Can You Paddleboard While Pregnant? 21 Tips to Stay Safe

When you’re pregnant (or planning on getting pregnant) finding an activity to preoccupy your time can be difficult. You’re banned from participating in anything that could be too strenuous on your body, and for a good reason. But what about paddleboarding?

Can you Paddleboard while pregnant? Yes, paddleboarding is a relatively safe activity for pregnant women during all trimesters. It doesn’t put much strain on your legs, hips, or abdomen. It’s important to be careful, however, so here are 21 tips to stay safe paddleboarding while pregnant.

  1. Paddle in Calm Weather
  2. Wear A Leash
  3. Know Your Currents
  4. Keep It Shallow
  5. Avoid Boat Traffic
  6. Wear A Life Vest
  7. Take A Class
  8. Use A Wetsuit
  9. Move Slow
  10. Practice Your Balance
  11. Be Careful of Falls
  12. Have A Paddle Partner
  13. Keep It Simple
  14. Wear Your Sunscreen
  15. Try A Bigger Board
  16. Know Your Limits
  17. Keep A Whistle on Hand
  18. Stay Hydrated
  19. Don’t Panic
  20. Be Prepared
  21. Enjoy Yourself

It may come as a surprise, but paddleboarding is an activity you can engage in while pregnant that, when done safely, doesn’t put a lot of stress on your body – and can also help you relax and destress your body and mind.

1. Paddle in Calm Weather

If you professionally paddleboard, you may be tempted to keep up your old habits – like paddling in rough water for the challenge. During the first trimester, it is slightly less dangerous, but once you reach your second trimester, you should remain in calm water.

While you can be 100% confident in your abilities, rough water is simply too unpredictable as you get further along in your pregnancy. Rough waters can cause you to fall, struggle within the water, and possibly be hit by the paddleboard.

If you find yourself in a bad situation in harsh waters, recovery is much harder as your balance and endurance are thrown off. It is also easier for your board to drift, making it extremely dangerous should your leash fail you or slip off.

Trying to find calm water can potentially limit where you can paddleboard, but it is worth it in the long run to prevent injuries and damaging effects on your body and baby.

2. Wear A Leash

You should follow one of the basic rules of paddleboarding: Wear your leash every time you go out on your paddleboard.

No matter what type of current, environment, or stage of pregnancy you are in, you should always wear your leash. The leash is meant to keep your board near you, should you fall off for any reason.

If you’re paddleboarding without your leash, you risk your board floating off and leave you stranded without a floatation device (if you’ve decided to go without a life jacket).

The easiest way to remember is to create a habit out of it. For a couple of days (or weeks) make sure you put your leash on as soon as you begin to get on your paddleboard. If your leash is broken or old, now is the time to purchase a replacement and make sure it is in its best shape.

3. Know Your Currents

When you stick to a local area to paddleboard, you are typically familiar with the water patterns. It’s when you adventure out of your norm or try the ocean. You should check out the currents and what to expect.

Check the weather patterns for the area and see if anyone has the current posted. If not, determine what the current will be by checking the wind speed and direction and checking what the normal currents are.

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Avoid strong currents as this will put extra stress on your body and back muscles. Strong currents also increase your chances of drifting or getting stuck going against the current.

You can still adventure out, just have a back-up plan in case of a hazardous situation. Have a plan for someone to come and get you out of the water or to lead you to the nearest area where the current calms.

4. Keep It Shallow

All the obvious interesting places to paddleboard consist of deeper water, but there are plenty of places to paddle where the water is still shallow enough so that you can easily touch the bottom and stand.

These places are the best places to visit once you are in your second and third trimester. Once you reach your last two trimesters, you are going to want to avoid deep water.

Staying in shallow water allows you a safe place to rest should you fall off or lose balance. If the water is shallow enough, it gives you a safe and easy place to park and catch your breath.

Keeping it shallow makes it easier to hop back onto your paddleboard and make your way back to it just in case it floats away. You also do not have to fear deep-water currents when you paddle in shallow water.

5. Avoid Boat Traffic

Another simple method of staying safe is avoiding heavy boat traffic in the areas where you dock and decide to paddle.

