Here’s a great arti­cle from the What To Expect blog.

 

swimming-while-pregnant-rm-article

When you’re car­ry­ing upwards of 20 extra pounds, the last thing you may be in the mood for is exer­cise. But in a pool (or any other body of water, for that mat­ter) you weigh just a tenth of what you do on land. Which means bob­bing weight­lessly, feel­ing both lighter and more lim­ber, can be a real treat. In fact swim­ming while preg­nant just might be the per­fect activ­ity for expect­ing women, offer­ing not only the ben­e­fits of exer­cise but also relief from a num­ber of com­mon preg­nancy aches and pains.

The Ben­e­fits of Swim­ming While Pregnant

Swim­ming is a gen­tle way to work toward your goal of 30 min­utes most days of pre­na­tal exer­cise — with­out aggra­vat­ing your loos­en­ing joints. In addi­tion to result­ing in plenty of fitness-related ben­e­fits your body and your baby along with reprieve for your tired mus­cles and joints, swim­ming dur­ing preg­nancy can also help:

  • Relieve ankle and foot swelling. Sub­mers­ing your limbs in water helps push flu­ids from your tis­sues back into your veins (where it goes to your kid­neys and then out through your urine). It also boosts your cir­cu­la­tion, which keeps blood from pool­ing in the lower limbs.
  • Ease sci­atic painBaby’s float­ing right along with you (instead of press­ing down on your sci­atic nerve).
  • Reduce morn­ing sick­nessMany women report that the cool water pro­vides wel­come relief from nausea.
  • Keep you cool: It’s a hard thing to do when those preg­nant sweat glands are on over­drive — but a dip in a cool pool can help, espe­cially when the tem­per­a­tures soar outside.
  • Improve your labor & deliv­ery expe­ri­ence: Swim­ming main­tains mus­cle tone and increases your endurance — both of which you’ll be thank­ful for when it comes time to push baby out.

A few tips to stay safe and avoid any poten­tial pit­falls of swim­ming dur­ing pregnancy:

  • Check for water safety. Research the body of water you wish to swim in to pre­vent water-borne ill­ness and ensure it’s safe to swim in. While for the most part a pub­lic beach is per­fectly fine, you may want to be more cau­tious with smaller bod­ies of water. Your best bet to avoid con­t­a­m­i­na­tion: Stick with work­outs in properly-chlorinated pools.
  • Avoid the hot tub. Spend­ing more than 10 min­utes in a hot tub, where water cir­cu­la­tion can keep tem­per­a­tures around 104 F, can raise your body tem­per­a­ture above 102.2 F. This can increase the risk for mis­car­riage, brain and spinal cord abnor­mal­i­ties — espe­cially if your body tem­per­a­ture gets that high dur­ing the first four to six weeks of preg­nancy. (This, of course, doesn’t mean your warm bath is unsafe — still water doesn’t hold high tem­per­a­tures for quite as long, so you won’t have to worry about over­heat­ing in your own tub.)
  • Tread care­fully. Remem­ber, a baby belly can throw off your cen­ter of grav­ity. So be extra cau­tious when walk­ing on slip­pery sur­faces, includ­ing the pool deck and the locker room.
  • Step into the pool. Or slide in. Your grow­ing baby isn’t equipped to han­dle the bub­bles that form inside the body when you quickly change alti­tudes under the pres­sure of the water (it’s why scuba div­ing is a big no-no). And the impact of div­ing into water isn’t worth the poten­tial risk.
  • Don’t hold your breath. Your baby needs oxy­gen — so be sure to keep your breath­ing steady and con­tin­u­ous while you’re swimming.
  • Keep hydratedWhile you won’t feel like you’re sweat­ing like you do on a long run, you still do sweat (and risk over­heat­ing) when you swim. So be sure to drink 500 mL (about a water-bottle’s worth) of water about two hours before your work­out, and place a water bot­tle at the pool’s edge to sip through­out the swim session.
  • Fuel up. Regard­less of your work­outs, you’ll need about 300 extra calo­ries per day to fuel your preg­nancy in your sec­ond trimester on. Your spe­cific caloric need varies depend­ing on how long and far you swim, your weight and more — so look to your prac­ti­tioner for spe­cific guidelines.Good snacks include fruit, toast or a small bowl of cereal with milk — you’ll want a light bite con­tain­ing easily-digestible carbs with­out much fat, fiber or loads of heavy pro­tein (all of which can take longer to digest and lead to an uncom­fort­able work­out). And as for that rule about avoid­ing eat­ing before you swim? Not true — although you may want to avoid hav­ing a heavy meal within an hour of jump­ing in (you’re already prone to heart­burn dur­ing preg­nancy). Your best bet is to fin­ish up your pre-workout snack at least 30 min­utes before you dunk, then look for­ward to a protein-rich post-workout snack like Greek yogurt or a small turkey sandwich.

