Swimming when pregnant
By Haylley Pittam
The current ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology) guidelines recommend for a pregnant woman to exercise 150 minutes of moderate- intensity aerobic activity every week. This list includes walking, stationary bike, modified yoga and pilates, as well as swimming and aqua aerobics. Moderate intensity means you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating. You still can talk normally, but you cannot sing.
Exercising for 150 minutes can be divided into 30 minutes 5 days a week (or into 3 smaller sessions of 10 minutes each day). If you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it is safe to continue most types of exercise, but you may need to make a few changes.
Swimming and aqua aerobics is one of the safest forms of exercise whilst pregnant and participating in either for 30 minutes uses the majority of the body’s muscles. The water will support your weight and bump so you avoid stress, injury and muscle strains. During the 9 months of pregnancy your posture (hips, shoulders, spine and head position) changes and the aches and pains associated with these changes such as back ache can be eased with swimming which will help strengthen the postural muscles.
Swimming is a great way to stay active as it increases and improves your circulation, strengthens your muscles and keeps you toned. Being submerged in the water also helps to stimulate the lymphatic system and this will help to reduce swelling in legs, feet and hands. The ideal temperature of the water is 29-30 degrees which will allow the body temperature to be cooler and therefore reducing any heat stress to the foetus.
As you go through the pregnancy and your baby begins to grow, (the bump gets bigger) being in the water allows you to feel weightless (due to the water’s buoyancy) and the therapeutic environment allows you to feel calm. As you reach the last stage (3rd trimester) of your pregnancy the buoyancy of the water means you do not have to stop exercising.
Swimming do’s & don’ts:
You can swim frontcrawl and backstroke; laying on your back and swimming backstroke does not cause any risk to yourself or your baby. On land there is a restricted time advised for laying on your back due to impaired blood flow.
It is recommended that you stop swimming breaststroke from the first trimester. Due to the pelvic girdle changing and becoming loose (lax) meaning the pelvis becomes unstable over the 9 months preparing for labour. When you swim breaststroke you are taking your legs out wide and opening up the pelvis. This can cause pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or discomfort, especially if you are suffering with public symphysis disorder (PSD).
Whilst swimming frontcrawl do so with your face in the water so your postural alignment is correct. Wear goggles if you do not like your eyes getting wet, as you swim ensure you breath to the side and not lift your head straight up, as this will cause pain and discomfort in the neck resulting in an imbalance in your neck muscles.
Take extra breaks if needed and remember to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated, you may not feel hot and sweaty in the water but you have still exercised and worked your muscles so drink at least a glass of water during and after your session.
You will feel hungry after swimming (this is very normal and is due to the calories burnt which is higher in the water than on land, plus the cooling effect being in the water has on the body) pack yourself a snack such as a banana or chocolate milkshake rather than reaching for the bacon sandwich and slice of cake.
July 2017 – the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Contact: Haylley Pittam