Can you go paddling when pregnant? It’s a difficult question to answer, and everyone will have a different opinion depending on who they are, what they do, and their level of paddling experience.
The general answer is, yes, paddling when pregnant is safe. But as with everything during those nine months, you should do what is right for you and your pregnancy.
Saying that, we’ve compiled this useful list of hints and tips around paddling when pregnant, whether you’re canoeing or kayaking. The list has been created with the help of the Women’s Paddling Community, which is a great place to get some further questions answered should you have them. And don’t forget, if you are new to paddling or have any doubts at all, consult a medical professional before picking up a paddle!
Top tips for paddling when pregnant
- This one cropped up so much, we had to make it number one. Listen to your body! We heard from some ladies who carried on in their routine as normal, paddling white water until they no longer felt comfortable, or competing in marathon races until they were almost due (eek!), to others who switched their type of paddling they did to flat, sheltered water. It really depends on your level of confidence, experience and comfort. Listen to yourself.
- Know your limits. If you don’t normally paddle white water, when you’re pregnant is probably not the time to start. There’s plenty of time to push yourself and your limits post-pregnancy!
- Don’t just consider the physical paddling, think about the wider picture. Are you heading into the winter season? How do you feel about potentially falling into cold water? Are you prepared? How does your kit fit? Is your BA still fit for purpose? How about your spray deck – does it still fit? Or can you borrow one from a friend to make you more comfortable? Are you eating enough to fuel you and your baby? Just apply some common sense to the decisions you make and choose the right thing for you.
- Your body is changing, so your skillset might do too. This can be a good or bad thing! With your bump, your centre of gravity gets lower, which can actually make you more stable in a kayak. However, post-pregnancy, your centre of gravity returns to normal and you could feel a bit more wobbly when you get back on the water! Things like rolling can also make you feel a bit… unwell, and can sometimes prevent you tucking forward. So rolling workshops might be off the cards for a while.
- Give a little consideration to getting in and out, and portaging. How heavy is your boat? Is it easy to carry or will you need a hand? The places along the route where you get in and out, how are they? Plan ahead and think about the practicality of carrying and getting in and out. All these things are perfectly doable, it’s just easier to think about the practicalities beforehand and be prepared!
- Make sure you eat enough! Your body already burns a lot of energy when paddling because it’s a great form of exercise. Being pregnant as well, you will definitely need to up your food intake, otherwise your body can burn fat and muscle to provide energy… which is not so great for feeding an extra human.
- Listen to what the professionals say but also apply your knowledge about paddlesport to the conversation. Most medical professionals would agree that mild exercise is a good thing during pregnancy, depending on your own situation of course. One lady we spoke to told us about how her midwife assumed paddling would mean she got bashed and banged by other boats while on the water, or that it was all whitewater. So while you should ALWAYS heed professional advice, consider your own paddling style, experience and water conditions when making your decision.
- There’s a hormone called relaxin which is present throughout your pregnancy in readiness for birth. This can sometimes make certain maneuvers trickier than usual, because it makes your ligaments more supple. Again, this is where you need to listen to your body.
All in all, whether you can carry on paddling when pregnant will depend on you and your circumstances. Listen to your body and go with the flow.