Swimming as an exercise for expecting mothers

By Dr.Palak Dengla(PT), Antenatal Expert, HOD Physiotherapy, Aster RV Hospital
Family & Parenting Swimming as an exercise for expecting mothers

Carrying the extra 20 pounds is commonly found to be too overwhelming for the pregnant mother due to the excess load on the spine. Especially exercising with this excess weight gain becomes challenging at times. Moreover, the mother generally abstained from many food items, travel, high intensity workouts, etc. During this phase, one of the best rejuvenating options which can be positively offered to the pregnant mother is that of swimming. Swimming is found to be relaxing for the body especially when it comes to morning sickness. One of the best things to get up and do in the morning is to take a swim to combat pregnancy related sickness. Many women have claimed swimming to be conducive for nausea and vomiting seen in early pregnancy. It is one of the preferred whole-body endurance and strengthening workouts.

What are the benefits of swimming through the gestation period?

Swimming in pregnancy is considered safe and is a great form of low-impact exercise for both, Mother, and the unborn Child if there are no contraindications. Water not only lightens the body but also takes care of the mood swings and mental well - being. Buoyancy offered by water offloads the body and we feel only one tenth of our body weight in water. Thus, more workout can be achieved with lesser efforts. Swimming helps with insomnia (lack of sleep), improves appetite, and relieves the body from restless leg syndrome and back pain. It enhances blood circulation, reducing the risks of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy) and swelling in the feet. It prepares the body for labor. Swimming enhances muscle tone, flexibility, and endurance both of which are a prerequisite for the most awaited ‘push’!

Swimming may help the neurological system of your unborn baby. Some of the rat-based research studies have shown that a pregnant mother rat’s swimming altered the brain development of her offspring in positive ways. This study may indicate that swimming can protect babies against hypoxia-ischemia, a neurological issue.

Is there any limit to how many months through the pregnancy they can swim?

As per the evidence, swimming is safe during pregnancy and extremely beneficial. Thus, there is no limitation on the week/month of pregnancy to start swimming. One has to be extra cautious to avoid skid or fall and take care of the contraindications involved.

How many hours in a week is the maximum limit to swim?

One should be comfortable and be able to breathe easily while swimming. One can start with 10 minutes of a gentle walk in the pool, gradually advancing to 30 min, 3-5 times a week.

Are there any dangers/risks of swimming during gestation?

While swimming, one must be aware of any kind of sharp shooting pains in the back or the belly, giddiness, vaginal bleeding or discharge, uterine contractions, absence of fetal movements. Anything that does not appear to be right, needs to be reported to your Obstetrician immediately.

Swimming needs to be avoided if contraindications like cerclage, anaemia, persistent bleeding, cardiovascular disease, multiple gestation, preeclampsia or pregnancy induced hypertension, premature contractions or labor are seen.

Any tips for expecting mothers who prefer swimming as an exercise?

  • Comfortable swim wear as the pregnancy advances is important
  • Sunscreen to protect the skin
  • Hydration is utmost essential as being in the pool equally dehydrates the body as it would happen on land, but we fail to realize it
  • One should take care of the disinfection of the pool and avoid hot water bodies
  • The temperature of the pool should be well maintained. Instead of hot water, lukewarm water is preferred to avoid any preterm labor

Dr.Palak Dengla(PT), Antenatal Expert, HOD Physiotherapy, Aster RV Hospital

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