This is a guest post written by MySwimPro Member Sandy Fox, of New York, USA.

When I found out I was pregnant, I quickly learned that I was lucky to already be a frequent and committed swimmer. While medical professionals generally say that pregnant women shouldn’t pick up new exercise routines, swimming is one of the few exceptions to that rule.

The internet was full of encouragement for my workout of choice, and I was excited to see how my love for swimming would help me as I went through my pregnancy.

When I wanted advice geared towards more experienced swimmers, however, I found there wasn’t a ton of information out there. (With a few exceptions, like these great MySwimPro blog posts from Jackie and Paige!). As my pregnancy went on, though, I had new questions and needs as my body changed.

So that it might help someone else down the line, here is my personal trimester-by-trimester experience swimming while pregnant as a consistent, medium-fast to fast lap swimmer!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. Please consult a doctor and/or physical therapist if you have questions about any of what I mention below.

Sandy and her workouts at 37 weeks pregnant
 Sandy and her workouts at 37 weeks pregnant

Swimming Before Pregnancy

I’ve loved to swim since early childhood. It was my favorite activity at summer camp, and eventually I was on my school’s swim team. I quit as things got serious in favor of other extracurriculars, but still always loved swimming. As an adult, swimming has come in and out of my life depending where I lived and what kind of pool access I had; it’s not the easiest routine to keep up in New York City, where I’ve lived for most of my adult life. But over the last four years, it has become a constant again.

Before pregnancy, I swam 3x a week, completing workouts of about 1600-2200 yards using programmed workouts in the MySwimPro app on my Apple Watch.

My other main workouts have long included Pilates reformer classes, and occasionally Barre and Yoga classes.

I came into pregnancy feeling the best I ever had physically, and was excited to see how I’d weave swimming into my first pregnancy. 

First Trimester: Swimming Through Exhaustion

My experience of the first trimester of pregnancy was overall very lucky. I was barely ever nauseous and never threw up. However, I was extremely low energy. Many women experience some shortness of breath the first trimester, and that was certainly the case with me.

I also felt really bloated and struggled with my mood. I was still able to make it to the pool about as much as before, but my swims needed to be shorter. I started to taper off of doing the “Endurance” workouts from the MySwimPro app that I had been doing before, and started to choose Workouts Of The Day that felt doable instead. I adjusted them from whatever number of yards they were automatically set at to about 1400-1600 yards most days, taking me about 30-40 minutes each. 

I am not going to lie: I felt pretty discouraged. I was barely pregnant, and yet here I was already needing to change my routines. I didn’t think pregnancy would impact my swimming abilities so soon, especially without that infamous morning sickness getting in my way. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to get that energy and mood boost people told me about that comes in the second trimester.

Second Trimester: Back in the Groove?

Sure enough, my energy started to come back by week 10 or 11, a little ahead of the trimester switch. My body hadn’t really changed much yet, so my swimming form hadn’t yet either; I was basically able to swim as I had before pregnancy again.

Sandy’s pool at Crown Heights Armory – Imagine Swimming NYC

I still enjoyed doing MySwimPro’s workouts of the day, but brought myself back up to 1600-2000 yards a swim, taking me between 30 and 45 minutes to complete depending on the content of the workout. I could still do all of the strokes, too.

Some of my second trimester fun was cut off a bit short at around 16 weeks, thanks to a hormone called relaxin. Although I was barely showing, the growth happening inside was apparently substantial enough to seriously impact a nerve. I also just felt my joints get even more hyper-mobile than they already were from the relaxin now pumping through my body.

At first, the nerve symptoms presented just as a maddening tingle in my outer thighs. But within a week or two, the situation escalated to pain while walking or standing. It was demoralizing to walk around with a constant pain in my leg and at times my glute that early in the pregnancy.

The only thing that felt great was swimming.

Nevertheless, I had to learn to support my body differently. I started to be more intentional about stretching and recovering after my lap swims than I ever had before, and a few sessions with a physical therapist guided me towards strengthening my glutes and core more on a mat regularly to take some pressure off my hips and legs.

