Straight Up Pregnant

Should you paddle while pregnant?

When I first got pregnant, a doula friend of mine compared giving birth to “a marathon.” While labor definitely intimidated me, my build and athleticism gave me hope for an active natural childbirth experience.

One of the first questions I asked my OB/GYN was, “Can I still paddleboard and play beach volleyball?” Her answer was an energetic, “Yes,” explaining to me that I can, and should, continue the same activities I’d been doing before pregnancy. I, of course, stopped diving for volleyballs (and quit playing all together at 34 weeks), but I paddle boarded my paddleboard until the day before I went into labor.

Some people expressed concern when seeing me pregnant on a paddleboard, assuming it was unsafe. And while I probably wouldn’t start an activity that requires good balance with 30 extra pounds on my abdomen, my six years of experience made me more than comfortable on the water.

Not to mention I’ve been instructing SUP for more than five years, and am PaddleFit and WPA certified. Plus...believe it or not....pregnancy can change even adventure seekers’ ideas of safety. I didn’t paddle alone once while pregnant, and I even bought a bigger and sturdier board, a Hala Straight Up, to make sure I didn’t fall in unless I wanted to.

My favorite thing about SUP is its versatility. Some days I get on the water and paddle hard for 5 miles; other days I’m out there just to be with nature....sometimes sitting on the board, or even doing some yoga. While pregnant, these options really came in handy with my changing weight, mood, and health.

Besides loving to SUP, my pregnant self knew that keeping my core strong for labor was essential. What better way to do that than stand up paddle on my board? 

Unlike most of my other workouts, if I did fall, it’d be into the water, which is low impact. Not to mention, what an absolute relief swimming ended up being. Being in the water makes the pressure of all that extra weight disappear. Some days I went out just do that, and others I simply enjoyed sitting on my board and dipping my swollen ankles into the water.

Perhaps the only downside I found while paddling pregnant was getting back onto the board once I got in the water. That was a bit of a challenge with my watermelon-sized belly! I just took my time with it like with everything else.

Pumping up the inflatable also was more difficult when my energy was lower, but since I always went with a buddy, I had help when necessary. My paddle stroke didn’t change much, although some days my pace slowed down.

I believe staying active in SUP kept me in shape for a safe and speedy childbirth. I might even go so far to say that paddling played a part in gracing me with a 5-hour labor. No doubt it helped keep me relaxed on those days I could have been stressing out, which is important during pregnancy. I owe a lot to paddleboarding, and I don’t ever see me quitting. I only see me making more paddlers.

Post written by Jacky Dusty. Photos courtesy of © Jennie Pyfferoen

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