pregnant in swimming poolRecreational water illnesses are contracted when pregnant and non-pregnant swimmers come in contact with germs present in treated and untreated water. Germs pose the highest risk to swimmers with impaired immune function, including pregnant women, children and the elderly. The most common germs associated with recreational water illness are cryptosporidium, shigella, giardia, norovirus, and E. coli.

Cryptosporidium, crypto for short, is a parasite with a protective outer shell that allows it to survive in recreational water (including water treated properly with chlorine) for more than 10 days. Contact with and ingestion of infected water can lead to diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weight loss and fever. Pregnant women and young children are at higher risk of dehydration when infected by Crypto. Symptoms can last up to two weeks, sometimes longer in people a compromised immune system.


Shigella is a bacterium that affects the gastrointestinal system. If the immune system is working well, an infection may not cause symptoms, but the infected can pass the bacteria to others even if symptoms are not present. The most common symptom associated with Shigella infection is diarrhea. Antibiotic treatment may be required if symptoms are severe or persistent.


Giardia, like Crypto, is a parasite with a strong outer shell that allows the germ to survive in chlorinated environments. Chlorinated water is infected with giardia when feces contaminates the water. Feces can contaminate water directly (children or animals defecating in a pool) or indirectly (trace amounts of feces left on skin or washed into the water from the pool’s edge). Once infected, diarrhea soon develops. Feces may contain blood. Pregnant women are at risk of severe dehydration if they come in contact with giardia.

Norovirus is often associated with school outbreaks of flu-like symptoms, but the virus can also contaminate swimming pools and untreated recreational water sources. The virus is contagious and can spread quickly, especially to pregnant women, children and the elderly. Norovirus causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal system that leads to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

E. coli
E. coli is a large group of bacteria responsible for diarrhea, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and some respiratory illnesses. In terms of water safety, symptoms of E. coli infection are typically limited to diarrhea.

Pregnant women rarely think about the bacteria, viruses, and germs swimming in treated or untreated waters, but with a reduced immune system reaction, pregnant women need to be educated on the potential threats in swimming waters. While few recreational water illnesses lead to severe symptoms or death, the risk of infection is higher in pregnant women and infection can lead to severe dehydration and hospitalization.