Summer is in full swing and it is hot! Pregnancy and summer heat don’t work together. Generally, you just want to sit in aircon doing next to nothing, however, there is no doubt, keeping fit during pregnancy helps reduce your risk of pregnancy related conditions and helps prepare you physically for the delivery of your baby. So, what to do?
Swimming is a fantastic option for women who are looking for a gentle form of exercise. You don’t need to be a seasoned swimmer or be super fit to take up swimming during pregnancy. You can choose to swim lengths, walk in the pool or do a pre-natal aqua aerobics class to enjoy the benefits of the water.
Swimming is the ideal choice for the expectant mum because it requires your body to do less work compared with exercise on land. You will feel weightless and buoyant. Soreness and aches will feel a welcomed relief as your body floats and is supported by the water not to mention it’s nice and cool on a hot day!
Benefits of Swimming While Pregnant
It is recommended to do at least 30 minutes of prenatal exercise per day. Like exercise at any time of life, it is beneficial to vary your exercise routine to help keep it interesting. Combining swimming 2 to 3 days a week, with other forms of exercise is a great way to mix things up.
Cardiovascular exercise such as swimming provides fantastic benefits! Swimming helps to get the heart pumping, boosts blood circulation, improves oxygen levels in the blood, helps to strengthen muscles and loosen joints.
Here are some reasons why swimming should become part of your weekly routine.
Reduces the feeling of morning sickness: For some women the cool water can help to relieve symptoms of nausea caused by morning sickness.
Boosted energy levels: Throughout pregnancy and generally in life it’s important to have a disciplined workout routine. Exercise also helps our body release endorphins which can help to reduce our perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling — which reduces stress and keeps us happy!
Helps to ease sciatic pain:As you float so does your baby. Pressure is released from your sciatic nerve.
Stress relief: Pregnancy is not only physically demanding on your body but it can also bring emotional challenges too. Swimming is a great stress release activity.
Keeps you cool: The cool water is likely to be a welcomed relief. When pregnant our body temperature rises, so we are affected more by the soaring temperatures in the summer months.
Weight management: Swimming along with a healthy diet will help to maintain healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
Helps to improve your pregnancy and labour experience: Really? Yes! Swimming will help to improve muscle tone and endurance. Both are very important during labour. Labour can take many hours and a strong body is less likely to need intervention.
Low impact: Swimming is low impact and gentle on your joints. Swimming is beneficial for women who struggle with swollen ankles and back pain as swimming does not put any pressure on these areas and helps to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints.
Helps maintain a healthy and happy heart: Swimming is a low-impact exercise that benefits cardiovascular health. Maintaining an increased heart rate for a short period of time helps maintain a healthy and happy heart. Cardiovascular exercise also helps increase lung capacity which allows us to take in more oxygen and helps breathing.
Helps to improve the quality of sleep: Including exercise into our daily routines helps to tire the body out. When we are tired, we are more likely to get a good night’s sleep.
Is Swimming Safe During Pregnancy
Yes, swimming is a safe form of exercise for a healthy pregnant woman however, it is recommended for any pregnant woman taking up a new form of exercise to first consult with her health care professional.
Health professionals recommend that if you are not a regular swimmer or an athletic person pre-pregnancy it is advised to take care and not to push yourself hard. Start off slow. You should not feel overly exhausted or unwell at any time. Should you experience any feelings of illness, consult the lifeguard or medical professional immediately.
For those women who are fit and use to an exercise routine pre-pregnancy, care should also be taken as some activities may need to be modified. Speak with swimming instructors first before you take on any swimming programme.
Clean water: Avoid swimming in dirty / un-clean water. Your body is more susceptible to illness and bugs. Stick with workouts in properly-chlorinated pools that have plenty of good air ventilation.
Can I use a spa or hot tub?: Stick to cool water as warmer waters are likely to cause your body to overheat. Heated water could leave you feeling dizzy and or faint. Bugs are also more likely to be found in warm / hot waters.
Tread carefully: As always, be mindful of where you step in and around swimming pools. Tiled floors can be slippery. Walk slowly and never rush.
Can I dive into the pool?:Slide carefully or step into the pool gently. Jumping in or diving into the water can cause a build-up of bubbles up inside of your body due to the sudden change of altitude under the pressure of the water. Growing babies are not equipped to deal with this change.
Consistent breathing:Avoid holding your breath and use the correct breathing technique while you swim. Your baby is reliant on your breaths and constant flow of breathing.
Drink water: Whilst it may not seem like it you do sweat when you swim. Keeping hydrated is particularly important when you are pregnant. Keep a bottle of water close by and take small sips often to help hydrate. Dehydration can lead to feelings of dizziness, fainting and nausea.
Eat before exercise: During pregnancy our body is working very hard to grow a tiny human inside of us. The food we eat not only aids growth but also determines your well-being too. Eat small meals often to avoid feeling hungry and tired. Choose healthy options such as fruit, vegetables, proteins, wholemeal breads and brown rice. These will keep you fuller for longer and will help to give you more energy.
What to Wear
Overall you need to feel comfortable. Avoid swimwear that is tight and restrictive or clothing that is loose and likely to get tangled in and around your body while you swim. An ideal suit should fit snug but comfortably, hugging and supporting you in all the right places.
As your body changes shape and your baby bump continues to grow, you may find your swimwear no longer fits. It is advisable to purchase a new one. You can purchase a bikini in a larger size or maternity specific swimwear is a great option as they have been especially designed to accommodate a changing body, with room for further growth.
Signs to stop swimming
It is always important to listen to your body. Should you experience any pain or odd sensations that feels unusual or beyond your expectation, it is advised to stop immediately. Never push through or push yourself beyond what feels normal. Feelings of faintness, shortness of breath, sharp pains, stomach pains, contractions, dizziness or nausea are all signs that you should stop immediately as there is something very wrong. Move to the side of the pool and get the life guards attention. You need medical attention.
Swimming Wrap Up….
It is always advised to check with your health care provider before embarking on any new form of exercise. Should swimming be new to you, speak to your doctor first.
1. Choose a local community pool. You are more likely to go often than if the pool is a half an hour drive away.
2. Purchase a comfortable supportive, non-restrictive swimsuit suitable for swimming in.
3. Use goggles, flippers or floating devices if necessary, to help support your body when exercising. Not everyone is confident in the water or able to swim lengths.
4. Join a pregnancy aqua aerobics class and get motivated! Organised classes are run by trained professionals and are designed to suit your changing body.
5. Listen to your body. Should you feel any unusual pains or feel light headed stop exercise immediately and consult a medical professional.
6. Avoid hot direct sun. Choose an indoor pool with a moderated temperature to help avoid overheating.
7. Drink plenty of water when exercising.
8. Eat a small energy filled snack before and after exercising.
9. Vary your exercise routine. Keep it interesting by attending different classes and participating in different swimming challenges. This way you are likely to stick with it, as no one feels motivated when they are bored.
10. Keep exercise fun by creating achievable goals and reward yourself when you reach them.