I was frustrated to find out that a lot of my pilates teachers, due to conflicting views on the pros and cons of certain kinds of core work in pregnancy, cut off some exercises a bit too soon. In actuality, keeping up a strong core helped take the pressure off my hips, glutes, and tingly thighs. So as I went back to swimming much like my pre-pregnancy self, I needed to supplement it with modified pilates and exercises from my physical therapist. Those changes did start to improve the situation, and while the tingling has remained, the pain was gone by week 22.

My takeaway from that time: Even if you’re not showing yet, you’re changing inside.

Support your hormonal changes in the second trimester with strengthening, stretching (but not overstretching), and approved prenatal core exercises on land that focus on the transverse abdominis. Swimming is wonderful at that stage, but the buoyancy of the pool can also mask how much change is occurring. Prepare to find a balance between what feels good in the water and what you need on land.

Another takeaway: if people tell you that things are “just going to get worse as you get bigger,” don’t listen. That kind of negative thinking made my pain worse, and it was also just plain wrong. The best weeks of my pregnancy were still very much yet to come.

Third Trimester: Never Been Happier to be a Swimmer!

It really took until the beginning of my third trimester to get that baby bump I expected months earlier. I was excited! At the same time, some aches and pains associated with that growth started to impact me exactly as I hit my 29th week.

Now at week 37, my hips are tighter than ever before, and my mid-back often aches, particularly after sitting. But the pool has consistently remained the best thing for me. I became a member of a different pool with fewer lap swim hours to choose from, but a much closer walk to my house. Learn more about the pool at Crown Heights Armory – Imagine Swimming NYC.

Between that and the fact that because moving in water feels even more incredible as gravity becomes more and more of a bummer, I’m swimming more than ever, usually hitting the pool 4-5x a week. 

Early in my third trimester, I was able to swim more or less as I did before; slower, yes, but not as slow as I expected. (I can’t tell you how much slower I am now because, despite having all of the data in the MySwimPro app, I haven’t felt compelled to figure it out.

Why focus on what I’m doing less well than how amazing it is that I’m doing all of this with a person growing inside of me?

Still, I have definitely made some changes. I quit Butterfly at week 30, figuring that, since my core is inevitably stretched out and weaker than it was before pregnancy, it might lead me to strain on my low back; I also had to stop doing backstroke because it made me a bit lightheaded and dizzy. One big change is I started to use a pull buoy more often to support my changing shape and help me be more streamlined in the water with a bump.

The main change, however, was I stopped using pre-programmed workouts in MySwimPro. Instead, I started following my intuition for however long I wanted to be in the water. On the days that I feel particularly breathless from my uterus cramping my lungs and diaphragm, I do 50 yards of freestyle and stop for 5-10 seconds before continuing; on days that I feel my breath is a bit less restricted, I go for 100 yards with those short breaks between.

I switch between freestyle with and without a pull buoy, kick-boarding, and at the end of my workout, a few hundreds of breaststroke and sidestroke. I’m still able to do 1600 yards a workout, typically taking me about 40-45 minutes, but I also sprinkle in some shorter 1000-1200 yard workouts a week since I’m going more frequently.

My goal isn’t to get faster or stronger; there’ll be time for that later. My goals now are to support my bodily changes, alleviate the aches and pains of late pregnancy, and, as I get closer to the big day, prepare myself for the endurance of labor.

Throughout these past 9 months, I have been in awe of what my body can do in the water, and found that the pool is where I feel most connected to my body and my baby.

One day around week 33, I felt my baby flip from breech to head down while swimming as I pushed off the wall to turn around. We turned together! (I had that confirmed on an ultrasound I had scheduled a few days later).

And I often just imagine, as I swim, what it might feel like for her to be floating in amniotic fluid inside of my swimming body. Can she tell the difference between me swimming and walking? Does the pool soothe her like it soothes me? 

I Love Swimming While Pregnant

Overall, my love of swimming has been one of the biggest blessings of my pregnancy.

The pool is the place where I feel free from the burdens of gravity, where my aches and pains melt away, and where I feel most strong and capable. Every pregnancy is different; I know that, in many ways, I’ve just been lucky to be able to workout as much as I have.

If you’re pregnant and love to swim, though, I encourage you to continue to get in the pool whenever you can, however you can, doing whatever you can, even if sometimes that means just floating.

No matter what you do, the water will do your changing body wonders.

This is a guest post written by MySwimPro Member Sandy Fox, of New York, USA.

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