Boating While Pregnant FAQ
When you’re pregnant, you may be wondering if it’s necessary to give up the boating lifestyle until the baby arrives. To answer that and other concerns on the minds of moms-to-be, we turned to Dr. Jessica Shepherd. She is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of minimally invasive gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, a media personality, and the founder of Her Viewpoint, an online women’s health community.
Michael Griffin: Do I [if I was a pregnant woman] need to tell my doctor I’m going boating if I just had a good checkup?
Dr. Jessica Shepherd: Not all boating outings need to be reviewed with a doctor. However, women should take precautions when on a boat and always wear a life jacket. Depending on the activity and/or some specific conditions in pregnancy that may cause a pregnancy to be high risk, there may be some concerns that should be discussed with a doctor
MG: Does it matter when in my pregnancy I go boating?
JS: Leisurely boating can be done at any time in pregnancy; however, in first trimester, one should consider taking anti-nausea medications. In third trimester, someone should always be available for assistance for balance and to prevent falls
MG: Do I need a life jacket? It’s so constricting.
JS: Yes. In pregnancy, one should always take the extra precaution. Before going on a boat, it is wise to find a jacket that is adjustable and will fit throughout the majority of your pregnancy. The general rule is to not wear life jackets that are too small or ill-fitting.
MG: Can I go in the sun?
JS: Having fun in the sun is not a problem in pregnancy; however, there are stricter guidelines to follow. Pregnancy makes the skin more sensitive, so ensure that you stay in the shade as much as possible and take extra safety measures to prevent sunburns. Drink plenty of water, use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, and wear a hat or carry an umbrella.
MG: I want to just relax for a few hours and not have to pee every 20 minutes. Can I cut back on drinking water until the boat outing is over?
JS: No. The average sedentary adult loses a bit over two-and-a-half quarts of water every day and that is increased in pregnancy. Boating can actually be quite strenuous, resulting in greater fluid loss. So take plenty of water to drink and try not to drink dehydrating fluids such as caffeinated drinks or alcohol (which should never be taken in pregnancy).
JS: Due to possible falls and safety issues, it is best to stick to calm waters and lower speeds. Try to avoid boating on ocean water, which can be rougher. Stay on land if a storm is predicted for that day.
MG: Is there a better place to sit on the boat?
JS: Hitting waves and crashing water can sometimes happen unexpectedly on a boat ride and the bobbing motion of the boat can trigger nausea, dizziness or vomiting. Sitting in the proper area of the boat is important — the stern of the boat takes less beating and movement than the bow and may be the best area to be in when taking a boat ride.
MG: Can I dive off the side of the boat when I’m pregnant if I did that all the time as a teenager?
JS: No. Diving is not recommended in pregnancy as it can cause possible risk to the fetus. Changes in a woman’s body and physiology during pregnancy might make diving more problematic.
MG: Everybody’s going to eat later when we get to the restaurant. Should I wait, too?
JS: No. Providing the baby with the proper nutrition is essential; having small snacks available is the best way to avoid sudden hunger. Nutritious snacks are also important so pack veggies, fruit and crackers which are good for nausea.
MG: Are there any natural ways to deal with seasickness?
JS: If you are normally seasick even when not pregnant it is pretty likely you will be overcome by motion sickness while pregnant. Ginger chews or gingersnaps are helpful for an upset stomach as well as ginger ale. Try to have foods rich in vitamin B6 such as bananas or a vitamin B supplement which can help reduce your nausea. It also helps to keep your head still by resting it on a headrest. When seasickness sets in, spend as much time as possible on deck watching the horizon.
MG: What do I do if I start to feel uncomfortable or I am in pain?
JS: Be sure there is a good VHF-FM marine radio aboard to monitor weather forecasts and in case of emergency. Stay close to your home marina as your due date approaches so that if there are any pregnancy emergencies, it is close to return. Also carry important numbers when boating so that a hospital or doctor’s phone number is immediately at hand. Also note the closest hospital to your starting point and destination so there is a plan for where to go in case of emergency.
MG: Is it rude for me to cancel if it’s a nice day, but the water looks a bit choppy?
JS: There is no reason to feel obligated to get on a boat at any time. If there are predictions for choppy water, it is best to cancel and wait for calmer weather.
Visit Her Viewpoint, Dr. Shepherd’s website: www.mmichaelagency.com
By Michael Griffin
This article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for individualized medical attention. Please follow your doctor’s personalized advice.