You’re a very active woman, and that hasn’t changed too much since you’ve gotten pregnant. A friend invites you to go kayaking this weekend. The weather is supposed to be perfect, and you really want to say yes, but you’re just not sure. Is kayaking when pregnant safe to do?
Yes, you can usually go kayaking when pregnant, but if you have any concerns, we recommend talking to your doctor. Kayaking as a pregnant woman can be beneficial in many ways, as you get to spend time outside and you can keep your weight down.
In this explanative guide, we’ll cover the risks and benefits of kayaking when pregnant so you can decide whether it’s the right activity for you. We’ll also provide plenty of kayaking safety tips so you can have a fun-filled, worry-free day on the water!
Can You Kayak When Pregnant?
Let’s start with a question that we’re sure is taking up valuable space in your mind. As a pregnant woman, is kayaking a good idea?
According to MyHealthFinder through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “if you were already physically active before your pregnancy, it’s healthy to keep it up.”
MyHealthFinder doesn’t mention any specific activities in their statement, but their webpage does say that being an active woman can potentially help you stave off pregnancy complications.
However, we always, always recommend that you consult with your doctor or healthcare provider about a physical activity before engaging in it. Your doctor has treated you throughout your whole pregnancy, whether that’s eight weeks or 30 weeks along. They know your health background as well as your current health, so they can provide specifics on your pregnancy.
If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, then MyHealthFinder recommends that pregnant women get approximately two and a half hours of exercise per week. The activities you do should be “moderate-intensity aerobic,” which means any activity that increases your heart rate. Kayaking certainly would count as aerobic!
Even if you weren’t particularly active before you got pregnant, it’s never too late to start. MyHealthFinder recommends that you begin with small periods of physical activity, such as five minutes at a time. Then add onto that more and more until you’re getting in a good workout.
Not all women will be eligible for kayaking or doing any kind of strenuous physical activity while pregnant, and we want to make that very clear. If you have a weak cervix, pre-existing medical conditions, a history of premature birth or miscarriage, or you’re having a high-risk pregnancy, then you should not go kayaking.
Ask your doctor about the kinds of physical activities that are more appropriate for you. Those likely won’t be very strenuous, but it’s better than nothing.
Can You Whitewater Kayak While Pregnant?
Next, we want to talk about whitewater kayaking. The main difference between whitewater kayaking and the regular kind is the strength of the water.
Regular kayaking is done in any body of water, from placid lakes and streams to the ocean. Whitewater kayaking requires whitewater, as the name implies.
Whitewater occurs when the gradient in a body of water such as a river allows air to become entrapped within the water. The gradient creates turbulence in the water, producing frothy, unpredictable water currents. The frothiness of the water makes it look white, hence the name whitewater.
Whitewater activities are inherently more thrilling than riding in tamer waters, but they’re far more dangerous as well. That doesn’t only include kayaking but rafting too.
The unpredictability of the whitewater currents could cause you to smash your boat into rocks. You might then tumble out of your kayak. You could overexert yourself while whitewater kayaking and be unable to help yourself or a fellow passenger if they’re in a risky situation.
Hypothermia is another risk associated with whitewater kayaking or rafting. When you have hypothermia, your body temperature plummets. If the temperature drop is severe enough, death can occur.
The biggest risk of whitewater activities by far is drowning. Even if you’re a good swimmer, the harsh, strong current and its unpredictable patterns can pull you through the water quickly, making it very hard to get yourself out.
Whitewater kayaking and rafting aren’t the safest activities for regular healthy folk, so they’re not advisable for pregnant women. MyHealthFinder cautions pregnant ladies to “stay away from activities that increase your risk of falling,” and whitewater kayaking is certainly one of them.
Is Kayaking Beneficial for Pregnant Women?
As mentioned in the first section, if your doctor gives the go-ahead, then kayaking can be a great activity for a pregnant woman. That’s true even if you were active before you got pregnant or you’re only looking to start now.
Here are some advantages that pregnant women can enjoy when they sit in a kayak for an afternoon of paddling fun!
Boosts Your Stamina
Being in labor is going to require all your stamina, perhaps more so than anything else you’ll ever do in your life. You can’t give up nor can you take breaks for long until you deliver your baby.
Any physical activities you can do that will increase your stamina before you go into labor are worthwhile, and that includes kayaking. As you dip your paddle into the river over and over to cross the water, you’ll begin to improve your stamina.
You’ll notice your stamina will go up more if you kayak often. While once, it would have taken you 40 minutes or longer to cross a mile on the water, now you can go just as far in 20 minutes. It also feels so much easier now than it did when you first started kayaking because you’ve built your endurance.
As a pregnant woman, it’s integral you maintain your weight. Being overweight isn’t healthy for the baby. Your risk of gestational diabetes goes up as you put on the pounds. If you’re diabetic, then you’re likelier to develop gestational hypertension, another health complication.
