Can You Snorkel While Pregnant? Safety Tips from a Doctor

Low impact exercises are very beneficial during pregnancy. Snorkeling is not only low impact, it also is done in a comfortable weightless condition. So can or should pregnant women snorkel?

Pregnant women can safely snorkel until the mid third trimester. Low impact exercises like snorkeling are great for physical and mental health. Pregnant snorkelers should not free dive or hold their breath for more than a few seconds. Women with complicated pregnancies or health problems should consult a doctor.

If you’ve been itching to hop into the water and get a first-hand look at all the beautiful sea life swimming just below the surface but don’t want to risk your health while pregnant, you have come to the right place. We are going to ‘dive in’ (hah!) to all the must-know tips and tricks for safely snorkeling while pregnant.

Is Snorkeling OK While Pregnant?

Yes, snorkeling has been deemed safe by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Organizationas well as other medical organizations. Of course, there are certain safety precautions that pregnant women must adhere to ensure their safety while snorkeling.

How to Safely Snorkel While Pregnant

There are a few different things to keep in mind when you are snorkeling while pregnant. The good news is, there aren’t too many things to be overly concerned about and, for the most part, you can be confident in the health of you and your baby.

If you’re new to snorkeling, you can check out our beginner’s guide. Here are the most important things to keep in mind snorkeling while pregnant: 

Stay Close to the Surface When Snorkeling While Pregnant

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when you are snorkeling as a pregnant woman is this: never dive. Diving can have negative consequences on the baby (DAN) as the pressurized air affects how much air your growing baby is receiving and how much nitrogen can build up.

Scuba diving can also cause decompression illness, which occurs when you come to the surface swiftly and nitrogen bubbles expand automatically. This sudden expansion of nitrogen causes ample amounts of distress to your unborn child, and repeated decompressions can eventually be fatal to the baby.

Therefore, do not dive. While there hasn’t been much research on humans, animals have been exposed to hyperbaric oxygen in chambers. Animal studies have shown risk of spontaneous abortion, birth defects and low birth weights (source.) Exposing a fetus to pressurized oxygen and nitrogen during the first trimester can prevent the fetal heart from properly diving into its proper left and right separation.

Stick to snorkeling and avoid diving as this Pub Med/NLM guide states. Snorkeling is essentially exactly like swimming when pregnant, which is a great low impact exercise. And you can safely snorkel and swim in lakes, rivers or the ocean according to this MomInformed post.

Stay Hydrated and Cool

As a pregnant woman, you know the importance of remaining hydrated for your baby. You should also be concerned with your temperature levels rising too high, as this can be potentially damaging to your child. The best thing to do is to make sure that you take frequent breaks and drink plenty of fluids, particularly water.

And don’t think just because you are in cold water that you are safe from your body temperature heating up. Swimming around in any type of water is going to heat your body up and burn a lot of calories, even without you knowing it. So, breaks are ideal, and trying to stay away from snorkeling during the hottest parts of the day is a good idea, too. Dehydration often goes unrecognized while swimming (source.)

Fatigue Comes Quicker When Snorkeling During Pregnancy

Again, this all comes down to taking regular breaks while snorkeling. If you are still feeling tired after the break, then you might want to call it quits. Don’t push yourself- even if that means ending the snorkeling session 15 or 20 minutes early.

Your baby’s health is more important. Fatigue is common in pregnancy even without adding in exercise or snorkeling, so take it easy. (MomInsider First Time Pregnancy Tips)

Snorkeling is more tiring than you may imagine. See my post on the reasons why. Wearing a life jacket may help reduce fatigue. Your buoyancy will increase during pregnancy, so it isn’t difficult to quietly float face down while resting. But if you wish to surface and rest or talk to your buddy, a jacket can help with that.

Not every life jacket can accommodate the changing body sizes of pregnancy. Many are tight-fitting with small arm openings. The O’Brien Impulse and Stohlquist Flo jackets have been designed for larger bust sizes and come in 5 different sizes. You may want to consider going up one size if buying early in your pregnancy.

Check the Weather/Currents

Another thing to be concerned about is the weather and currents in the area that you are snorkeling in. After all, could you imagine being swept out into a current at 7 or 8 months pregnant? It sounds like a disastrous situation- not only because it would be terrifying, but all that chaos could harm the child.

So, it is vital to check the weather and currents in the area. Even though the sea may appear calm, some areas can be prone to sudden changes and end up with some wild waves or currents that you do not want to come face-to-face with while pregnant.

Check the Area Where You are Snorkeling

The key to snorkeling while pregnant is to remain diligent and alert at all times, as there are some creatures and plants in the water that can harm you. Some of these include the following:

  • Look out for sharp plants or rocks. It is essential to be cautious when stepping into the water so you do not end up with a cut that could eventually lead to an infection. 
  • Look out for jellyfish. A jellyfish sting is horrifying no matter what but being pregnant with one of these horrid stings would be a bit too much to handle and can have adverse effects on mother and child.
  • Keep an eye out for sea urchins, stingrays, or anything else that can cut or sting you.

Pregnant Snorkelers Should Never Hold Their Breath

Holding your breath while pregnant- at any capacity- whether you are snorkeling or not, can be damaging to your unborn child. The problem with snorkeling, though, is that you might end up holding your breath because it ‘feels’ like you should be. After all, you are underwater- isn’t everyone’s first response to hold their breath, even with a snorkel?

Well, you need to be on top of it when you are snorkeling. Do not hold your breath. Stay near the surface. This will keep you from wanting to hold your breath as you won’t feel like oxygen is too far away from you. Just make sure to read my guides on buying a quality mask and snorkel. You can rent or borrow fins, or you buy one of the many different types of fins I explain in that post.

Bring Someone with You

Did your significant other want to go on a romantic vacation before the baby is born, and he wanted to include a romantic snorkeling adventure with you? Well, you’re in luck. Not only is snorkeling a fun, safe, and relaxing activity to do while pregnant, but it’s also necessary to bring someone along for the ride.

Snorkeling alone is just not advisable for anyone, pregnant or not. But even more so when pregnant. Do not go snorkeling alone. You never know what can happen, and it is better to have a partner with you than to dare the seas alone.

Have an emergency whistle on hand, as I recommend in this post.

Check with Your Doctor Before Snorkeling

If you are unsure about whether you should snorkel while pregnant, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor before snorkelingHe will be able to give you the A-Okay so you can feel confident while having the time of your life.

This is especially important for women who struggle with anemia or high blood pressure, or for those with a history of premature labor. Your doctor may have to take extra precautions with you before your snorkeling adventure, and he may suggest a specific time during your pregnancy that is safest. 

Final Thoughts

Snorkeling while pregnant is a great way to get outside, float in the water, see some incredible sea life, and have the time of your life. It also acts as a great form of low-impact exercise, which is great for pregnant women. The most important thing to remember is that you should skip scuba and free-diving, never hold your breath, and check the currents/weather as well as your surroundings while snorkeling.

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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, with wakeboards and kitesurfing the next challenges for my adult kids. Click the photo for a lot more.

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