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Is It Safe To Swim During Pregnancy?

Falling pregnant changes a lot. Suddenly your time is consumed by scans, check ups and baby-proofing the house, all while anticipating your new arrival. It pretty much flips your life upside down. However, having a baby doesn’t mean your exercise regime has to come to a halt.

Doctors once suggested that pregnant women should put their feet up and take it easy, but a lot has changed since then. It’s now recommended to continue exercising during pregnancy for as long as you feel comfortable doing so. NHS England reports that regular exercise is not dangerous for you or your baby, unless specified by your doctor. They claim that: “there is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour.”

Remaining consistent with exercise can lead to some serious benefits for pregnant women, however, is swimming a safe workout option?

The short answer is: yes. However, there are some things to look out for. For most pregnant women, swimming is a great form of gentle exercise. Swimming can be done regularly up until your due date and can result in some serious benefits for pregnant women.

This article will outline:

  • The benefits of swimming during pregnancy
  • Tips for prenatal mothers choosing to swim
  • Things to avoid while swimming during pregnancy

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Benefits of swimming during pregnancy:

Improves sleep

Many pregnant women find it difficult to sleep, particularly during the first and third trimesters. Sleepless nights are commonly caused by nausea, heartburn, or that rather large baby bump that keeps getting in the way.

Maintaining a moderate exercise routine for as long as you feel comfortable can help encourage sleep. Swimming is a particularly useful exercise for this. Swimmers can burn anywhere between 300 and 700 calories an hour, depending on intensity. The more energy a person uses during exercise, the more tired they will feel. 30 minutes of low intensity swimming can encourage better sleep. However, if you weren’t a regular swimmer before pregnancy, it may be safer to gradually build up to this. Start small and gradually increase your time or intensity to avoid burnout.

Manages weight gain

Weight gain during pregnancy is inevitable, however it isn’t unusual for women to gain more weight than necessary. Pregnant women usually feel the need to “eat for two”. In reality, you only need around 300 healthy calories more, per day. This idea, paired with constant cravings can lead to gaining more weight than needed.

Depending on the intensity, swimming can burn between 300 and 700 calories within an hour, compared to only 150 to 300 calories burned an hour during a brisk walk. Aerobic exercises, such as swimming, are a great way to work your whole body.

Although doctors recommend regular exercise throughout pregnancy, women may not feel comfortable taking part in strenuous activities due to an increase in their body temperature. Increased blood flow can make prenatal women prone to excess sweating. It’s likely you will feel a lot warmer during a workout than you were used to pre-pregnancy. Swimming is a great, alternative way of working out as the cold water will cool your body temperature.

Reduces stress

Pregnancy is an extremely stressful experience for a woman to go through. Waiting for your baby to arrive along with the stress of everyday life can be a lot to handle. Your emotions will also be running high due to an increase in hormones. Some experts state that: “prolonged bouts of severe stress can negatively impact a pregnancy, causing complications like preterm birth, low birth weight, and even sleep and behavioural disorders in young children.” Reducing stress wherever possible is essential.

Swimming is an excellent exercise to reduce stress and benefit your mental health. Regular exercise releases endorphins that interact with receptors in the brain and trigger a positive feeling. This significantly reduces the feeling of pain and stress. Anxiety UK recognises that physical activity is proven to lead to a “30% improvement in self-worth, increasing general satisfaction in life.” Regular swimming sessions are likely to benefit prenatal women’s mental health, in term also benefiting the health of their baby.

Improves labour experience

Swimming is a low impact exercise that can boost cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular exercises, like swimming, get your heart pumping, boost blood circulation, loosen joints, improves oxygen levels in the blood and strengthens all muscles.

Cardiovascular endurance will help when pushing during labour and could even reduce the time spent in labour. A study conducted by Professor Ruben Baraka monitored 508 healthy women during pregnancy. Half of the women in the experiment were provided with regular aerobic exercises to take part in throughout their pregnancy. Results found that: “the expectant mothers who had partaken in aerobic workouts during their pregnancies were more likely to spend less time in labour than the women who hadn’t.” They were also less likely to use an epidural during labour.

Reduces morning sickness

While diving into an icy pool is something most people dread when going swimming, the sensation of cool water can be very beneficial for pregnant women.

For some women, morning sickness can be relieved by being submerged in cool water. It could be down to the overall health benefits that staying active brings or the relaxing motion of swimming strokes. There’s no hard science behind it and there’s no guarantee it’ll work for everyone. Every woman has different tricks for keeping the dreaded nausea at bay – it’s definitely worth giving it a go!

The cool sensation of being in a swimming pool can also prevent overheating. During pregnancy, a woman’s respiratory rate significantly increases and body temperature rises. Pregnant women may find they’re particularly uncomfortable during summer months due to the hot weather combined with increased body temperature. Cooling off with a dip in the pool is likely to be welcomed.

Gentle on joints and muscles

Pregnant women are more susceptible to injuries such as sprains when exercising. Prenatal women produce a hormone called relaxin, which is at its highest level during the first trimester. Relaxin allows your uterus and pelvis to expand during the third trimester, preparing the body for childbirth by relaxing the ligaments. This can put strain on joints of your lower back and pelvis.

Swimming is the perfect exercise for prenatal women to regularly take part in. The low intensity nature of the activity reduces the risk of bone injuries in comparison to running or weight lifting. The weightlessness of swimming also reduces strain on the body, particularly the back, by elevating some of the pressure from your body.

Swimming tips for pregnant women:

  1. Start small – if you weren’t a frequent swimmer before pregnancy, it may be best to work your way up to a full swimming session. Take regular breaks while swimming and begin at a low intensity.
  2. Private swimming lessons – while swimming is considered a safe way to workout while pregnant, it is important to ensure you are supervised at all times and are given the right advice from professionals. Private lessons also allow you to avoid peak times, ensuring you are comfortable throughout your session.

Things to avoid:

Over-exhausting yourself

Carrying a baby is exhausting enough, without taking into consideration the stress of everyday life, preparing for the future and trying to maintain a regular exercise regime. Although swimming can have many benefits for pregnant women, it is important to ensure you don’t over do it. You should leave the swimming pool feeling as though you still have the energy to do more. 30 minutes of swimming, three times a week, is recommended, but this may not be manageable for all. Consider private swimming lessons with an instructor that will know your limits and create a personalised routine for you.

Hot tubs

Some swimming facilities may have hot tubs available for their swimmers, but it’s recommended that pregnant women avoid hot bodies of water. Healthline suggests that: “it is important for your temperature not to rise above 102.2°F (39°C) as your baby is growing inside you.” Hot baths aren’t necessarily as dangerous. Hot tubs should be avoided as “a rise in body temperature due to being submerged in hot water could result in abnormalities at birth or potential miscarriage.”

Swimming is generally considered a safe exercise for most prenatal women to take part in throughout all three trimesters and can lead to some serious benefits. Taking part in private swimming lessons is the best way to experience the full benefits of the activity. Find your nearest Swim Now location here, for supervised sessions and expert advice.

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by Alistair Mills

In 2016 I saw an opportunity for a new swimming company that did things a little bit differently and here we are almost 4 years later, having built a family of teachers and clients that we are all really proud of.

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