You are expected to gain weight throughout your pregnancy since your body is growing a human, but this weight shouldn’t be to excess.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, here’s how much weight you should gain if you’re having one baby:
- 28 to 40 pounds for women with a BMI of 18.5 or under (considered underweight)
- 25 to 35 pounds for women with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 (considered normal weight)
- 15 to 25 pounds for women with a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 (considered overweight)
- 11 to 20 pounds for women with a BMI of 30.0 or over (considered obese)
If you’re carrying twins, the amount of expected weight gain is:
- 50 to 62 pounds for women with a BMI of 18.5 or under
- 37 to 54 pounds for women with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9
- 31 to 50 pounds for women with a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9
- 25 to 42 pounds for women with a BMI of 30.0 or over
To gain only the recommended amount of weight when pregnant, physical activity can help, including kayaking. A woman who weighs 125 pounds can torch 283 calories an hour when kayaking, and a 150-pound woman will burn 340 pounds.
Good for Your Mood
Although most people talk about postpartum depression, while pregnant, women can undergo many physiological and emotional changes as her body grows that can make her feel depressed as well. Women are not likelier to become depressed during pregnancy than they are when not pregnant, but certain factors can increase the risk.
Those factors include not wanting to be pregnant, having marital or relationship problems tied to the pregnancy, lacking social support, living by yourself, and having a history of premenstrual dysphoric disorder and/or depression.
You have many treatment options for your depression, and one is free: spending time outside. Sunlight contains vitamin D, an essential vitamin that’s a natural mood regulator. Vitamin D has been proven to improve the mood of those with depression.
Even if you’re not depressed, who doesn’t like a mood boost? It takes only 10 to 30 minutes outside to reap the benefits of vitamin D from sunlight. That’s just enough time that you shouldn’t get burned from the sun, but we advise you to always wear sunscreen when outdoors anyway.
Vitamin D supplements also work, says a 2008 study from the Journal of Internal Medicine.
Could Reduce Pregnancy Discomfort
As your body grows and changes, things are going to be painful, there’s no way around that. Although when you’re feeling bloated and swollen, the last thing you might want to do is get up and be active, it’s for your best interest and thus that of the baby as well.
Exercising can keep you toned and strong, lessening your aches and pains for a more comfortable pregnancy.
Kayaking Safety Tips for Pregnant Women
Let’s wrap up by sharing some of our best kayaking safety tips. These tips are applicable not only for pregnant women but anyone who wants to explore their nearby waters in a kayak.
Always Wear a Life Jacket
A life jacket or personal flotation device is a must no matter your age. Your life jacket should fit you snugly but not so tightly that you can’t move your body. As a pregnant woman, you especially don’t want your life jacket squeezing your midsection, as that can be bad for the baby.
The fit of your life jacket shouldn’t be overly loose either, even if you’re pregnant. Then the jacket can slip right off when you need it most, such as when you plummet into the water.
And a Helmet Doesn’t Hurt, Either
The more safety gear you wear as a pregnant kayaker, the better. A helmet can protect your head if you fall out of your boat or crash into another kayaker (or any rocks). Although it doesn’t do anything for your baby, a helmet is still a smart piece of equipment for your safety.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Even if you were an especially avid outdoorswoman before, pregnancy might slow you down a bit. Know your limitations and respect them. That means not planning a whole afternoon of kayaking when you’re tired out after 40 minutes. The fatigue could increase your risk of an accident. If you spill into the water, you might not be able to save yourself, which could lead to drowning.
Check the Weather
The date of your kayaking adventure should always be in flux. If you plan your trip a week before, you can’t assume that the weather that day will be clear. Instead, every day leading up to the kayaking ride, and especially two days before, you need to begin watching the weather forecast like a hawk.
Don’t just look at the day’s temperature but check the hourly temps and review the radar to see if any rain is going to come in.
You don’t want to go kayaking in inclement weather. The water will behave even more erratically, which can make riding dangerous. Even if the day was predicted to be clear and it starts raining, don’t be stubborn. Get to dry land immediately.
Never Kayak Alone
It’s not enough to tell your friends and/or family where you’ll be going. You must always bring a kayaking buddy with you. They can look out for hazards that you might not see from your vantage point (and vice-versa). If someone falls out of their kayak, you’ll be glad that you’re not riding alone!
Bring Safety Gear
Although you don’t want to travel with a lot of extra weight considering you’re already carrying a baby, you must have certain kayaking essentials. They include a first aid kit, a headlamp for visibility in dark conditions, a towline for rescues, and a whistle.
Many women can safely kayak when pregnant, especially if they were regularly active before they became pregnant. For those women with preexisting medical conditions or pregnancy complications, you’re better off sticking to milder physical activities.
When kayaking, remember to bring a buddy, always wear your life jacket, and check the weather forecast ahead of your ride. Be safe out there!