A reader wrote to us with this question recently:
"I'm currently 6 weeks pregnant. I really love swimming but I am really worried that the chlorinated water could hurt my baby. Will it?"
We wanted to help this mummy, so we did a little research of our own.
In general, swimming is an excellent form of exercise. For pregnant mums, this is especially true. Although many mums hope to be able to maintain their regular exercise regimen during their pregnancy, this is often not possible with the extra weight they are carrying.
Being in the water, however, is like magic! While floating in the water, the weightlessness you feel has many benefits for pregnant mums.
Benefits of Swimming when pregnant
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, swimming is one of the safest forms of exercise during pregnancy because it offers considerable health benefits without placing a high level of stress on the body. Here are some of the benefits pregnant mums can get with this form of exercise:
1. It strengthens your heart
Doing aerobic exercise while you’re pregnant helps both you and your baby because it strengthens your heart which will not only improve your circulation but also boosts the oxygen levels in your blood.
2. It's a low impact form of exercise
The buoyancy of the water helps to support your joints as you are swimming. Additionally, unlike other forms of aerobic exercise like walking or jogging, there is no sustained impact on your joints.
3. Relieves backache
Being pregnant can cause your pelvis to tilt out of alignment as well as make your spine and shoulders round forward. Being in the water counteracts the strain on your back. Also with your baby floating along as well, she is no longer pressing down on your sciatic nerve.
4. Reduces swelling
Swimming can actually help prevent varicose veins! While you’re in the water, the tensions in your body are relieved which helps reduce swelling. Your ankle and foot swelling is also reduced because the water pushes the fluids from your tissues back into your veins which then circulates through your kidneys and out through urine.
5. Helps you keep cool
Anyone living in Singapore knows how tough it can be to stay cool on those blistering hot days! This is even worse when your pregnancy sweat glands are working double time. Being in the pool is a great way to keep your temperature down on those hot, hot days.
6. Helps you get a better sleep
Don't you love how you sleep soundly after spending some time at the pool? Like other forms of aerobic exercise, better sleep may come from swimming. And since sleep can be difficult at various points during pregnancy, this effect is surely welcome.
Mums, don’t worry if you can’t swim! Check with gyms in your neighbourhood, as many have water aerobics classes catering to pregnant mums. Even just doing some basic exercises in the shallow end is enough for you to take advantage of these benefits.
Questions surrounding swimming while pregnant
True or false: Chlorinated water can harm my unborn baby.
False! Your body creates many natural barriers including the cervix and amniotic sac. Furthermore, the mucus plug that forms when you are pregnant helps to further insulate the baby.
Based on a 2010 study, there are no negative birth outcomes associated with the cleaning chemicals in pools. In fact, chlorine helps to disinfect the swimming pool water from other potentially harmful bacteria. So it won't be a risk to you or your baby if you accidentally swallowed a bit of pool water during your swim.
Swimming in the ocean while pregnant
Unlike pool water which is treated and disinfected, saltwater or ocean water can be contaminated with untreated sewage from fertilizers, pets, boats and faulty septic systems. So practise caution and avoid swallowing the water when you're swimming on the beach.
Moreover, pregnant mums need to be aware of different creatures that can be lurking in the water, including jellyfish, anemones and hydroids, which can sting and cause pain.
The ocean waves and the uneven surface of the ocean floor can make you lose your balance, causing you to fall, so you need to be more careful. To be safe, it's best to swim in the pool or take walks by the seashore instead.
Swimming in a heated pool while pregnant - is it safe?
Just like hot baths and showers are discouraged during pregnancy, so is swimming in heated pools or hot springs. Doing so may raise your body temperature which could lead to abnormalities at birth or even a miscarriage, so it's very important to take this recommendation seriously, especially in the first trimester.
If you want to go for a swim, make sure that the temperature should be regulated and not be above 102.2°F (39°C) to stay on the safe side.
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Swimming while pregnant: Safety tips
Especially in our equatorial climate, staying hydrated is super important. As a general rule of thumb, try to drink a glass of water before you get in the pool, another for every 20 minutes while you’re swimming and another one after you’ve completed your post-swim stretches.
During pregnancy, it’s important to not overexert yourself. A good way to measure is by your breathing pattern, you should always be at a level where you could comfortably have a conversation with someone who is walking by the pool.
Having your body temperature cross 40 Celsius, especially during the first four to six weeks of pregnancy, can lead to complications for your baby including miscarriage or brain and spinal cord damage.
Just like other forms of exercise, swimming can become unsafe during pregnancy if you overdo it. Just keep it light and enjoy the water. If you start to feel nauseous, you become too hot, or you experience any vaginal discharge, bleeding, or feel abdominal and pelvic pain, stop swimming right away and ask someone to help you get out of the water.
So don't be afraid to take a dip in the pool, mum-to-be! With caution, you can enjoy swimming while you're pregnant. If you have any concerns about the different exercises you can try during pregnancy, don't hesitate to consult your doctor about it.
Keep your temperature regulated.
Updates by Camille Eusebio
Image source: iStock
Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it's important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn't serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.