Part of leading a healthful life while pregnant is staying active, according to the Office on Women's Health. Going to the beach while pregnant to swim is a good, low-impact exercise option because it works out the whole body, keeping you fit and preparing your body for giving birth.
Pregnant people should get at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate aerobic activity each week. If you spend part of this time swimming at the beach, whether it's in the ocean, lakes or rivers, take into consideration some safety issues, including cleanliness and what dangers can be hiding in the water.
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With some precautions, you can enjoy a beach vacation or ocean swimming while pregnant. Be careful not to get sunburned and avoid dangers such as jellyfish, sharks, strong currents and waves. Do not drink the water as it may be contaminated with bacteria or chemicals.
Swimming in the Ocean
Swimming can eliminate strain on your joints, which can be extremely helpful for moms-to-be who have to constantly carry around additional weight. Before you step into the ocean, though, be aware of some issues.
In the ocean, a pregnant person (just like anyone else) needs to be aware of what can be lurking in the water, including jellyfish, anemones and hydroids, which can sting and cause pain. In rare cases, sharks can also be a danger. Avoid swimming in areas where sharks are common and swim with other people.
Avoid swallowing ocean water because it can be contaminated with untreated sewage from fertilizers, pets, boats and faulty septic systems. Chemicals and bacteria in the water can cause gastrointestinal illness, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Other potential dangers include waves that can knock you down, strong currents and sunburn, so be sure to swim only in calm areas and apply ample sunscreen.
Swimming in a River
Swimming in a river on a hot day can keep a pregnant body cool, which eliminates the risk of becoming overheated during exercise, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Rivers can be dangerous to pregnant people too, though, because the water can also be contaminated by fecal coliform.
Ingesting this water is dangerous for pregnant people because it can cause diseases such as giardia and cryptosporidium, which can cause energy loss, nausea, diarrhea, gas and weight loss, according to the Vermont Department of Health.
If you decide to swim in the river, don't swim alone, avoid areas with boat traffic, be aware of river currents and always wear a life jacket, suggests the Missouri Stream Team.
Swimming in a Lake
Some lake waters are OK for swimming while pregnant, but you should avoid swallowing lake water because it could also be contaminated with bacteria. It can be tough to know how deep lake water is, so you shouldn't swim without a life jacket unless you're an experienced swimmer or swimming with others.
Lakes can have jagged rocks and other dangers lurking at the bottom, so wear proper footwear to protect your feet. Be aware of boats and other watercraft on the lake and avoid swimming where there's water traffic.
If you go to a lake for a beach holiday while pregnant, be aware that larger lakes, such as the Great Lakes, can have dangerous rip currents, according to Michigan Sea Grant, an extension of Michigan State University. If you're caught in a rip current, try to maintain your footing, float or tread water, or swim parallel to the shoreline until the current eases.
Alternative Swimming Locations and Exercises
Pregnant people could also go for a swim at a swimming pool, but it can also be risky in some circumstances. The chemicals used in swimming pools can be dangerous for moms-to-be and their babies, if too much is being added to the water, but normal levels of chlorine are generally OK unless the water is ingested.
If you're going to a swimming pool, it's a good idea to ensure you choose a pool that has clean water, with the proper amount of chemicals used, and that you avoid swallowing any water.
Swimming isn't the only safe exercise you can do during pregnancy, though. Consider other low-impact activities such as dancing, walking, cycling and low-impact aerobics.
Consult with your health care provider before starting any exercises, and when you do begin, start slowly and don't overdo it. If you feel like you're getting out of breath or uncomfortable, that's a sign to stop what you're doing and take a break.
Pregnant people should avoid extremely hot (101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) thermal springs or hot tubs during the first trimester, as this exposure has been linked to birth defects, according to UT Southwestern Medical Center.
It's generally safe to swim or be in the water while pregnant, whether it's an ocean, lake, river or swimming pool. In fact, swimming or other low-impact water activities are a great way to exercise during pregnancy.
Just be careful not to drink the water in case it's contaminated. Waterborne illnesses are a risk for anyone, but pregnant people should be especially cautious because they may have a harder time fighting off illnesses than non-pregnant people.
You should also continue to take all the usual precautions, like applying sunscreen to avoid sunburn and only swimming in calm, safe areas to avoid injury.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: "Nine Dangers at the Beach"
- American Pregnancy Association: "Exercise and Pregnancy"
- Office on Women's Health: "Staying Healthy and Safe"
- Vermont Department of Health Agency of Human Services: "Obtaining Drinking Water From Lakes and Rivers"
- Missouri Stream Team: "Be River Wise"
- Michigan Sea Grant: "Rip Currents"
- UT Southwestern Medical Center: "Is It OK to Use a Hot Tub During Early Pregnancy?"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.