You want to avoid heavy traffic so that you’re not surrounded by large boats or have the possibility of being knocked over by a rogue wave. With your diminishing balance, it is all too likely.

Not all boaters are respectful of people using paddleboards or other water sports, and their negligence can cause you serious injury. There is also the issue of visibility; when you’re paddle boarding, you are not able to be seen as easily as if you were in a boat.

With heavy traffic, you also have the chance of waves combining and creating waves that you cannot paddle over or through. You can end up being pushed onto shore in an unfamiliar area or being unable to make it to your destination or back to where you put in.

6. Wear A Life Vest

While it may seem like common sense, not everyone likes wearing a life vest. This goes double for pregnant women; the vests are usually ill-fitting, uncomfortable, and can easily rub a rash anywhere and everywhere.

Unfortunately, you should still wear one. Life vests prevent you from being stranded in the water without a floatation device and provide relief if you have fallen into the water or have taken a swim during a break.

They also give you a backup in case you become separated from your board or you have drifted into a current while relaxing in the water. You will need to consider sizing carefully to get the longest use out of your choice.

One vest to consider is the low-profile Liquid Force Breeze, which fits more like a real jacket than a life-jacket. It’s thin design and lack of bulky front buckles should go a long way to making it more comfortable as your body changes shape.

In the more traditional life-jacket style, consider the Connelly Lotus Neoprene Vest. Because it is designed with yoga and movement in mind, the arm openings are larger, and there is an expandable elastic panel across the back. Both of these features will help make it more comfortable during pregnancy. Check both out using those WaterOutfitters links.

7. Take A Class

Yes, you know what you’re doing, and it is an easy activity to pick up on, but you could still benefit from taking a few beginner classes throughout your pregnancy.

It is the perfect time to get a refresher course on the basic skills you should practice and safety tips when out on the water. The instructor may also be able to give you a few pointers on adjusting to paddleboarding while pregnant.

Taking a class gives you the chance to get used to the feel of paddleboarding at the different stages of pregnancy without having to worry about falling or messing up. You’ll be next to a professional that can help you step-by-step.

Practising with someone else who is trained to help is the best way to retrain yourself, and you should try taking a class every other month as your weight and center of gravity change to better hold the baby.

8. Use A Wetsuit

It may be hard to convince yourself to put on a wetsuit in 80-degree weather, but you need to remember that just because it is 80 degrees outside, the water is not the same temperature; it is much colder.

The water can feel warmer than it actually is as well, except that it doesn’t protect you from temperature shock. If your body enters the water without a way to protect itself, this abrupt change in temperature can be harmful to your baby, especially when it switches quickly to a colder temperature.

Temperature shock from exposure to cold extremes can produce many negative outcomes on the fetus. These issues include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Increase in preterm birth
  • Higher risk of developing birth defects

All of these can be prevented if you avoid cold water and make sure that you venture out in your wetsuit. This may not be as big of an issue in tropical areas where the water temperature is warmer throughout the year. We have an ultimate guide to choosing a web suit with occasional posted flash sales or discount codes from our affiliates.

9. Move Slow

Of course, you can move at any speed comfortable to you and your body within the limits that your body can take. That being said, you should start slow and increase your speed until you can get a good feel for where you’re most comfortable.

Beginning by moving slowly will make sure that you are not over-exerting yourself and causing any harm to your body. Your body is not in the same shape it was before getting pregnant, and you will have to adjust.

Take the first couple of trips out on your paddleboard slow, spend the entire time at the same speed. Each trip, you can increase your speed to figure out where you perform best without becoming overly tired or sore.

You should also begin each trip out, moving slowly instead of taking off. It will help you build-up to the speed you’re aiming for while also letting you know if it is too much for you to handle that day.

10. Practice Your Balance

The key to mastering all things is practice. Everyone has a different experience while being pregnant, but everyone has to deal with their centre of gravity changing.

That is why you need to keep your balance, and that means you should practice standing on a thin board on an uneven surface. Even though the paddleboards stay relatively balanced by themselves, adjusting your weight can send you flying off if you’re not careful.

