Swimming is one of the top recommended exercises for pregnant women, according to the American Pregnancy Association. The sport provides an excellent cardiovascular workout without putting pressure on your joints and ligaments, and it can be performed throughout all three trimesters of your pregnancy. Before initiating a swim routine, however, talk to your health-care provider about your intentions. Although swimming is generally considered a safe activity for pregnant women, it could adversely affect women who have complicated or high-risk pregnancies.
Swimming is an aerobic exercise with multiple benefits to both mother and baby. Among other things, it improves blood circulation to the fetus, enhances the body’s use of oxygen, strengthens and tones the large muscle groups in the arms and legs, and eases pregnancy-related physical discomforts. Swimming also presents a low chance of becoming overheated, one of the more risky aspects of exercising while pregnant. Finally, many women, particularly those in late pregnancy, enjoy swimming because the buoyancy of the water can relieve back strain and allows them to feel temporarily weightless.
BabyCenter.com recommends the breaststroke as the most beneficial swimming technique for pregnant women. Unlike the crawl, the breaststroke does not require the torso to twist, which can be both uncomfortable and harmful to the back. Also, as pregnancy often compels the shoulders and spine to round, and pushes the pelvis out of position, the breaststroke can counteract this tendency, as it gently encourages the body to remain properly aligned.
The jury appears to be out on whether the backstroke is an acceptable move for pregnant women. After the first trimester, women are advised not to lie on their backs for fear that the pressure of gravity will compress a major vein in the chest and impede blood flow. Some experts advise pregnant women against doing the backstroke for this reason. BabyCenter.com, however, says that because the water minimizes the effects of gravity on your stomach, you can safely do the backstroke while pregnant. If you do decide to swim this stroke, stop at the first sign of discomfort or dizziness.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women with uncomplicated pregnancies exercise at least 30 minutes per day, most days of the week – with the approval of their doctors. Swimming three or four times per week for 30 minutes can be extremely beneficial for women with low-risk pregnancies. If you are not used to swimming, start slowly, gradually working your way up to swimming for a half-hour at a time.
When swimming and surrounded by water, it’s easy to forget to stay well-hydrated. Dehydration can cause cramping and contractions, so be sure to drink a cup of water before, during and after your workout. You should also listen carefully to your body while swimming and take a break or quit for the day if you become exhausted, faint or dizzy.