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Pregnancy & Swimming

Pregnancy & Swimming

Expectant mothers often remark about the feeling of comfort evoked by immersion in water during their pregnancy.

The sense of weightlessness provided by water relieves the general discomforts associated with pregnancy, and it is the perfect environment for a mother-to-be to both relax and exercise.

Water-based exercise is the ideal form of exercise for an expectant mother

The buoyancy of water supports up to 90% of body weight which means that those extra kilograms added during pregnancy have much less impact on an expectant mother’s capacity to exercise. Water supports the joints and ligaments and, particularly in comparison to other common land-based forms of exercise, this translates to reduced risk of injury.

Swimming and other aquatic activities serve as an ideal form of exercise from not only the standpoint of the health of the pregnant woman themselves, but also the well being of the unborn child.

The cardiovascular benefits of swimming include an increased capacity to process and use oxygen (which is vital for mother and child), and improved circulation and stabilization of the high blood pressure that is often experienced during pregnancy – all good reasons why an expectant mother should “get wet”. The abdominal muscle group needs strengthening during pregnancy to support the changes that occur in the body and to assist in the birthing process. Swimming uses all major muscle groups; especially the core abdominal region– swimming is the perfect all-round workout.

Swimming helps expectant mothers relax and cope with stress

Apart from the physical benefits of swimming, the general sense of relaxation associated with being able to move freely and smoothly in the water can help an expectant mother cope with the emotional rigours of pregnancy. Floating with the shoulders and knees supported using noodles is a wonderful way to calm and relax the mind and body.

A mother-to-be should select the swimming stroke that feels most comfortable, and that doesn’t place any undue or unnecessary pressure on the pregnant body. Here are some swim stroke selection guidelines for an expectant mother:

  • Freestyle: This is a good stroke for higher intensity pregnancy work-out, however rotation of the body may be limited during the 3rd trimester;
  • Breaststroke: This requires less exertion than freestyle and provides more relief from the back strain caused by the pregnant belly weight. A snorkel may be used to breathe and keep the head position constant if the breathing phase feels uncomfortable;
  • Backstroke: This stroke allows a pregnant mother to lie on their back and float or kick your legs without the risk of impaired blood flow that a similar exercise might cause on dry land. However, the weight of the unborn baby may make this difficult for some;
  • Non-swimmers and expectant mothers less interested in swimming laps might like to try aqua-natal or aqua-aerobics.

These classes, which are offered by qualified instructors, provide a fun alternative form of exercise in which there is little risk of over-straining the body, and which at the same time allow expectant mothers to socialise with each other.

Exercise during pregnancy should be undertaken only following consultation with a physician

Remember to remain hydrated (it’s easy to forget to drink water while in water!), and do not overexert yourself. Water is a gentle medium – perfect for expectant mothers wishing to exercise and, importantly, water-based experiences during pregnancy can, and should be, relaxing and fulfilling for the woman as she prepares herself for the birth of her child.

© 2010 Julia Ham/Hampton Swim School Pty Ltd