The best way to make sure that you don’t fall with your new centre of gravity is to take your paddleboard out into your yard and practice getting on and off. Once you feel comfortable, do the same thing but in shallow water.

Try and do this each time you go out on the water if you do not go out at least once a week. It is a tedious practice, but you may be surprised how much your body can change in just a couple of days.

11. Be Careful of Falls

Hitting water is better than hitting solid ground, but that doesn’t make it an ideal situation. Falling in water can still cause you and your baby to get hurt.

Falling in the water during your first trimester is not something to worry about as there is plenty of protection between the outside world and your baby. Falling becomes more serious when you fall during the end of your second trimester and third trimester.

If you fall on your stomach during your pregnancy, it can cause a lot of problems such as:

  • Early contractions
  • Loss of amniotic fluid
  • Separation of the placenta from the inner wall of the uterus
  • Passage of fetal blood cells into the maternal circulation

For the most part, these are worst-case scenarios. Even so, you should still be aware of them at all times when paddleboarding so that you are prepared in case something does happen. If you strike any sort of hard surface, notify your doctor who will likely perform an ultrasound to check your baby’s health.

12. Have A Paddle Partner

Probably one of the best tips on the list – have a paddle partner. You never want to go on a long trip without having someone with you in your last two trimesters.

Making sure you have a paddleboarding partner greatly reduces the risk of anything serious happening and you not being able to get out of it. It is the best back-up plan to have when out on the water.

Taking someone paddleboarding with you allows you to have somebody that can help you back on your board if you fall, to tow you if you get exhausted, and to help retrieve your board if it manages to drift away.

Take your partner or your best friend so that you can get some quality time in before the baby arrives. If neither is available, you can go on a paddleboarding tour and be surrounded by people who could help you or could get you help.

13. Keep It Simple

Now is not the time to try anything fancy or elaborate and that applies to where you are paddleboarding, as well as how you paddle when you’re out.

Keep it simple instead. Take basic, but enjoyable trips out on the water and have your path clearly (for the most part) planned out or at least designate a general area you want to stay in.

Also, keep your moves basic. Don’t try to power paddle or force yourself to try new board placements that could put pressure on your back or joints. You need to make sure that you keep your posture the same for each trip.

Staying in the area that you plan out will prevent people from not being able to find your location if you are out for too long. Keeping your posture will prevent extra pressure from being placed on your body and causing pain and other problems further into your pregnancy.

14. Wear Your Sunscreen

During one of your first appointments, doctors hand you a couple of pamphlets explaining different aspects of pregnancy and one of those things is that your skin is now extremely sensitive to the sun.

Your skin is now super sensitive, and even a couple minutes in direct sunlight can cause sunburn. If you remain outside without protection, it can cause skin damage. Wearing a hat and a wetsuit can help block some of your skin from sunburn.

But, the best way to prevent sunburn is by wearing sunscreen. There are plenty of options with different SPF and ingredients, and therefore if you need a sunscreen meant for sensitive skin, it can easily be found. Make sure to reapply during your trip.

If you do happen to get sunburnt, make sure to moisturize your skin to prevent long-term damage. Moisturizing your skin can also help to prevent harsh sunburn in the future as well as encourage your skin to heal faster.

15. Try A Bigger Board

As your belly grows and your balance changes, you need to adjust your paddleboarding experience to suit your new body. One of the changes you could try is using a bigger or different type of paddleboard.

Paddleboards come in many different different types with most being made out of an EPS foam core wrapped with fiberglass and epoxy. While those are lightweight, you may need to switch to a carbon fiber paddle board which is lighter and stiffer.

You could also try switching to an inflatable paddleboard, it may not be the best for your balance, but it might help out when trying to dock.

Getting a new paddleboard may be exactly what you need if you have been having a lot of issues staying on your board. You could get a board that is a couple of inches longer and wider which will help you remain centred and balanced out on the water.

16. Know Your Limits

Not everything can be monitored on the outside; some of it will rely on you and how you will monitor yourself while paddleboarding. You need to keep up with how you feel and what your body is telling you.

