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Pregnancy is a transformative time, but it doesn’t always mean giving up your favorite activities.
The important question is, can you kayak while pregnant?
In this article, I’ll delve into the considerations, precautions, and potential advantages of kayaking during pregnancy to help you make informed decisions about staying active on the water.
Can You Paddle A Kayak While Pregnant? (What The Doctors Say)
I know there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, since all women and all pregnancies are different. But like most women, we generally know our body’s limitations. However, it’s important that you get advice from your doctor before you kayak.
Your doctor will know if it’s safe for you and your pregnancy to start or continue with kayaking or other activities. Healthy women with low-risk pregnancies should be safe to kayak.
Exercise during pregnancy is safe and is usually advised. Pre-pregnancy physical activity can help to keep you physically active during the pregnancy and can help to prevent gestational diabetes.
However, the type of kayaking you do will generally determine how safe or practical it is to continue with, especially as your bump grows.
It’s often recommended (and I agree) that you continue with activities that you did prior to your pregnancy, as long as you are not at risk of injury or falling.
Relaxed paddling on flatwater is generally considered safe. Bear in mind that you may tire more quickly than usual and become out of breath more easily while paddling. This is because you require more oxygen during pregnancy than non-pregnant women.
Until Which Trimester Is It Generally Safe To Kayak During Pregnancy?
I know some pregnant women kayak right up till their due date.
Potentially, you could kayak right up until your third trimester if you have a low-risk pregnancy and you are in good health. However, the closer you get to your due date, the more difficult it might become due to the changing shape of your body.
There are changes to your center of gravity during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. This puts more strain on your back which can result in back pain.
I know that sitting for long periods in a kayak can also be uncomfortable. This is because of the stress on your hips and pelvis and more supple ligaments in these joints.
Pregnant friends of mine have also reported knee pain from the extra pressure on knee joints. This could affect how comfortable you might be while sitting in a kayak for long periods, especially if your seat is flat on the deck.
Additionally, you may find that your bump is too big to fit in some kayaks, especially sit-inside kayaks with small cockpits. Sit-on-top kayaks may accommodate a larger bump and will be much easier to get in and out of.
It can be better to stick to calm flatwater conditions rather than head off on a whitewater kayaking trip.
However, whitewater kayaking when nine months pregnant is not unheard of.
Champion kayaker Emily Jackson kayaks pregnant and she even won a women’s freestyle event at nine months pregnant, beating the world champion. Emily Jackson competes frequently while pregnant.
Another avid kayaker, Mariann Saether, kayaked pregnant in whitewater right up until 10 days before the birth.
Video: Emily Jackson Competes at 8 Months Pregnant
Tips For Safer Pregnant Kayak Paddling
Stick To Calm Water
Calm, flatwater, such as a quiet lake or a slow-moving river, can be ideal paddling spots to stay safe while pregnant.
It takes additional skills to kayak in whitewater or rough water, such as rolling. With the changes to your body and balance during pregnancy, rolling while pregnant can be more difficult than normal.
Wear A Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
Always wear a PFD while kayaking during pregnancy.
During early pregnancy, most of my friends didn’t need to adjust their PFDs much, so you might be the same. But as your baby bump grows, you’ll find your life jacket doesn’t fit as comfortably as it did.
Choose a PFD with multiple points of adjustment so you can tailor the fit around your bump without affecting the secure fit at your shoulders.
I’ve found there are some compact life jackets available that have less foam at the front and look more like inflatable PFDs rather than a typical life jacket.
It’s important to stay hydrated while kayaking so that you don’t risk dehydration. Drink plenty of water before and during your paddling session. However, if you’re anything like me, this means you’ll need to take more frequent bathroom breaks.
Remember, you may need to drink more than normal if the weather is hot.
Dehydration while pregnant can lead to Braxton Hicks contractions.
If you want to safely kayak in the summer, remember to wear plenty of sunscreen.
I recommend that you also wear a sun hat to provide protection for your head and sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
Seek shade regularly to give yourself some time out of the sun.
Check out our guide on sun protection to learn more
Don’t Overexert Yourself
You might find it can be less strenuous to paddle at a more leisurely pace to avoid becoming fatigued too quickly.
Strenuous activities such as power paddling and whitewater paddling can increase your heart rate and cause you to become overheated.
Being overheated while pregnant carries inherent dangers, such as increased risk of heat stroke for you and pregnancy complications, such as heart conditions or neural tube defects in the fetus, or even premature birth.
If you suffer from headaches, dizziness, pain, or shortness of breath, I recommend that you stop kayaking and cut your trip short.
