Benefits of swimming in pregnancy
Being physically active during pregnancy has lots of benefits. On top of these, swimming puts less pressure on your joints as the water supports your weight. It is also a good way of keeping active if you have back pain or pelvic girdle pain (PGP)/symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).
If you were used to swimming before pregnancy, it is safe to continue. If you have not done much swimming before, start off slowly and build up gradually.
Some people worry that the chemicals used to disinfect swimming pools could harm their baby but there is no evidence for this.
“When my ankles swelled slightly my doctor recommended walking in the pool - not sure if there's any proof this helps, but it helped me.” Tanya
Watch your swimming stroke
It is important to find a swimming stroke that is comfortable for you.
You may want to wear goggles so you can swim with your head down. This keeps your body straighter, which is better for your back. Try to avoid making too many strong twisting movements, as these could overwork your deep tummy muscles or strain your ligaments.
You may find it painful to kick your legs in breast stroke style If you have pelvic girdle pain (PGP)/symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).
Swimming and exercising in water safely
- Speak to your midwife or doctor before exercising if you have a medical condition or have had any problems in previous pregnancies. You may need to take extra care or stop exercising.
- If you are swimming or exercising in water for more than 30 minutes, you might want to take a bottle of water with you. Taking regular small sips will keep you hydrated.
- Avoid diving or jumping in.
- Avoid swimming in hot or very cold water.
- If you feel unwell, leave the water straight away and contact your midwife or GP.
If you like the idea of exercising in a group, you might like to try aquanatal classes. The exercises are designed for pregnancy and are a good way to meet other parents-to-be.
A typical aquanatal class may include:
- a warm-up session
- aerobic exercises
- strength exercises
- breathing awareness
Sometimes the exercises are carried out to music.
Check local forums and noticeboards or ask at your local gyms and leisure centres to find sessions.
Be careful not to confuse aquanatal classes with aqua aerobics. Aqua aerobics classes are not specific to pregnancy so you should check that the teacher is qualified to teach pregnant people. They should change some of the exercises so that they are suitable for you, not just tell you to take things more slowly. If they are not qualified or you are not happy with the changes they suggest, think about looking for another class or teacher.
Open water swimming
Swimming in lakes, rivers and seas is sometimes called ‘open water’ swimming. Some people say they find swimming outdoors boosts their mood and makes them feel free.
Open water swimming carries different risks to swimming in a pool. The water can be polluted, especially after heavy rainfall, and there is a higher risk of getting an infection.
The Environment Agency checks water quality in bathing areas, such as some beaches and lakes, during the summer. But rivers and other areas that are not marked as bathing areas are not checked and may be more polluted.
To lower the chance of getting an infection:
- check with your midwife or doctor to make sure there are no medical reasons why you should not swim in open water
- use an online water-quality checker for bathing water in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
- read any safety signs at the swimming site
- avoid any water that has algae or scum
- avoid swallowing water while you are swimming
- cover any cuts or scratches on your skin with a waterproof plaster
- wash yourself and your swimsuit/wetsuit afterwards.
Be aware that your changing body shape may mean you are not as strong in the water. Be careful of waves and swim within your limits. It is a good idea to swim with someone rather than alone.