During pregnancy, you feel all different types of movements and aches within your body. You have gotten to know what is okay and what is now, what is normal, and what is out of the ordinary.

You know what is best for you and you know when you need to stop and take a break. You need to vocalize your needs to those with you and guarantee that that you keep yourself healthy and safe.

Anybody that is with you can be told of certain tells that you do when you begin to tire or experience pain, but only you know when it is serious and needs attention. That is why this is one of the most important things to do when you are paddle boarding.

17. Keep A Whistle on Hand

Just like when you are travelling on a boat, you need to carry a whistle with you at all times. It does not matter where, as long as it is somewhere within reach such as on your:

  • Wrist
  • Neck
  • Ankle
  • Paddleboard
  • Life vest
  • Bags

It is actually a good idea to attach a whistle to both on your paddleboard and somewhere on your body. This will prevent you from being stuck in a situation without one.

Carrying a whistle with you makes sure that you are always able to call out for help and get someone’s attention. It can alert people to your presence in hard to see areas or at night. It will also help people locate you if they are on a search.

The whistle should be kept in good condition and should have a small float attached to it in case it falls off of you or your board. You want to make sure that you are not left in a dire situation without the ability to call out for help for yourself or for others.

18. Stay Hydrated

A tip that is told to all those who spend long days outside or out on the water; you need to keep hydrated. This is extremely important while pregnant.

The best way to make sure you stay hydrated is by keeping a water bottle with you while you’re out. You can either bring a reusable water bottle packed with ice and water from home or you can bring a small cooler filled with water bottles to set on the back of your board. You can also keep snacks in your cooler for long trips.

No matter what, you need to be able to identify any signs of dehydration so that they can be addressed quickly. You need to look out for:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Increased thirst
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Poor skin elasticity
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing

If you experience any of these symptoms you need to immediately find a shaded area to take a break. If you cannot find a spot, just settle near the edge of the water or away from any boats or obstacles. Then you need to drink some water and relax.

Lay on your board for a few minutes while sipping from a bottle of water. Try to finish the entire bottle before moving again.

If your symptoms do not decrease or go away, you need to try and make it back to shore and call someone to take you to the hospital to be taken care of.

19. Don’t Panic

It may seem hard to accomplish if you find yourself in this situation, but if anything goes wrong, you need to keep calm and don’t panic.

Any situation that may cause you to panic can only be made worse by panicking, although it is easier said than done.

Panicking is similar to anxiety and can cause your heart rate to skyrocket along with your blood pressure. Both can be extremely dangerous for your baby. You can cause yourself to have early contractions and even start preterm labour.

Although it may be tempting, it is better for both you and baby if you manage not to panic. If needed, take a minute to calm down before trying to solve your problem. This can mean sitting in the water for a minute before trying to get back on your board or docking on the nearest shore before continuing on your path.

20. Be Prepared

A good way to keep up with everything you need and to make sure that your paddleboarding trip goes smoothly, you should create a method to be prepared.

This could mean making a list of items that you make sure you have before leaving, a mental (or physical) map of where you’re planning on going, and who you need to leave as an emergency contact should anything bad happen and you need to get ahold of someone.

You should include anything that you may need while you are out on the water when you write up your list. You should include these items depending on where you will be and what you will be doing. here is a guideline:

ListShallow Beach
Paddle
Deep Beach
Paddle
Touring
Paddle
Water Yes Yes Yes
Phone No No Yes
Whistle No Yes Yes
Sunscreen Yes Yes Yes
Snacks No No Yes
Life vest No Yes Yes
Map/GPS No No Yes
Identification No No Yes

Planning out your path will also help others locate you if you are needed or you need to be picked up from the water. Some of this may seem a bit extreme, but you are thinking for two now.

21. Enjoy Yourself

Keeping safe is all about keeping calm, and there is no better way to remain calm than enjoying your time out paddleboarding.

Remember why you wanted to go out on the water in the first place and just enjoy that feeling while relaxing out on the water.

Don’t forget to keep up with everything else, like staying hydrated and making sure you have a life vest. Just make sure that even with all of that, you are still enjoying yourself and going paddle boarding.


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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