Kayaking While Pregnant – Advice On Paddling With A Baby Bump

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Sam OBrien

Pregnancy has its way of making you rethink every single aspect of your life. And as you’re preparing to welcome a baby to your little family, you might feel like giving up outdoor adventures for a while is a part of the deal.

But are pregnancy and on-the-water sports two mutually exclusive things? Can you kayak while pregnant? Or, is this “forbidden” for the time being? 

I mean, is it safe to kayak while pregnant?

Active moms-to-be will gladly put their love of paddling on hold for the sake of their child’s safety – but as you’ll see in this how to go kayaking while pregnant guide, that might not be necessary! 

A Question For Your Doctor: Can I Kayak Or Canoe When Pregnant?

Kayaking While Pregnant - Big bump. Professional medical worker using stethoscope while doing health checkup

Can I kayak while pregnant?  Sure, it’s a simple question. Yet, the answer is anything but, going beyond a mere “Yes” or “No.

There are no inherent dangers to participating in on-the-water sports, such as kayaking or canoeing, while pregnant. As long as we’re talking about low-risk pregnancies, the consensus is that kayaking during pregnancy is safe for most women.

The rule of thumb regarding any form of exercise during pregnancy is:

If you were physically active before getting pregnant, it’s likely safe for you to remain active throughout your pregnancy, as well.

I never once questioned my wife’s judgment when she was carrying our son – and I don’t intend on starting now, either. But I’d lie if I said that, as an avid kayaker, a husband, and a father-to-be, I didn’t have my fair share of concerns.

If there’s one thing I learned, though, it’s this:

Every pregnancy and pregnant woman is different – and whether or not you should take a break from kayaking now that you’re expecting will depend on a variety of factors. Ultimately, the only two people that have a say in it are you and your health care provider.

The chances are that your doctor will give you the green light, and you’ll be able to hop right in your kayak whenever you feel like it.

Not all pregnancies go smoothly, though.

If you have a high-risk pregnancy with expected complications, exercise may not be advisable, especially to kayak while pregnant, and could do more harm than good – both to you and your baby.

Here are a few scenarios where you might be required to “slow down” until your baby arrives:

Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and seek out a second opinion if it comes down to it. Listen to and follow their recommendations – and, above all, make sure you respect your body’s limitations.

Your doctor or Health care provider are the only people qualified enough to answer this question and provide the advice that you may need.

Benefits Of Kayaking When Pregnant: Why Kayaking During Pregnancy May Be A Good Idea

Kayaking While Pregnant Love my baby. Satisfied impregnate pleasant woman sitting on the gymnastic rug looking straight and smiling.

Your pregnancy hormones are holding you hostage; you feel tired, exhausted, and “not quite yourself” – with a touch of swollen feet and occasional backache thrown into the mix.

Hitting “Pause” on physical activity for the next nine months may seem tempting – and understandably so.

Making a whole new person is hard work.

But unless you’re at risk of pregnancy complications, sitting around and waiting for the baby to arrive won’t do you any good. Staying active throughout pregnancy is not only safe but recommended and highly beneficial for you and the baby, and can:

I love that you can make kayaking as relaxing and meditative or as challenging and exhilarating as you want. It depends on how you approach it.

That, I believe, is one of the main benefits of kayaking pregnant:

You get to set the tempo that works – and is both safe and comfortable – for you.

Even more so, kayaking is among the few low-impact non-weight-bearing outdoor activities women can take part in while pregnant. You can work your upper body muscles without your legs having to support any weight, which lowers the risk of swelling and knee pain.

And let’s not overlook the mental health benefits of kayaking during pregnancy:

Getting some fresh air, enjoying nature, doing what you love, and being in your element; it all amounts to lower stress levels, improved mental health, mindfulness – and healthier pregnancy, overall.

For my wife, jogging was the first thing to go; her knees couldn’t take the pounding. Then, as her baby bump kept growing, she gradually gave up biking and yoga; she felt too off-balance to continue.

Kayaking turned out to be the only pre-pregnancy physical activity and exercise that made her feel herself – well, as much as possible, considering the changes her body was going through.

Paddling When Pregnant: Tips For Staying As Safe As Possible

Kayaking While Pregnant -  Tips word collected of wooden elements with the letters

If you wish to go kayaking while pregnant, safety should be your top priority.

No, scratch that.

For a kayaker turned mom-to-be, safety is everything!

On-The-Water Safety & Comfort: Remember To Take Good Care Of Yourself

Kayaking While Pregnant -  Many Caucasian People And Hands Holding Colorful  Letters Or Characters Building The Isolated English Word Safety On White Background

Kayaking is every bit as tiring as it is exciting – and being pregnant only adds to the challenges. Now’s not the time to wing it; you’ll have to plan each kayaking trip down to the tiniest of details – even if it makes it less of an adventure.

Your child’s safety and well-being largely depend on you taking good care of yourself.

Here are a few essential tips for on-the-water safety and comfort

  • Make sure you eat a balanced meal before paddling and bring snacks to keep your energy levels up
  • Stay hydrated (even if it means taking more frequent bathroom breaks)
  • Find a PFD that can accommodate your baby bump and wear it at all times
  • Be prepared for peeing – a lot – and plan where and when you’ll take your bathroom breaks
  • Choose easy-to-reach launch spots
  • Make necessary adjustments to your kayak’s setup and upgrade to a well-cushioned, adjustable seat with a supporting backrest
  • Apply sunscreen and use kayak shade if you’re paddling during summer months

Most importantly, listen to your body and respect its limits. If anything doesn’t feel “quite right,” cut the trip short, note down your symptoms, and, if needed, talk to your doctor.

You have your entire life to push yourself; know when it’s time to take it easy.

Type Of Waters: Take A Break From Whitewater Kayaking & Paddle Calm Waters

Take a break from whitewater kayaking and stick to less challenging conditions and calm water, such a lake or slow moving river, rather than class iii rapids or fighting the currently paddling upstream.

You’re going to miss the adrenaline rush, thrill, and excitement of navigating fast-moving or choppy waters; I won’t try to convince you otherwise.

But the reasons why you love whitewater kayaking are the same ones that make it high risk and unsuitable for pregnant women:

It’s exhausting, rough on the body, and it increases your risk of capsizing – and injury – by a lot.

Then again, as Emily Jackson went on to show by competing – and winning – the women’s freestyle at the Payette River Games while being eight months pregnant, it can be done. 

Emily Jackson competes while 8 months pregnant

Not only can women kayak while pregnant, they can excel at it.  

By all means go kayaking, but overall you will find kayaking in calm water away, with the current, at a leisurely pace, a far more enjoyable experience if heavily pregnant. 

Kayak Selection: Is There Such Thing As A Pregnancy-Friendly Kayak?

Picture of different type of kayaks and canoes

Although you don’t necessarily have to run out and buy a new kayak, you might still want to rethink your kayak selection.  

I mean, which one seems more manageable and more comfortable to get in and out of with a baby bump – a sit-inside or a sit-on-top kayak?

Boating and pregnancy might require you to make some adjustments.  Yes, your old sit-inside kayak may still be a good fit, especially if you’re not too far along. But if there were ever a pregnancy-friendly kayak, a wide-beam sit-on-top with a higher weight capacity would be it.

Also, and please don’t hate me for saying this:

Don’t forget to factor in weight gain and check if you still meet the kayak’s maximum load capacity.

Tandem Kayak: Having A Paddling Partner Beats Kayaking Solo

Kayak While Pregnant -  Couple kayaking together. Beautiful young couple kayaking on lake together and smiling at sunset

Hitting the waters on your own does have its charms – but now that a little person is growing inside your belly, you might want to reconsider your solo kayaking adventures.

I’m not saying you should doubt yourself – but I believe that partnering up with someone is generally a good idea.

For starters, you’ll have someone there to help in case of an emergency. Solo kayaking trips can be a bit scary even for the most confident of paddlers.

Plus, it’s nice having someone who can take over the paddling duties should the physical activity become a bit too much, or when all you want is to relax and enjoy being on the water.

Kayaking While Pregnant: Final Thoughts

Can I Go Kayaking While Pregnant - woman holding pregnancy bump

Pregnancy will require numerous – often significant – lifestyle changes. The good news is that kayaking might not necessarily be one of them:

Can pregnant women kayak?  Yes!

Can you kayak while pregnant? Depends!

If paddling was already a massive part of your life – and your health care provider agrees that it’s safe – then there’s nothing to stop you, if you want to go kayaking while pregnant.

Sure, where, when, and how you kayak might change. There might even come a day when you no longer feel comfortable launching your kayak.

But for now, you can keep doing your thing. Just be sure to pay close attention to your body and what it’s telling you, take it easy, and – above all – prioritize safety.

And, I am sure it wont be long until you’re all out on the water as a family, kayaking with the kids.

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Sam OBrien

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.