Can You Open Water Swim While Pregnant?
Can you open water swim while pregnant?
The short answer is – of course you can! With a few caveats of course….
Exercise is extremely beneficial to your physical and mental well-being at any time, and most exercise is safe in pregnancy provided you were already doing a similar level of exercise prior to pregnancy. If you are keen to learn how to swim when you are pregnant, however, feel free to start, as long as you do it safely. As a general rule, the biggest risk of exercise in pregnancy is the risk of trauma to the pregnant abdomen with a fall or collision – such as falling off a bike, skiing, rock climbing, or getting a kick to the abdomen from a competitor in an open water race.
Swimming is amazing exercise generally, but fabulous in pregnancy (although I might be a little biased). There is nothing quite like the feel of weightlessness in the water when just moving on land is becoming harder. That said, you need to be sensible about it – and kind to yourself. The increased resistance of the pregnant abdomen being ‘dragged’ through the water means that by the end of your pregnancy you might need to add in some fins or reduce the length of your swims. Your body is changing; listen to it and respect it.
For those looking at open water swimming, here are some additional items to think about when you are pregnant.
Personal safety – Waves are great fun, but you don’t want to get dumped. Given your change of body shape, you may also not be as strong in your swimming, so respect your boundaries a little more and swim within your limits.
Thermoregulation – Avoid getting too hot or too cold. Just like you wouldn’t take a sauna or an ice bath while pregnant, you don’t want to stress your body in that way if possible.
Water health – Only swim in water you know is safe to swim in (check with local authorities regarding water quality or any outbreaks of water borne diseases and don’t swim if any concerns). Shower after swimming – take warm clothes to change into post swim.
Be sensible – Always swim with someone else for safety. Drink plenty of water to maintain adequate hydration. As your body changes, the effects can be unpredictable, so don’t think that just because it was fine last month that it is fine now. Listen to your body.
Let’s focus on the positives! There are many benefits for swimming in pregnancy including a possible reduction in pelvic girdle pain, strong fitness and muscle benefits, along with providing low impact aerobic exercise without the risk of overheating. An often-overlooked benefit is as a stress and mood-altering tool, because if you are like me, the water can be a happy place to de-stress and ‘zone out’. One meta-analysis even suggests a reduction in the likelihood of an instrumental delivery if you exercise during pregnancy.
You should always check with your obstetrician that they are happy for you to continue to swim. There are specific issues that can occur throughout pregnancy (or due to other medical conditions) that mean you shouldn’t swim or exercise (vaginal bleeding or ruptured membranes, for example), but your obstetrician will be able to guide you should these issues arise. At the end of the day, we want our pregnant women to stay as fit and healthy as possible for as long as possible during pregnancy, and swimming is a great way to maintain fitness. One of my patients did a 3km set in the pool the morning of her scheduled caesarean!
If your healthcare provider gives you the go-ahead, then keep swimming. Just keep swimming – and enjoy it.
Dr Melinda Heywood
BSc, MBBS(Hons), FRANZCOG
Born and raised in Brisbane, Dr Melinda Heywood completed her BSc and MBBS (Hons) at The University of Queensland and then went on to become a Fellow of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG). After working in various Queensland Health hospitals, Melinda joined eXXpectations in 2014. Melinda is a member of the Australasian Gynaecological Endoscopy & Surgery Society (AGES) and the Australian Medical Association (AMA). She is also Senior Lecturer at The University of Queensland.
Away from work, Melinda enjoys spending time with her husband, three children, extended family and friends. Pilates classes are a regular diversion from the rush of everyday life, but for real relaxation reading or swimming at the beach is her preference.
Melinda also participates in open water swimming and has competed as part of the eXXpectations team at the last two Mooloolaba Triathlons. Her long-term goal is to complete the 2km Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim.