Can I Paddle Board When Pregnant?
Stand Up Paddle Boarding is a great and enjoyable way to get active as it helps build strength, balance and endurance. SUP strengthens your core, lower body, upper body, and being outdoors if awesome for your mental health, making this a fantastic way to stay in shape during your pregnancy.
A common question we get a lot is, 'Is It Safe to Stand Up Paddle Board When Pregnant'. I will give my opinion below, but it is always recommended to the woman to check with a doctor or caregiver beforehand.
As a Certified Pre & Postnatal Fitness Specialist, a Certified Personal Trainer, a Certified Advanced Flatwater Stand Up Paddleboard Instructor and also a Mom of two, I feel qualified to help you answer this question.
Many people ask this question because SUP is a super fun, relaxing, and adventurous way to stay active even when paddling for two! Lots of women keep up their active lifestyle, including Stand Up Paddle boarding.
SUP Strengthens the muscles involved in balance and paddling (deep core, hip flexors, glutes, arms, back, and legs) and is key to avoiding the curved back (lordosis) and waddle characteristic of pregnancy, and reduces the discomforts of pregnancy! Staying active is a huge part of a healthy pregnancy, delivery and recovery and SUP fits that bill!
There are several things to consider, but the main points are that there are ways to mitigate risks, modify activity and keep yourself and your baby safe. Consider these points so you can SUP when pregnant.
- Exertive Exercise While Pregnant- Based on your current level of fitness you can decide if SUP is a suitable activity. The first trimester is a time when you may feel fatigue and is a time to maintain or reduce activity. The second trimester is a time when it is generally safe to make small to moderate gains in your fitness. The third trimester is a time when you may feel discomfort and elevated levels of progesterone will increase your perceived level of exertion, naturally decreasing activity. If you plan to use your SUP in a way that you normally do, it should be safe to do so as long as you mitigate your risks. If you are new to paddleboarding, you can judge to see if you are comfortable to take on this new activity. Check your balance, coordination, and your history of success when engaging in new activities. You are an individual and you know best!
- Falls- Yes, you may fall off of your paddle board or onto your paddle board. I have seen a lot of falls and they usually include flopping over into the water, or onto the hands and knees, but it is not impossible to fall at a weird angle and somehow onto your belly.
The risk of falling is always greater when standing, less when on your knees, and even less when on your bum. If you are pretty active, kneeling may be a safe position for you to SUP. If you are experienced, have excellent balance and confidence, you will be fine to stand up and paddle on calm waters. One way to mitigate the risk of falls is to make sure you are low and stable on the board. Our new Infinite Mantra 11 Yoga paddle board is very stable and now has a kayak seat attachment which will help to prevent falls when pregnant.
- Heat and Hydration - Staying cool and hydrated is something to consider at all times, but especially when pregnant. If you are hot and thirsty, so is your baby. If you go for a SUP on a hot day, please be prepared by bringing lots of water.
- Getting Onto Your SUP- Please realize that pulling yourself back up onto your board if you do fall could be a bit different with a large belly! Take into account that this is a possible risk and have some plan in place to get back on, whether it is strength to get on sideways, swim to a shallow area, or have help from a friend.
Common Myths and Misconceptions About Exercising When Pregnant:
Myth: Pregnant women are fragile and should not exert themselves because it will stimulate premature labor.
Truth: Pregnancy is a special state of health, not illness! Research has demonstrated that pregnant women should not be discouraged from regular daily activity, active living and structured exercise. The risks from stress, depression and diabetes should be weighed against any perceived risks from activity
Myth: Abdominal exercise are forbidden as it may harm the baby.
Truth: Abdominal exercise when pregnant is fine, deep core exercises will help alleviate low back pain and make delivery and recovery easier. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommend abdominal exercise be performed standing, sitting or with modified techniques after the 4th month (avoid laying on your back). Paddling your SUP will be okay!
The Benefits Of Paddle Board Exercise When Pregnant
Balancing and Paddling on your SUP will engage your core muscles, reducing one of them most common complaints in pregnancy- backaches!
Balancing on your SUP will engage and strengthen the muscles in your legs, helping push the blood back up to the heart and reducing discomfort from varicose veins.
Finding your sanctuary out on the water will have great psychological benefits to help cope with stress, and physical activity may help pregnant women cope with the anatomical and physiological changes and discomforts associated with pregnancy.
What about the baby? Fetal heart rate can increase during and immediately after maternal exercise, helping the fetus deal effectively with intermittent reductions in uterine blood flow and oxygen delivery. Basically, your baby is getting a workout too! This helps to reduce fetal stress during labor. Studies show that babies of exercising mothers tolerate contractions much better than babies of sedentary mothers, are stress free, have enough oxygen and low acid accumulation in the blood.
“What I like about paddle boarding when pregnant is that you can still enjoy time on the water. It is an amazing feeling to share it with a little baby inside! Being on the water is my passion and of course one day I hope my kids will enjoy and feel this, one day too when they grow up, and learn to respect nature.” That is from Eva Oude Ophuis, pictured paddling in the sunset in this blog. What a wonderful sentiment about sharing your bliss with your yet to be born child!
(Follow her on Instagram @evelineoudeophuis for more inspiration!)
The Risks of Paddle Boarding Exercise When Pregnant
- Maternal Acute Hypoglycemia ( Low Blood Sugar )
- Chronic Fatigue
- Musculoskeletal Injury
- Fetal Hyperthermia ( The opposite of Hypothermia )
- Reduced Carbohydrate availability
- Reduced Oxygen Availability
If you are hungry, tired and out of breath, your developing baby is too! If you are exercising at a level which reduces your stress, weight, makes you stronger, and conditions your heart + lungs it is good for you and the baby! Don’t take my word for it, but consider it along with the advice from your doctor, prenatal caregiver, and the cues from your own body and baby. Enjoy your prenatal journey!
When calculating risks, traveling in your car is the highest risk you take all day. If you use common sense and mitigate the risks in your activities, Stand Up Paddle Boarding can be a safe and fun adventure to enjoy while pregnant. Know your limits and stay within them, and it never hurts to bring along a partner to do the heavy lifting and help you if you need it.
*Photo courtesy of Eva Oude Ophuis, captured by talented photographer Jan Peter Van Popta*