Chlorine is used to kill bacteria, algae and germs in swimming pools to keep the walls and bottom clean and disinfected, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pregnant women, who find swimming or water aerobics to be a healthy, low-impact prenatal exercise, may be concerned with potential fetal effects of the chlorine that is used in swimming pools.
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Chlorination may be linked to low birth weight, preterm delivery, spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, cardiac defects and neural tube defects, according to Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Additionally, the use of chlorine to disinfect swimming pools can lead to chlorine-containing compounds in the air, such as trihalomethanes (THMs), which may affect the respiratory health of a pregnant woman, according to the European Respiratory Journal.
The possible link between birth defects and/or pregnancy complications and chlorinated swimming pools is inconsistent, according to Occupational and Environmental Medicine. There is no conclusive evidence to prove that chlorine in swimming pools has a negative effect on the health of pregnant women or their unborn children, though the website What To Expect recommends that pregnant women swim in pools where the amount of chlorine is properly maintained at the appropriate level.
Swimming is among one of the best prenatal exercises, according to What To Expect. It is an excellent low-impact workout that can strengthen and tone large muscle groups, such as the legs and arms, while posing almost no risk of injury to pregnant women, according to the website Baby Center. Women who swim regularly may notice improved circulation, increased strength and endurance, all of which can help reduce sleeplessness and daytime fatigue.
When chlorine is used in indoor pools, chlorine-containing compounds are released into the air during evaporation and may affect the respiratory health of a swimmer, according to the European Respiratory Journal. To reduce the risk of chlorine-related respiratory irritation, anyone should swim in outdoor pools for optimal air circulation and should avoid heated pools that can increase the release of chlorine-containing compounds. If swimming in an indoor pool, there should be appropriate ventilation of chloramine accumulation, proper chlorine levels should be maintained and the water temperature should be monitored.
Women who are pregnant and considering participating in water aerobics or swimming regularly should first consult with their health care provider. During the first trimester, swimming in the morning may counteract nausea. Use a snorkel to relieve pressure on the neck that may occur when bobbing up and down for air. Stay well hydrated by drinking 236ml of water prior to swimming, 227gr every 20 minutes while swimming, and 227gr when finished swimming, according to the Baby Center.
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- Occupational and Environmental Medicine: Chlorination Disinfection Byproducts in Water and Their Association With Adverse Reproductive Outcomes
- Euorpean Respiratory Journal: Indoor Swimming Pools, Water Chlorination and Respiratory Health
- Baby Center: Great Pregnancy Exercise: Swimming
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Learn About Chemicals Around Your House
- What To Expect: Ask Heidi-Swimming Safety