Pregnancy is one of the craziest feats of the human body; a woman’s ability to create and nurture life within herself is extraordinary and powerful. While pregnancy is usually a very joyous period of life, pregnant women certainly don’t have it easy. Many once routine things, like scuba diving and bike riding, can pose risks to expectant mothers and the unborn baby on board.
This post will highlight everything to know about snorkeling while pregnant, including our own experiences, things to consider, and what top doctors and medical organizations have to say.
Note that we are not medical professionals, and this post does not contain medical advice. You should consult with your doctor, midwife, or other healthcare provider to understand the unique risks that may be present to you and your little one. This post is going to offer up our own experiences snorkeling during pregnancy, as well as reference the opinions of some of the top medical experts in the United States.
Is It Safe to Snorkel While Pregnant?
Bringing a baby into the world is no easy task, and many things that are generally safe for non-pregnant people come with higher risks during pregnancy. Scuba diving is a prime example of this, as it is absolutely off limits to pregnant women. The biggest reason for this is the increased water pressure beneath the surface.
The biological makeup of a pregnant woman is quite different from a non-pregnant woman. Her body carries a larger volume of blood and other fluids, grows an entire extra organ, and sustains a growing life in her uterus. It is very common for pregnant women to experience high blood pressure throughout pregnancy, as her heart has to pump even harder to circulate the increased blood volume adequately through both her own body and her baby’s.
Diving beneath the surface of the water increases the pressure a woman’s body feels, which can cause a wide array of problems for both the mother and her child. This is a lot of unnecessary stress to put on a developing baby, and there may even be an increased risk of miscarriage or certain birth defects associated with scuba diving.
Snorkeling Is Generally Safe Throughout Pregnancy
Now, while you cannot scuba dive during pregnancy, most doctors agree that snorkeling is absolutely fine during pregnancy. The risks specific to scuba diving are mostly not present while snorkeling, so long as women take certain precautions. Certain aspects of a snorkeling expedition, like the boat ride or the jump into the water, may be discouraged for safety reasons, but the actual act of snorkeling is generally acceptable for pregnant women.
In fact, many doctors and pregnant women agree that snorkeling, along with other mild water activities, can be a great way to relieve stress on the joints and muscles. Most water-based activities offer a low-impact form of exercise that promotes cardiovascular fitness without placing extra strain on the knees, hips, and back.
Our Personal Experience Snorkeling While Pregnant
As a family, we have done our fair share of snorkel tours while Angel was pregnant. She conceived our first child while we were living in Mexico, after all, which has some of the clearest water in the world! I vividly remember our first time snorkeling with Bavarian Fiesta in Cozumel when she was in her first trimester with our first child.
Since then, she has snorkeled a handful of other times spanning across two pregnancies. What we have learned is that, frankly, there isn’t much to learn! Snorkeling is a generally easy activity for healthy individuals, and being pregnant didn’t make it much more difficult for Angel.
Avoid the Boat as Much as Possible
Now, there were a few major things we did observe. Riding on a small boat during pregnancy can be challenging, and sometimes dangerous. Slipping and falling while pregnant is never a good thing, and the rocky waves can do a real number on a woman who is experiencing morning sickness.
I’d recommend going on a snorkeling tour that either doesn’t require a boat ride, or only requires a short one.
Be Sure to Check the Weather Forecast
Secondly, I’d recommend that you check the weather forecast ahead of time and make sure to to stay hydrated. Drinking a water bottle before you get on the boat isn’t enough. Snorkeling is a deceptively dehydrating activity, as the sun’s heat is often felt less due to the refreshing coolness of the water.
While the ocean may be cool, it isn’t hydrating you. In fact, the opposite is true! You may not feel it, but you will likely sweat while snorkeling, and hydration is even more important when you are with child.
I will admit, Angel is much more of a daredevil than me, and she loves to push her limits – even during pregnancy. Earlier in that first pregnancy, she desperately planned on going on some seriously intense hikes in the summer in Utah. To add credibility to our experiences, I’ve included the opinions of some of the best doctors in the United States regarding snorkeling while pregnant below.
Doctors’ Opinions on Snorkeling While Pregnant
There is a lot of research about whether or not it is safe to snorkel while pregnant. In my review of scholarly resources available in online libraries, not a single doctor opposed the act of snorkeling during pregnancy. This is not to be mistaken with scuba diving, which is much more controversial but generally frowned upon.
