Pregnancy is an incredible thing. Through it, an entirely new human life is put together and delivered into the world. It’s just wild.
But, as beautiful as much of the pregnancy experience can be, women definitely give up a lot to be pregnant. Things like general comfort, certain foods, favorite clothes and plenty of beloved activities often have to be sidelined at some point during pregnancy.
Even though these things can sometimes be tough sacrifices, they’re always for a good reason: the health and comfort of mom and baby.
But, can you snorkel while pregnant? Does that need to be sidelined too?
After all, snorkeling might seem pretty appealing to you if you’re pregnant. You’ll get to lay on your stomach. You’ll be able to take all of the weight off of your knees and ankles. You’ll get to feel weightless. It’s great for relieving stress and tension. Women who have been pregnant will probably tell you that any of these things would feel incredible, especially when farther along.
Can you snorkel while pregnant? Yes you can! You can typically snorkel while pregnant since there is a general consensus among medical doctors and organizations like the CDC that snorkeling can be a safe, positive and stress-relieving activity for pregnant women, but you should still avoid scuba diving and consult your own doctor before starting any exercise such as snorkeling.
This article isn’t medical advice, of course. But, let’s look at what the doctors themselves say and what’s common to keep in mind to snorkel while pregnant.
Before undertaking any sort of exercise, you should check with your own doctor who is caring for you during your pregnancy.
Snorkeling is typically considered a safe and low-impact form of exercise and recreation for the average person, but your doctor will be able to tell you how it applies to you personally, and whether or not you might have any health issues or pregnancy complications that would make snorkeling difficult or unwise.
The chances that your doctor would steer you away from snorkeling are likely pretty low, but if she or he does, it would certainly be for a good reason. So, it’s just good sense to check first and to get a personalized medical recommendation from your doctor.
Again, this article of course isn’t medical advice. As much as I know snorkeling to be incredible and wouldn’t want anyone to have to give it up, we should ultimately look to doctors for the answers about being able to snorkel while pregnant first and foremost.
So, I’ve collected answers from 5 elite doctors about snorkeling while pregnant. Their backgrounds range from obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN) doctors to physicians at specialized hyperbaric centers (where someone would go if they got the bends while scuba diving, for example) to medical school professors. It’s always helpful to have a little diversity of expertise.
What the Five Doctors Say to “Can I Snorkel While Pregnant?”
First, Dr. Enrico Camporesi, who authored a paper named Diving and Pregnancy while at the Hyperbaric Center at SUNY Health Science Center, found that though scuba diving is not a safe activity for pregnant women, “snorkeling can still be practiced during pregnancy.” Beautiful!
Next, Dr. Shivani Patel, Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, notes that in the water, “lap swimming and snorkeling are fun ways to stay active while reducing pressure on your knees and ankles,” and that “these exercises are generally safe throughout pregnancy.” Awesome!
Maybe most significant is the Pregnant Travelers guide from the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by Dr. Diane F. Morof, an OBGYN physician, and Dr. I. Dale Carroll, an OB Hospitalist. In the guide, Drs. Morof and Carroll say that “swimming and snorkeling during pregnancy are generally safe.” Great!
Then, in the WebMD guide on pregnancy fitness reviewed by Dr. Nivin Todd, named one of America’s Top Obstetricians & Gynecologists by the Consumers’ Research Council of America, mentions that exercise while pregnant shouldn’t happen at too high of an elevation (above 6,000 feet) or underwater (which means skipping scuba diving) because of the possibilities of reduced oxygen and/or possible pregnancy complications. The alternative? “Try snorkeling instead.” Excellent!
The General Consensus on Snorkeling While Pregnant
We seem to be seeing a theme here: avoid scuba diving while pregnant, but swimming and snorkeling are generally considered safe by doctors (and even the CDC) during pregnancy.
Chalk one more up for the benefits of snorkeling versus scuba diving!
Check in with yourself on your fitness level. If snorkeling typically wouldn’t be something that you were able to do fitness-wise when you weren’t pregnant, it’s probably wise to not snorkel when you are.
