Swimming During Pregnancy: Benefits And Safety Tips

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Swimming is an excellent full-body exercise that aids in physical and mental relaxation. You may wish to continue swimming during pregnancy if you are regular at it. However, you may be concerned whether it is safe to practice swimming as a part of your pregnancy fitness regimen. This post helps you decide if this activity is fit to be a part of your physical activities during pregnancy, along with some safety tips and warning signs to look out for.

Is Swimming Safe During Pregnancy?

Yes, swimming is safe during pregnancy provided you take some precautionary measures (1). It helps you remain fit and feel better with the progressing body changes.

However, check with your healthcare provider, midwife or physiotherapist before you start swimming if it is new to you or you have a high-risk pregnancy.

What Are The Benefits Of Swimming?

Swimming is a form of aerobic exercise for strength training and pain rehabilitation. The various advantages of swimming during pregnancy are given below.

1. Provides relaxation

Swimming relieves stress and helps you relax

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Swimming balances cardiovascular and muscular strength, and thus, relieves you from stress. Like any other exercise, it stimulates the body to release endorphins, which help in lowering the perception of pain and give a positive feeling about your pregnancy (2).

2. Relieves swelling and pain

The growing uterus puts pressure on the body. But the natural buoyancy property of the water makes you feel light and weightless when you are swimming. It is helpful for those suffering from swollen joints and back pain as swimming strengthens the muscles around these affected joints and ligaments (3).

3. Improves cardiovascular condition

Stimulating the heart rate for a short time keeps the heart healthy. Swimming is a cardiovascular exercise that improves lung capacity and allows you to breathe easily (4). This can also contribute to your endurance in labor and reduce the chances of exhaustion.

4. Tones your body

Swimming involves groups of muscles in arms and legs and improves muscle tone. As you tend to gain weight during pregnancy, the muscles might lose their endurance, which could be regained by swimming (5). Toning your muscles by swimming in pregnancy can also reduce the length of your labor as your contractions can be more effective if your muscles are toned.

5. Protects from overheating

Swimming reduces heat and maintains a comfortable body temperature

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Your body temperature is naturally higher during pregnancy due to the increased blood supply to your skin, and also because of the heat generated by the baby’s metabolism. Swimming helps combat the heat and maintain a comfortable internal body temperature (6).

6. Helps baby take the right position

Swimming is believed to correct the baby’s position. It is found that swimming encourages breech babies to turn as the belly becomes lighter in water and allows your body to align naturally (7).

7. Prevents morning sickness

Swimming, especially in cold water, gives you quick relief from nausea and morning sickness that are very common in early pregnancy (8).

8. Improves labor and delivery

Swimming improves muscle tone, and increases endurance too, both of which are very helpful in pushing the baby out. Swimming also helps to keep your hip muscles stretched and flexible, which can also help labor to progress quicker and more efficiently.

9. Improves sleep

Swimming improves your sleep quality

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After swimming, you will feel relaxed, and therefore there is an improvement in your quality of sleep (9).

If your doctor allows, take up swimming during pregnancy. However, make sure you are following safety measures every time you go into the water.

10. Improves mental health

Staying active in pregnancy by swimming can improve your mental health and reduce the risk of you developing some postpartum mood disorders. Getting out of your home and interacting with other pregnant people during an aerobics class or free swim can also grow your network and group of friends able to be a support system for you after your baby arrives.

Safety Tips While Swimming During Pregnancy

Follow these precautionary measures while swimming (10) (11).

General tips

  • Find a pool near your home to avoid traveling and the resulting exhaustion.
  • Check if the water in the pool is chlorinated. Chlorination helps prevent water-borne illnesses. If the water is not chlorinated or you go swimming in a lake or the ocean, try not to ingest/swallow the water (which you shouldn’t do if the water is chlorinated either. Otherwise swimming in these places is also considered safe.
  • Wear comfortable and non-restrictive swimsuit.
Wear a comfortable swimsuit during pregnancy

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  • Use shades, flippers or floating devices. They provide support to your body when you are unable to swim.
  • Be cautious while walking on slippery surfaces.
  • Keep your breath steady and do not hold it as your baby requires a continuous supply of oxygen.
  • Listen to your body. If you start feeling any unusual pains or lightheadedness, consult your healthcare provider.
  • You might join pregnancy aqua aerobic classes organized by trained professionals.
  • Drink enough water at least two hours before swimming to keep yourself hydrated when exercising.
  • Prefer indoor pools to open pools to avoid sun radiation and overheating. If you choose to swim in an outdoor pool, be sure to wear waterproof sunscreen and reapply every two hours.
Choose indoor pools to avoid sun radiation and overheating

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  • Take some energy-filled snacks such as a toast, fruit or a bowl of cereal with milk as it helps improve your energy levels. Eat it at least half an hour before you swim, but be careful not to eat too much as a full stomach while swimming/exercising can cause uncomfortable cramping. Also, include a post-workout snack to regain the used up energy.

