Health & You: Pregnancy & Swimming

drpool-med-bookWhile pregnant it is important to stay active. The more active and fit one is, the quicker the body will adapt to weight gain and change in shape. It also primes the body for getting back into shape after going into labor and giving birth.

There are various exercises available – which ones are recommended for pregnancy, and which types of exercise should generally be avoided?

  1. Can you Swim While Pregnant?
  2. Exercising While Pregnant.
  3. Swimming While Pregnant.

bluecrossCan you Swim While Pregnant?

It is important to never exhaust yourself and as pregnancy progresses, slow down your exercise. One guideline to consider is that when exercising, you should be able to hold a conversation comfortably. If you become breathless or tired, then you may be over reaching. If you were not active before the pregnancy, it is important that you do not suddenly take up exercise.

For exercises such as walking, yoga or swimming you should tell the instructor (if present) that you are pregnant (If not obvious) and strive for no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise three times a week. You may be able to eventually increase this slowly to four 30 minute sessions a week. There is no danger to the baby when you exercise, but rather studies show that active women are less likely to experience problems with labor and later stages of pregnancy.

Swimming while pregnant is especially beneficial for pregnant women, because the water supports your weight with natural buoyancy, and there is little risk of injuries from falls. Swimming also keeps you naturally cool while working out, preventing overheating. Your local pool may offer prenatal pool exercise classes with instructors.

Not recommended are exercises that have a high risk of prenatal injury such as horseback riding, downhill skiing, hockey, gymnastics and cycling. Deep water diving (scuba) and springboard diving should also be avoided, and no hot tubs while pregnant!

bluecrossExercising While Pregnant

Before exercising it is important to always warm up before and cool down afterward. Keep active, if possible, on a daily basis even if the activity is simply walking half an hour every day. Any amount of frequent exercise is beneficial and enough – consistency in exercise is most important. Another tip is to avoid exercising in hot weather – and stay hydrated by drinking lots of water before, during and after exercise.

Aside from strengthening your muscles to carry the extra weight, exercise can make your joints stronger, improve circulation, ease backache and help you feel healthy and well. As the baby gets bigger, the hollow in the lower back increases and can give you back pain. Yoga positions are especially helpful for back pain, such as the Cat and Downward Dog.

Pelvic floor exercises can strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor that come under strain in pregnancy and childbirth. The pelvic floor has layers of muscles that stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone at the end of the backbone. You can strengthen these muscles with Kegel exercises.

bluecrossSwimming While Pregnant

For many women, swimming while pregnant offers a sense of well-being in addition to relieving morning sickness. Swimming provides benefits that other exercises don’t necessarily offer. It’s easy to get injured from exercising, but swimming provides safety and is harder for injuries to occur. Water buoyancy gives a weightless environment that provides a safe place to work out large muscle groups. Swimming and the resistance of water affords a natural increase in oxygen uptake and blood circulation.

What kind of specific pool exercises are recommended? Breast stroke is not recommended because it puts your posture at risk for more back pain. The backstroke can also cause discomfort because the weight of the uterus puts pressure on the vena cava. If any discomfort is experienced with any swimming stroke, avoid it altogether. Do not eat up to two hours before swimming to avoid acid indigestion. This is especially important in the third trimester.

Select a stroke that will not put pressure on the body. Front crawl can be a high intensity pregnancy workout. Instead, try a snorkel with breast stroke arms so you don’t need to bob your head out of the water repeatedly. Use the flutter kick, or a crawl kick, instead of the frog kick, or breast stroke kick.

You don’t need to swim a stroke at all, of course. Water walking, knee lifts, kicking with a kickboard or noodle, or doing any sort of yoga or water aerobic moves while in the water is beneficial.

Check with your [real] doctor, before you begin any prenatal exercise program, but in most cases, it is safe to swim (or other water exercise) for 20-30 minutes, 2-4 times per week, while pregnant. Swimming first thing in the morning can counteract nausea and morning sickness and energize you for the rest of the day.


Dr. Pool

Dr. Pool


[1] “Exercise in Pregnancy.” – Pregnancy and Baby Guide. National Health Service – UK. Web.

[2]  Obaidullah, Nisha. “The Hidden Dangers of Swimming for Pregnancy Fitness.”Divine Caroline. Web.

[3] Caldas, Hannah. “Why Swimming Is the Best Exercise For Pregnant Women.”Breaking Muscle. Web.

[4] “Great Pregnancy Exercise: Swimming.” BabyCenter. Web.



Health & You: Pregnancy & Swimming — 3 Comments

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