You would also be wise to monitor snorkeling conditions and make sure to only venture out when things are more calm. Being jostled around on a boat or having to spend a ton of extra energy swimming in choppy water isn’t going to be good for anybody, so calm waters are the way to go.
It’s also commonly recommended to keep tabs on your internal body temperature, since overheating can cause some pregnancy complications. Avoid hot weather, take frequent breaks, stay hydrated, and don’t let yourself get overheated. Your skin may feel cool as a result of being in the water, but your internal temperature may be higher. Keep a close eye on it and keep it at normal temperature. [Source]
Also, remember that your baby needs a consistent flow of oxygen from you [source]. For that reason, it’s best to stay at the water’s surface to keep breathing normally and resist holding your breath for long periods (which can be difficult to do while pregnant, anyway) to dive underwater. Diving underwater can also create undue pressure on your body and risk gas build-up in the bloodstream that may be harmful to baby (which are some of the reasons why scuba diving isn’t recommended) [source], so it’s probably best to play it safer and stick to the surface.
If you’re planning on taking a snorkel tour, you’ll also want to make sure to communicate with the tour operator beforehand. Many operators don’t have any problem accommodating pregnant women on their tours, but some aren’t able to make it work (usually because of how their insurance is set up). The tour operators themselves will also have a good handle on typical conditions and other helpful information, so talking to them ahead of time can help you avoid surprises.
Something I always make sure to grab for myself before I leave on a snorkel trip — or any other type of trip — that’s outside of my normal health insurance’s coverage area is travel medical insurance.
Most health insurance plans aren’t going to cover anything that happens to me while I’m outside of my home country, so if something does happen while I’m traveling, I’m out of luck and might end up with a crazy expensive bill to go along with the trouble.
So, it’s always been worthwhile for me to spend a few bucks to pick up some short-term travel medical insurance before I travel anywhere. And, it would be even more important if you’re pregnant to make sure that you’re as covered as possible should something come up.
The tricky thing about travel medical insurance, though, is that not only do a lot of providers exclude more adventurous things like snorkeling, they also often exclude pregnant women from coverage. Super lame.
My go-to for travel medical insurance is typically World Nomads for that very reason. Not only do they explicitly cover snorkeling in their plans (along with other fun stuff), but they also have coverage for pregnant women which is not always a given as far as travel medical insurance goes.
For example, if you’re traveling while pregnant and you are injured or have an unexpected pregnancy complication, each of World Nomad’s policies have some coverage for needed emergency medical treatment, hospital bills, ambulances and transport home if medically required. Super helpful, in my opinion.
Plus, if you have a trip booked and end up having to cancel it before you even leave because the pregnancy has made you unfit to travel for some reason (verified by a doctor, of course), you can be covered for all of your pre-paid/non-refundable costs for transport and accommodations.
Exactly how the coverage works related to pregnancy varies a little by your home country (if you’re a US citizen, they cover the entire length of your pregnancy, which is awesome to me) and specific situation, and there are some exceptions that might apply to a handful of pregnant women. So, you’ll probably want to make sure that you read up on everything to learn what’s covered or what isn’t and contact World Nomads if any questions come up beforehand.
It’s an option to check out before your babymoon or any other travel while pregnant. For more information on how travel medical insurance works, check out Does Travel Insurance Cover Snorkeling? 3 Critical Realities.
The Deep Dive
Women have to give up a lot of things while pregnant. Fortunately, according to doctors and even the CDC, snorkeling isn’t one of them.
You should always check in with your own doctor before doing something active like snorkeling while pregnant to make sure that it’s a good idea for you personally. This article of course isn’t medical advice, but, beautifully, the general consensus in the medical community seems to be that snorkeling is typically a safe activity for pregnant women. That’s awesome.
Make sure that you follow some common-sense precautions like only snorkeling in calm conditions and making sure to keep yourself from overheating, as well as making sure to find travel medical insurance that can cover both snorkeling and pregnancy (like World Nomads).
Have an awesome, safe time out on the water and an awesome, safe delivery of your little one! How small do they make snorkel masks, I wonder…?
Check out what snorkel gear you might need for your trip or — I don’t want to get too far ahead here 🙂 — more on kids snorkel gear with the articles below: