Can You Paddle While Pregnant? Kayaking - A Pregnancy and Postpartum Experience: Part one

Kayaking can be a great way to stay active during pregnancy, but it's important to take some precautions to ensure the safety of both you and your baby. As always, you should consult with your GP or midwife prior to hitting the water. They may give you specific instructions based on your health and stage of pregnancy. 

During pregnancy, it can be hard to remain active and feel like your burden free self! I know, as I’m speaking from experience. As I sit here at 8 months along, I’m looking forward to the day that I meet my baby, and for most women these days can feel like a never ending journey! I’m often trying to fill my time off with activities to keep me occupied, fit and motivated - but it doesn’t always go to plan. Being on your feet for long periods of time can be painful and uncomfortable for a lot of pregnant women, which is why I find kayaking so beneficial during these months. 

Your Trip 

After checking in with your ante-natal health care provider, it’s time to plan your trip! Even if you feel quite seasoned, caution is your friend so treat yourself as if you were very new to the sport. Make sure you’re going out in calm conditions and fair weather - pregnancy predisposes you to being more at risk of both fatigue and hypothermia so you should be mindful of exposure, weather change and water temperatures prior to your paddle. Keep your paddling to the shoreline when possible - don’t venture out further into the middle of a lake or out of the bay to ensure you have an easy return should you need to cut your trip short or you’re just not feeling up to it anymore. 

When choosing your kayak It's important to choose a stable kayak that won't tip easily, especially as your balance may be affected by your growing belly. Look for a wide, flat-bottomed kayak that provides plenty of stability and support. While I’m accustomed to my SKIPJAK Scorpion, and 11.5ft sit in - during pregnancy I'm opting for something more stable which you’d find in most sit-on-top models. I have a SKIPJAK Titan model at home which is a great 9ft6 sit-on-top model, a bit wider than most which offers me more room and comfort. It has great grips to give my pelvis and hips stability while (when on calmer water) being pretty much untippable. 

The most important safety aspect for any kayaker is to wear a properly fitting buoyancy aid. A buoyancy aid is a must when kayaking, and this is especially true during pregnancy. Make sure you choose a buoyancy aid that fits properly and is designed for kayaking, with plenty of buoyancy to keep you afloat in case of an emergency. Something else I would group into being a top safety aspect during pregnancy is never to kayak alone. You should have a buddy to go with you who can help load and unload your kayak and gear as well as helping you in and out of the boat and support incase of an emergency. 

Always listen to your body - never push yourself past what is comfortable for you. You shouldn’t exert or strain yourself at this time. Your gentle paddling is enough to keep your body moving and circulating readily without the need to really break a sweat. 

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My Pregnancy Kayaking Top Tips Summarised:

  • Check with your healthcare provider prior to and regularly while taking part in activities and exercise during pregnancy.
  • Listen to your body - you will be amazed at how much your strength, endurance as well as cardiovascular ability will reduce during these months. 
  • Use exercise and activities as a leisurely tool to promote movement and exercise - don’t test yourself. 
  • Keep it short and sweet - if you feel you can go for it, great, but don’t exert yourself by travelling far from the shoreline. Make sure you keep your return journey simple and easily accessible.
  • Pack your gear and dress accordingly - wear something comfortable and suitable for the weather. Bring food to ensure your energy levels are sustained and always wear a buoyancy aid. Opt for a stable and comfortable sit on top during these months.
  • Never go alone. Always bring a buddy to assist in lifting and transporting the kayak and to be on hand incase of emergency. 

Kayaking as an Outlet for Fitness and Mental Health During Pregnancy

Staying active during pregnancy can provide numerous health benefits for both the mother and the baby. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and caesarean delivery. It can also improve cardiovascular health, boost mood and energy levels, and aid in weight management.

Kayaking is a low-impact form of exercise that can be a great option for pregnant women looking to stay active. It can provide a full-body workout that engages the arms, shoulders, core, and legs. Your core is very important to maintain during pregnancy, it plays a huge role in supporting your bump during pregnancy as well as during labour, while your upper body will do a lot of work post pregnancy carrying your new bundle around for the first few months. Kayaking can also improve cardiovascular health as well as endurance, which can help prepare the body for labour and delivery. 

In addition to the physical benefits, kayaking can also be a great outlet for mental health and relaxation during pregnancy. Spending time in nature and engaging in physical activity has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Kayaking can also provide a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence, which can be especially beneficial during a time when many women may feel vulnerable or unsure about their bodies. It is so easy to lose yourself in your pregnancy, feeling reduced to little more than a human incubator - you should prioritise ‘me’ time as much as possible during these months as you may have less time for it in the near future. 

Kayaking to improve your connection to your inner-self and those around you

While exercising in an environment such as nature, you can really connect with your mind and body. The quiet and stillness of the water can give you that opportunity to reflect on how you are feeling inside and out, it gives you time to think and bring yourself inside and take a moment for just you and baby. 

Kayaking can also be a fun and social activity to enjoy with friends and family. Sharing the experience of kayaking with loved ones can strengthen bonds and create positive memories that can last a lifetime. It can also provide an opportunity for expectant mothers to connect with other pregnant women or new mothers, which can be especially valuable for those who may be feeling isolated or disconnected during this time. You feel you may be missing out on a social life, maybe you’ve stopped going to the gym due to physical restrictions, you can’t keep your eyes open past 9pm for those late night catch ups over non-alcoholic G&Ts (it’s really not the same is it?), and you’re missing out on that date night vibes of intimacy and connection - I find kayaking a great way to spend time with my pals or my partner as it’s an ideal way to block out all the other bits of life and distractions and centre your time to be in the moment together just having a laugh. 

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In Closing..

You don’t have to give up all the things you enjoy during pregnancy, it’s so important to focus not only on baby but on you and your experience pre and postpartum. If you love kayaking, or you’re looking to get into it - you don’t need to put it on hold for 9 months with this guide to your kayaking experience as an expecting, or new mother. 

*Please ensure you clear any physical activity with your healthcare provider prior to taking part, as well as passing your 6 week postpartum check for physical activity post birth. 

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