When it comes to pregnancy, there are plenty of activities you might typically enjoy that you have to put to the side and avoid for a while — hosting wine and cheese nights, for one, is a non-starter. And in terms of physical activity, you will likely have questions about what is safe to do while you are carrying a child. Whether you're a competitive swimmer or someone who enjoys hopping in a pool every now and then during the summer months, you may worry that pregnancy will change your swimming habits. So, can you swim while pregnant, or will you need to hang up your swim cap until the baby arrives?
As it turns out, water-loving pregnant people are in for some good news. “It really is a very safe and recommended activity,” Dr. Cheruba Prabakar, M.D., board certified OB-GYN, tells Romper. “If you are comfortable doing it, it's one of the best activities for pregnant women.” Whether you love floating in the pool during the summer months or doing laps indoors in the winter, swimming is in fact a great activity to do during pregnancy.
For all you need to know about why swimming is a good option, as well as what precautions you should take, read on.
Benefits of swimming during pregnancy
From an exercise standpoint, swimming is a fantastic activity for the majority of pregnant people. “Swimming is actually a really good activity during pregnancy, because it takes the weight off of your joints, and just being buoyant makes a lot of people feel better,” Prabakar explains. “It's a great cardiovascular exercise and a relaxing exercise. So overall, we actually recommend swimming.”
Exercising during pregnancy is important for keeping your energy levels and sleep schedule regulated, and swimming is a particularly good choice. Not only is working out in the water low-impact, but it can be as challenging or relaxing as you like. Even the U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) organization recognizes the benefits of aquatic workouts for parents-to-be. And as with all things related to your pregnancy, you can check with your doctor to get individualized workout recommendations based on your current fitness level and the particulars of your health.
Is swimming during pregnancy safe?
As Prabakar says, swimming during pregnancy isn’t just safe — it’s actually recommended. That being said, there are some things to keep in mind to ensure that if you do swim while pregnant, you’re doing it as safely as possible.
Given that the majority of water activities take place in the summer, Prabakar notes that if you are taking a dip in the pool or wading into the ocean at the beach under the sun, make sure you take proper health precautions. “We definitely also recommend sunscreen and being hydrated, because especially if you're swimming outdoors during summer, it can get pretty hot,” she says. “Drinking a lot of water and not overdoing it is important.”
As for open water swimming, it's important to keep in mind that oceans, rivers, and lakes are not treated for bacteria and germs, so it's a good idea to know about the local water quality before you hop in. But in general, salt water shouldn’t be an issue, according to Prabakar. She does note, though, that one thing to be aware of in natural bodies of water is your general safety. “I would say not to swim very deep,” she says. “There's no clear right or wrong for all of these things, but it's a lot of just using common sense.” Remember, you may not quite have the same dexterity and mobility as you usually would when it comes to treading water and swimming if a big wave rolls in or a strong current pushes you while you’re carrying a child in your womb.
Can pregnant people swim in a chlorine pool?
Although the exercise benefits of swimming during pregnancy are off the charts, you may naturally have some concerns about the effects of water safety on your developing baby, and you may wonder whether or not you can swim in a chlorinated pool while pregnant. According to Prabakar, there is no evidence that a properly chlorinated pool is potentially harmful to pregnant people; after all, the chlorine is added to kill off bacteria.
The only reason chlorine might be an issue is if you have sensitive skin, but that is regardless of pregnancy. “A lot of people have very sensitive skin, and that can definitely become an issue and can cause vaginal infections, like yeast infections,” Prabakar says. “Anything that gets in the vaginal skin may be an irritant, but that’s whether you're pregnant or not.”
All in all, swimming is a great option for pregnant people in terms of both exercise, relaxation, and fun. As always, if you have any specific concerns, don't hesitate to speak with your trusted health care professionals or local water experts for more information.
Dr. Cheruba Prabakar, M.D., board certified OB-GYN
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