Plan Plenty Of Rest Stops
I know that sitting in a kayak can be uncomfortable so it’s important to take lots of rest stops.
This can allow you to get out and stretch your legs. It can also take some of the pressure off of your back and hips from sitting in the same position for a while.
If you’re paddling in warm, sunny weather, stopping regularly can let you seek shade and rehydrate.
A decent rest stop can also give you time to eat a snack or a meal to keep your energy levels up for the rest of your trip.
Avoid Solo Kayaking Adventures
It’s best to take a kayaking buddy with you when you head out on the water so that you have someone with you in case of an emergency.
A tandem kayak can be a good idea if you’re paddling with a partner, as this means you don’t need to be in full control of a vessel at all times by yourself. Your partner can paddle back to shore in an emergency or if you start to get too tired.
Upgrade Your Kayak Seat
The best kayak seats come in all shapes and sizes but not all of them offer adequate support.
I recommend seats with lumbar support in the backrest. I’ve found that a backrest that provides enough support for your spine can be more comfortable. You might want to think about adding an extra cushion or seat pad underneath to provide additional support and padding for your hips and butt.
An elevated seat might be a good idea for kayaking while pregnant, especially if you have sore knees. This can let you sit in a more natural position, rather than flat out on the deck with your legs on the floor.
I find that elevated seats tend to be easier to get out of, especially with a baby bump in tow, as your knees can bend more easily to stand up.
Choose The Right Kayak
I know that a sit-on-top kayak will be easier to get in and out of than a sit-inside kayak. This is because there’s no cockpit to contend with, which can be even more restrictive with a large baby bump.
A wide recreational kayak can also offer greater stability, especially in the flatwater conditions you will likely be paddling in.
Another thing I’d recommend is adding a kayak seat to a paddle board. I know paddle boards are extremely stable, which is why we’re able to stand up on them. So they can offer excellent flatwater stability for kayaking.
Don’t Carry Your Own Kayak
During pregnancy, it’s best to avoid carrying heavy objects. Kayaks are very heavy to carry on your own. I find even the most lightweight kayaks are by no means easy to carry – pregnant or not.
It’s best to have someone help you carry your kayak. Or better yet, have them carry it for you.
Are There Benefits To Paddling A Kayak When Pregnant?
You can get similar health benefits from kayaking while pregnant as you would if you weren’t pregnant.
Kayaking while pregnant can bring mental health benefits, as it can allow you to get out in the fresh air and stay active for a healthier pregnancy. It also helps to reduce stress, which I know is important for expectant mothers.
Like many other on-the-water sports, kayaking is a non-contact, low-impact activity. There is generally a low risk of injury as there is less strain on your joints compared to other water sports.
There is also less chance of you falling in the water while kayaking compared to paddle boarding, for example, as you can remain seated for better balance.
Paddling When Pregnant: Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Go Kayaking When 8 Months Pregnant?
Yes, as long as you are not high risk. But check with your doctor, as they can advise if it’s safe for you specifically. Remember, not all pregnancies are the same.
What Are The Risks Involved In Kayaking While Pregnant?
The same risks that apply for all kayakers also apply during pregnancy. However, pregnancy puts your body under much more physical strain than the average person, which can increase the chances of injury and emergency.
Can The Physical Exertion From Kayaking Harm My Baby?
Moderate physical activity from kayaking is generally safe for you and your unborn baby. But don’t exhaust yourself. Listen to your body’s signals and talk with your doctor to find out what is safe for you.
Are There Any Kayak Modifications To The Kayak Or Gear That Can Make Kayaking Safer During Pregnancy?
You could potentially add outriggers to your kayak to improve the stability of the kayak. You could also add lumbar support to your seat to minimise occasional backache.
Are There Certain Water Conditions Or Kayaking Activities That Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?
Avoid whitewater rapids and very strenuous kayaking unless you’ve been advised by your doctor that it is safe for you. Stick to calm waters.
Is It Safe For A Pregnant Woman To Swim In A Lake?
Yes, it’s usually safe for pregnant women to swim in lakes and open water and I know pregnant women who frequently swim in lakes. Swimming is generally a recommended activity during pregnancy.
The Last Port: Final Thoughts On Kayaking While Pregnant
As long as you follow relevant safety guidelines and stick to flat waters, I think kayaking can be a fun and relaxing way to stay active during your pregnancy, while letting you spend time outdoors.
But remember, we’re all different and what’s right for one woman may not necessarily be right for another, even if you’re already an experienced kayaker.
Choose the right kayak, wear your PFD, and take a buddy with you. Stay safe, have fun and before you know it, you’ll be able to introduce your little one to the joy of kayaking.