What to Wear

Once your belly gets too big for your old one-piece suits, a two-piece gives your belly room to grow. If you feel self-conscious about reveal­ing your baby belly, you can always opt for a tank­ini. And plenty of brands that sell reg­u­lar swim­suits also offer mater­nity swimwear lines, includ­ing Tar­get and Motherhood.com.

Swim­ming Workouts

Whether or not you’ve swum for exer­cise before, jump­ing in a pool can be intim­i­dat­ing with­out a work­out in mind. To the res­cue: These sug­gested swim work­outs. If the going gets tough, just float…your break will be well-deserved. And don’t for­get to stretch afterward!

For New­bies

If you swam once in a blue moon before preg­nancy, most gyms with pools offer water aer­o­bics classes, many of which are specif­i­cally designed for expec­tant moms. Con­sid­er­ing swim­ming laps? Com­plete as many as you can com­fort­ably per­form, even­tu­ally work­ing up to 30 min­utes of swim­ming three to four days a week. Remem­ber to main­tain a mod­er­ate pace that doesn’t leave you breath­less. (If your head were above water, you would be able to carry on a con­ver­sa­tion comfortably.)

Because swim­ming straight laps can get a lit­tle dull, try these swim exer­cises to beat bore­dom. Pick your three favorites, and do 10 min­utes of each for a full 30-minute workout:

  • Stroke and Crawl: Swim one length of breast stroke, then swim back with one length of front crawl.
  • Double-Backstroke: Swim back­stroke, but instead of alter­nat­ing arms, do two strokes with each arm before alternating.
  • Sprint and Slow: Alter­nate between one lap of any stroke at your fastest pace, then swim back at a recov­ery pace that lets you catch your breath.
  • Prac­tice Flut­ter and Frog Kicks: Grab a kick board and flut­ter kick one lap, then frog kick back to start.

For Inter­me­di­ate and Advanced Swimmers

If you swam on your own once or twice a week or swam com­pet­i­tively upwards of three times a week before get­ting preg­nant, and your prac­ti­tioner gives you the green light, it’s safe to con­tinue to par­tic­i­pate in your reg­u­lar work­outs as your baby belly grows. Just avoid breath­less­ness: It’s a sign that your baby is out of breath, too.

Inter­me­di­ate and advanced swim­mers might set out for a 2,000-yard swim (i.e., 80 laps in a 25-yard pool.) You can try this work­out using your favorite stroke or alter­nat­ing between dif­fer­ent ones:

  • 5 sets of 100 yards (4 laps) at a moderate-pace, with 10 to 20 sec­onds rest between each set. Rest and stretch for one minute when you’re done.
  • 6 sets of 50 yards (2 laps), focus­ing on your form. Rest 20 to 30 sec­onds between sets. Rest for 1 minute when you’re done.
  • 10 sets of 100 yards (4 laps), focus­ing on speed with effort that’s about an eight on a scale of one to 10. Rest 10 to 30 sec­onds between sets. Rest for 1 minute when you’re done.
  • Grab a kick­board and do 4 laps, just kicking.
  • Ditch the kick board and swim four more laps at an easy pace to cool down.

When It’s Time to Stop Swimming

Regard­less of your pre­na­tal fit­ness level, swim­ming can be hard work — which means it’s nor­mal to expe­ri­ence some aches and pains as you take to the water with your baby belly. Ulti­mately, you’re the best judge of your lim­its. So if you feel any sharp pain, short­ness of breath, faint­ness, vagi­nal bleed­ing, dizzi­ness, con­trac­tions, absence of fetal move­ments or any­thing else that just strikes you as not quite right, stop your work­out imme­di­ately and con­tact your practitioner.

 

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