Pregnancy brings about several anatomical, physiological, metabolic, and psychological changes. It is not exactly smooth sailing for everyone. The journey, however, has beautiful moments and larger meanings attached to it. Nonetheless, the physical changes, carrying the extra weight, dealing with hunger pangs, cravings, nausea, fatigue and many other things do take their toll. This is where exercise helps — by removing stress, it makes you feel lighter and relaxed. Brushing aside safety misconceptions attached to this exercise, swimming during pregnancy is recommended by experts.
Swimming during pregnancy
Not many are aware that one can safely swim while pregnant, even up to the last trimester. However, due to reasons ranging from pool accessibility to a lack of awareness of the benefits, many stay away from swimming during pregnancy.
“Carrying the extra 20 pounds (9 kg) is commonly found to be too overwhelming for the pregnant mother due to the excess load on the spine,” says Palak Dengla, chief physiotherapist, Aster RV Hospital, Bengaluru. Easing the back pain gets tricky as exercising is challenging. “Moreover, the mother is generally restricted from many things like certain food items, travel and high-intensity workouts. During this phase, one of the best rejuvenating options for a pregnant mother is swimming,” adds Dengla.
However, the expecting mother should get clearance from the gynecologist before hitting the pool. Rujulal B Naik, a swimming coach from Pune, advises against learning and starting swimming in the advanced stages of pregnancy. “Those new to swimming can learn the techniques during the first trimester. People can also opt for other water-based exercises like aqua Zumba or hydro walk,” says Naik.
Benefits of swimming during pregnancy
Swimming enhances physical comfort, increases mobility and flexibility, and provides a beneficial environment for pregnant women due to buoyancy. “Being in water would be a great relief, especially for those in their third trimester. The water buoyancy makes them feel lighter,” shares Dengla. “Buoyancy offered by water offloads the body; hence, one feels only one-tenth of the body weight in water. Thus, more workouts can be achieved with lesser efforts.” Pregnant women can even go beyond swimming laps and try out other therapeutic aquatic physical exercises.
Swimming also helps deal with insomnia and improves appetite. It enhances blood circulation, reducing the risks of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy) and swelling in the feet. “A morning swim can help combat pregnancy-related sickness,” says Dengla. She elaborates, “Swimming in pregnancy is considered safe and a great form of low-impact exercise for both the mother and the unborn child when there are no contraindications. The water takes care of the mood swings and mental well-being. It prepares the body for labor and enhances muscle tone, flexibility and endurance, all of which are a prerequisite for the most awaited ‘push’.”
Swim workout routine during pregnancy
Elaborating on a safe and healthy swimming routine while pregnant, Dengla says, “One can start with 10 minutes of a gentle walk in the pool, gradually advance to 30 minutes, three to five times a week. One should be comfortable and be able to breathe easily while swimming.”
Naik adds, “They should also listen to their body so that they don’t overdo it, as it can result in over-exertion. One should stop when feeling tired or uncomfortable.”
Depending on the effort involved and the intensity at which one is swimming, the muscles can get a little tired. So, being mindful can help. “One needs to choose the stroke, pace and intensity as per one’s comfort. Moreover, alternating between swimming on your front and floating on your back while gently kicking the legs will give a good all-round workout. Do not arch the back a lot. Looking down with the chin almost touching the chest while swimming is much safer for the spine,” shares Dengla.
Naik suggests, “You can perform dynamic and static stretches to warm up and cool down before and after the workout.”
What are the risks?
When there are no contraindications, it is safe to swim during pregnancy. However, swimming must be avoided in case of conditions such as cerclage (cervical stitch), anemia, persistent bleeding, cardiovascular disease, multiple gestation, preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension, premature contractions or labor.
Even if no prior symptoms are present, pregnant people should watch out for signs of physical distress and stop immediately.
“While swimming, one must take immediate note of any kind of sharp pain shooting up the back or the belly, giddiness, vaginal bleeding or discharge, uterine contractions and absence of fetal movements. Anything that does not appear to be right needs to be reported to the obstetrician immediately,” says Dengla.
Tips for a safe swim
From swimwear to hydration, everything should be taken care of when you are swimming with the baby bump. Sunscreen is also crucial to not let your swim ruin your skin.
“Comfortable swimwear as the pregnancy advances is also essential,” reminds Dengla. “Hydration while swimming is of utmost importance as being in the pool dehydrates the body, but we fail to realize it,” says Dengla.
When swimming during pregnancy, one should also consider the cleanliness and disinfection of the pool, along with the water temperature. “The temperature of the pool should be well maintained. Instead of hot water, lukewarm water is preferable to avoid any preterm labor,” adds Dengla.
Moreover, while swimming is beneficial, one must exercise caution while stepping into or out of the pool as a fall can have terrible consequences. “With the body changes and increasing weight, one has to be careful on slippery surfaces,” adds Naik. In case of any concerns in such places, women can seek assistance to avoid falls.
- While pregnant, a woman undergoes several anatomical, physiological, metabolic, and psychological changes.
- Swimming can be a rejuvenating exercise option during pregnancy. The buoyancy of the water relaxes the body and provides several benefits, including increased blood circulation and appetite, and better quality of sleep.
- One should be mindful while choosing the swimming stroke, duration and intensity. Other factors, such as swimwear, sunscreen and timely hydration should also be considered.