chlorinated pools won’t cause you or your baby any harm, and it’s usually completely safe to swim right through your pregnancy from the first to the end of the third trimester.

It’s important, though, to avoid over-exerting yourself, even if you’re an experienced and seasoned swimmer. Start off slowly, gradually working up to longer 30-minute sessions. Also, remember to warm up before swimming then gradually cool down after. You should never get out of the water feeling completely exhausted.

If you’re a beginner swimmer, you may be able to find a gym that has a pool and which offers water aerobics classes specifically tailored to meet the needs of expectant mothers. If you’d rather swim laps, though, try to complete only as many as feels comfortable, working slowly up to half an hour of swimming or three or four days each week.

Don’t try to rush things and stick to a steady, moderate pace. You should never feel breathless. If you feel as if you couldn’t have a comfortable conversation, you’re over-exerting yourself and should slow down.

Safe Pregnancy Swimming Workouts

Since swimming laps often gets a bit dull, there are a few swim exercises you can try to beat the boredom. Choose your 3 favorites, then do ten minutes of each to complete your 30-minute workout:

  • Crawl and stroke – swim a length doing breaststroke then swim the length back using crawl/freestyle.
  • Double backstroke – do 2 lengths of backstroke but rather than switching arms each time, do two strokes with one arm before switching to the other.
  • Slow then sprint – alternate between a lap of your favorite stroke as fast as you can then one at a slower pace.
  • Practice frog and flutter kicks – get a kick board then flutter kick for one lap and frog kick one lap back.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced swimmer and your doctor says that you can continue at your usual level you can carry on with your usual workouts even when your bump has grown. The key, though, is to avoid breathlessness as this indicates your baby is also struggling too.

Advanced Pregnancy Swimming Workouts

Advanced swimmers may set a goal of a 2000 yard swim (the equivalent to 80 laps of a 25 yard pool). If you choose to do this, use your favorite stroke if you wish, or alternate between different strokes. Try some of the options below:

  • Do 5 100 yard sets (i.e. 4 laps) using a moderate swimming pace and taking 10 – 20 seconds of rest between sets. Once you’re done rest then stretch for 1 minute.
  • Do 6 50 yard sets (i.e 2 laps) focusing throughout on your form and resting for 20 – 30 seconds in between sets. When you’re finished, rest for one minute.
  • Do 10 100 yard sets (i.e. 4 laps) focusing throughout on your speed. Try to aim for an 8 if you were working on a 1 – 10 scale. In between each set rest for 10 – 30 seconds and when you’ve completed all four laps, rest for one minute.
  • Use a kickboard to do four laps, only kicking then put aside the kickboard and swim for another 4 laps using a slower pace so you can effectively cool down.

Are There Any Other Ways to Exercise in Water?

If you love the idea of exercising in the water but don’t particularly relish the idea of going for a swim, you may prefer aquanatal classes. These classes are specifically designed to meet the needs of pregnant women and they also have a social element that many women enjoy.

Usually, aquanatal classes include:

  • Advice about posture and exercising
  • Warm up sessions at the start of each class
  • Aerobic workouts
  • Strength exercises
  • Tips to improve breathing awareness
  • Stretches

Often, the exercises are done to music. They represent a fun way to get your 30 minutes per day of exercise.

How Do I Know When I Should Stop Swimming?

Even if you were pretty fit before you got pregnant, swimming is often hard work when you’re expecting. Experiencing some aches and pains in the water is normal when you take into account that you’re carrying a large bump around.

At the end of the day, you’re the best person to judge your own limits. If you feel short of breath, experience sharp pains, feel faint, experience any vaginal bleeding, feel dizzy, have uterine contractions, find your baby isn’t moving as much or at all, or you have any other concerns, stop swimming straight away and visit your doctor. Also, it isn’t safe to swim after your waters have broken or if your doctor has told you to avoid this type of exercise.

Final Thoughts

Although swimming is generally considered to be safe in pregnancy, some women who suffer from particular medical conditions or who have experienced certain pregnancy complications may be advised to avoid the water. You should, therefore, always discuss your situation with your medical practitioner, particularly if you’re changing your usual exercise plan or are suffering from any pregnancy-related or medical conditions.