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Whether or not you should paddle while pregnant is both a personal and professional decision. There are multiple factors to take into account before making an educated decision for you and your baby. In this article, I hope to share both my personal and professional opinion as well as things that worked well for me.

To start, I feel that paddling while pregnant can be a great way to physically and mentally stay in shape. In general, you are in a seated position with your legs in a fairly comfortable position, as long as you have decent outfitting. Also, the majority of the time there’s not much chance of abdominal trauma, when compared with other adventure sports such as mountain biking and skiing. More to come on this later.

However, there are some obvious caveats. The first and most important thing to keep in mind is to paddle below your normal ability. Ideally, paddle rivers you feel comfortable on. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean only paddle rivers you have done before. It simply means do your research. For example, I am usually a class V paddler. While pregnant, I still felt very comfortable on most class IV rivers in my area, but did start walking a few rapids that I usually would have run. So if you are a class IV paddler, you may still feel comfortable on most class III rivers, and so on.

As I mentioned previously, the most important thing to avoid when paddling pregnant is abdominal trauma. While in utero, your baby is generally well protected as he/she is within the thick walled structure of your uterus and also floating around inside a bag of water called the amniotic sac. Some degree of bouncing and jarring is both normal and acceptable. However, there are some exceptions. While pregnant, your placenta is your baby’s lifeline. It’s the way he/she gets nutrients and oxygen and also excretes waste. If you have a placenta previa, or a low lying placenta, certain activities may not be as safe, as you are at a higher likelihood of having your placenta start bleeding and tear, which can be dangerous both for you and baby. You may need to discuss this more with your obstetrician.

One general guideline I followed while pregnant was to paddle rivers well within my ability and to avoid rivers with big drops or potentially big hits. For me, it wasn’t the size of the drop that mattered but how soft the landing was. That also meant that in order to feel comfortable running the drop I needed to be sure I was able to have a controlled landing. This will change person to person depending on your comfort level and experience with paddling and soft landings off boofs.

Overall, while pregnant, I paddled 70 days, with 22 personal first descents. For me, paddling while pregnant worked great. It was an awesome way for me to stay in shape, keep up with my paddling friends, and stay connected with nature. This obviously won’t work for everyone, but I hope this article helps some other women feel comfortable paddling while pregnant. I am currently 38 weeks pregnant (due date is 40 weeks), and am greatly anticipating the arrival of my little girl! My last day paddling was on a class III-IV river close to home when I was at 37 ½ weeks. At this point, we’ve made the decision to stay off the rivers and closer to home in case I go into labor, as most of my local rivers are over an hour from the hospital. Enjoy this fun and entertaining video my husband Daniel made of me paddling one of our local rivers at 36 weeks pregnant! See you all out on the river soon!

~Diane Brasuell (Gaydos)