Swimming tips for the first trimester (8)

  • You might choose to swim early in the morning if you have enough energy. It relieves you from nausea and morning sickness and keeps you energetic throughout the day.
  • Swim for at least 20 minutes every day to reap the benefits.
  • Use pool equipment such as a kickboard or noodle for varying workouts.

Swimming tips for the second trimester

  • You may lie down on your back and practice backstroke without risking the blood flow.
  • Wear maternity swimsuit to make swimming simple and comfortable.

Swimming tips for the third trimester

  • Wear maternity swimsuit to accommodate the growing belly.
  • Use a snorkel to relieve pressure off your neck while you try to breathe.
  • Practice breaststroke as it lengthens chest muscles and reduces stress on the back muscles.
  • Avoid backstrokes as you near the due date.

The most important safety measure is to stop swimming if your body sends you any warning signs.

Warning Signs To Stop Swimming

Stop swimming if you experience the below issues:

  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Vaginal spotting
  • Fluid discharge
  • Uterine contractions
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

Also, you should avoid swimming if you had a history of any of the following:

  • Multiple miscarriages
  • Weak cervix
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Lung or heart ailments

Read on as we answer some of the most commonly asked questions on this topic.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it bad to swim in cold water when pregnant?

Yes, swimming in cold water could be risky as it could cause uterine contractions. The ideal water temperature is 78°F to 84°F (25.5°C to 29°C) (12).

2. Which stroke is the best for swimming during pregnancy?

Front crawl, freestyle, sidestroke, backstroke, and breaststroke are all suitable as long as you are comfortable.

3. Can pregnant women go swimming at the beach or in a river?

Yes, pregnant women can go swimming on the beach as long as they follow safety precautions. Swimming in the rivers keeps your body cool. Wherever you are swimming you need to make sure that the water is not contaminated.

Swimming during pregnancy is considered safe and an ideal form of exercise. It helps reduce stress and relieves aches and pains by strengthening muscles. Regular swimming prevents you from gaining excess weight during pregnancy, improves heart and lung functions, and results in better sleep. It may also reduce the severity of morning sickness and make childbirth easier. However, you must take care of your safety and identify signs such as weakness, abdominal pain, or vaginal discharge that make it unsafe for you to swim. It is advisable to check with your doctor before you start swimming when pregnant.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Juhl M et al.; Is swimming during pregnancy a safe exercise; Epidemiology (2010)
2. The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy to the Ageing Population; Mercer County Community College (MCCC)
3. Exercise During Pregnancy; Hospital for Special Surgery (2009)
4. Joy Murry; Advantages and Concerns of Aquatic Exercise for Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Patients; University of Wisconsin – River Falls (2015)
5. Lacey John; Pregnancy and Childbirth; Lecture Notes, Biology 203, Human Sexuality and Reproduction; The University of Arizona (2013)
6. Keep Cool: Hot-Weather Tips for Pregnant Women; University of Rochester Medical Center (2018)
7. Options For Breech Presentation; International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) (2014)
8. Stacey Chillemi; Epilepsy and Pregnancy: What Every Woman with Epilepsy Should Know; page 80
9. R. Rodriguez-Blanque et al.; The influence of physical activity in water on sleep quality in pregnant women: A randomised trial; Women and Birth Journal of the Australian College of Midwives (2018)
10. Exercising During Pregnancy; University of Illinois Hospital
11. Swimming and Water Safety; The American National Red Cross (2009)
12. Annex to the Model Aquatic Health Code Scientific Rationale (2016)
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Rebecca Malachi

Rebecca is a pregnancy writer and editor with a passion for delivering research-based and engaging content in areas of fertility, pregnancy, birth, and post-pregnancy. She did her graduation in Biotechnology and Genetics from Loyola Academy, Osmania University and obtained a certification in ‘Nutrition and Lifestyle in Pregnancy’ from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU). She has been into health and...
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Rebekkah Traptow

Rebekkah Traptow is a full spectrum Doula, specializing in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care. She manages the doula service Love First Maternal Support! True to her service’s name, she approaches her patients with love irrespective of their age, nationality, beliefs or background. With over 100 hours of pregnancy, birth and postpartum training, Rebekkah makes her clients feel loved, encouraged and...
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