Is swimming during pregnancy safe for mothers-to-be?

A woman swimming while pregnant

When the temperature rises, a lot of people like to swim to cool down. This water workout is great as it engages multiple muscles of your body. But if you are expecting a baby, you may wonder if it is safe to continue swimming during pregnancy. It is an exercise after all, and expecting moms need to be careful while picking a physical activity during this phase of life. There could also be be concerns about the presence of chlorine in the pool. So, we asked experts if if swimming while pregnant is a good idea or not.

Is swimming safe for pregnant women?

Swimming is one of the safest exercises during pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Water workouts, including swimming, use many of the body’s muscles. The water supports weight of the person, so injury and muscle strain can be avoided.

Swimming is excellent for pregnant women. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Swimming is a low-impact exercise which is excellent for pregnant women. It helps strengthen muscles, improves cardiovascular fitness, and can alleviate common pregnancy discomforts such as back pain and swelling, says gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Vinatha Puli. Water-based exercises like swimming can also help reduce swelling in the legs and improve circulation, which can be particularly beneficial during pregnancy. You can swim for 30 minutes, but take breaks if needed.

Is it okay to swim in chlorine while pregnant?

Chlorine is commonly used in swimming pools to disinfect and maintain water quality. The presence of chlorine in pool water can sometimes raise concerns about potential health effects, especially during pregnancy. While swimming in a chlorinated pool, pregnant women may inhale or absorb small amounts of chlorine through the skin. But chlorine exposure from swimming are generally considered safe, and is unlikely to cause harm to the baby. Swimming in pool water was not associated with adverse reproductive outcomes in pregnant women during a 2010 study published in the Epidemiology journal.

If you are still worried about chlorine exposure, take these precautions before swimming in a pool during pregnancy:

  • Choose well-maintained swimming pools.
  • Shower before and after swimming to remove chlorine residues from your skin.
  • Wear a swim cap and goggles to reduce exposure of hair and eyes to chlorinated water.

When to stop swimming?

The decision of when to stop swimming during pregnancy depends on individual circumstances and any specific medical considerations. In general, swimming is a safe and beneficial exercise for most pregnant women throughout all stages of pregnancy, including the third trimester, says Dr Puli. However, there are some situations where it may be better to stop swimming or modify your activity:

1. Medical advice

Always consult with your doctor before continuing or discontinuing any exercise routine during pregnancy, including swimming. Your doctor can provide personalised guidance based on your health, and pregnancy progression.

2. Physical comfort

As pregnancy progresses, physical changes such as increased weight and changes in balance may affect your comfort and ability to swim. If swimming becomes uncomfortable or causes discomfort in the later stages of pregnancy, consider modifying your swimming routine or exploring alternative forms of exercise.

A woman swimming while pregnant
If you experience discomfort stop swimming while pregnant. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

3. Signs to stop swimming

Stop swimming and seek medical advice if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms during swimming:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Sudden swelling of the ankles, hands, face, or fingers
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Contractions or abdominal pain

These symptoms could indicate potential pregnancy complications that require immediate medical evaluation.

4. Considerations for late pregnancy

In the third trimester, some women may find it challenging to continue swimming due to increased discomfort, reduced mobility, or concerns about safety. Swimming can still be a beneficial exercise in late pregnancy, but adjustments may be needed, such as avoiding deep water, using support devices like flotation belts, or focusing on gentle water-based movements.

5. Alternative exercises

If swimming becomes difficult or is no longer recommended, consider alternative forms of exercise that are safe and suitable for late pregnancy, such as prenatal yoga, walking, or stationary cycling. Choose activities that are low-impact and reduce the risk of falls or injury, says the expert.

Most pregnant women can safely continue swimming throughout pregnancy with appropriate modifications and monitoring. However, think of safety first and listen to your body’s cues to ensure a healthy pregnancy exercise routine.

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