Swimming is a particularly good exercise in pregnancy, as the water helps to support your extra weight. This can be a huge relief, especially in the third trimester. And unlike some other forms of aerobic exercise, swimming helps you to feel cool. The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth.
Early in pregnancy, all strokes are suitable. In late pregnancy, breaststroke may be beneficial as it promotes good posture and strengthening of the back and chest muscles. As you’d perhaps expect, our Acupuncture Awareness Week (March 2016) supporter, Olympic medalist Rebecca Adlington has swam regularly throughout her pregnancy. At 32 weeks she commented,
“I went for a swim the other night, got to the end of the pool and thought, Oh my God, I can’t tumble turn! I’ve been swimming twice a week all through my pregnancy, although now if I do backstroke my bump sticks out of the water, and if I do front crawl I feel like a hippopotamus. The last time I did manage a tumble turn she went absolutely mad. I think she was doing tumble turns of her own!” (www.babycentre.co.uk)
Midwives generally advise women should do gentle exercise throughout their pregnancy, though I’m not sure Rebecca’s idea of gentle exercise is quite the same! If you decide to swim, choose a stroke that feels comfortable and one you enjoy. Try not to arch your low back or crane your neck out of the water. If you have any existing muscular aches and pains, it might be worth talking to a physiotherapist first before starting swimming. You could also try acupuncture to help with back and neck pains, it is safe and effective throughout your pregnancy.
Listen to Rebecca talk about acupuncture and how she found it beneficial for her ongoing shoulder injury.