In one review by Robert Jarski and Diane Trippett that was published in the Journal of Family Practice, the authors say “deep diving, but not snorkeling, may contribute to excessive nitrogen in fetal tissue due to gas absorption. Risks to the mother include adverse effects on posture as a result of back strain, and other musculoskeletal injuries.” In another review, author E M Camporesi writes “Snorkeling can still be practiced during pregnancy, but scuba diving should be discontinued until after the birth period.” Dr. Shivani Patel, a prominent OBGYN at the UTSW Medical Center, categorizes snorkeling as an athletic activity that can generally be practiced throughout all of pregnancy.
If all of that medical expertise isn’t enough to ease your mind about whether or not snorkeling is a safe activity for pregnant women, you can even look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which publishes an annual Yellow Book filled with best practices. In the 2024 section on Pregnant Travelers, the authors note that “Swimming and snorkeling during pregnancy generally are safe”.
Safety Tips for Snorkeling While Pregnant
While our own experiences align with the medical consensus that snorkeling while pregnant is safe, there are still several things to consider before you book your next snorkeling adventure. Snorkeling, like many other things during pregnancy, requires some extra precautions to be taken to ensure the safety of both mom and baby. After all, it is a physical activity, and there are a few easy steps pregnant ladies can take to protect both their and their baby’s health.
1. Remember that Every Pregnancy Is Unique
Just as every person is unique, every pregnancy is unique. Every unborn child is different, and potential risks may be greater during one pregnancy than another. This can even be the same for different pregnancies for the same woman, as each of her children will live a unique tenure in her womb.
The most important thing you can do before you decide to go snorkeling while pregnant is consider your baby. Every life is precious, and one of a parent’s biggest jobs is to protect their young ones. If you have a perfectly healthy pregnancy, you can probably plan your snorkel trip with few extra considerations. However, if you’ve experienced any pregnancy complications, you may want to speak with a healthcare provider before planning your trip.
2. Make Sure Your Snorkeling Tour Provider Allows Pregnant Women to Participate
Not all snorkeling tours are equal! Some snorkel tour providers impose restrictions on pregnant women, and some do not allow pregnant women at all. Before you book any tour, it’s a good idea to give the tour operator a call and confirm that you can participate.
We have seen many tour providers allow pregnant women just through either the first trimester or second trimester. Some providers allow pregnant women to participate deep into their third trimester. Some providers have special rules regarding the use of a life jacket while pregnant.
Whatever the case, it would be a real bummer to show up for your tour and be rejected without a refund because the operator has rules regarding pregnant women.
3. Avoid Boats if Possible, and Check the Weather Forecast First
Boats present some risks to pregnant women and you should avoid them if possible. That is not to say that riding on a boat during pregnancy is largely frowned upon, but it may be unnecessary risk and discomfort. Some tours depart directly from the beach by foot, and this is optimal for pregnant women.
Due to the potential rocky conditions on the water, there’s a high risk of slipping or getting seasick. Neither of these things is great for pregnant ladies. If you must go on a boat ride, I recommend checking the weather conditions first to make sure you experience calm waters on the day of your tour.
4. Stay Above the Water’s Surface
There is a very distinct difference between snorkeling and scuba diving – as a general rule, women should not go beneath the surface of the water. Holding your breath for extended periods of time while pregnant can deprive your little one of oxygen, and this is exacerbated by your muscles’ increased need for oxygen while kicking and paddling around the ocean. There’s only so much oxygen to go around in your body!
In addition to the concerns about oxygen, diving underwater places increased pressure on both your and your baby’s bodies, potentially causing a slew of other issues that can impact your pregnancy and baby’s development long after you get back to shore.
5. Be Mindful of the Heat and Humidity
As snorkeling is a water activity, you normally do it in a warm, humid climate. If you haven’t figured it out just yet, your body may be extra sensitive to both heat and humidity during pregnancy! Any strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day is probably not the best idea, both when it comes to safety and to simply enjoying your experience! The good news is that most sea creatures are just as active at 9am as they are at lunchtime, so you won’t miss much if anything at all!
6. Stay Hydrated!
On the topic of heat, snorkeling can be deceptively dehydrating. This is because the hot, tiring effects of the sun often deceptively diminish thanks to the refreshing coolness of the water. The cold water relative to the sun tricks your body into thinking it isn’t all that hot outside, which then may trick you into drinking less water.
Hydration is always important, especially when outside on a hot day. When pregnant, hydration is even more important. I recommend drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to your snorkel tour to make sure you’re as hydrated as possible.
7. Consider Your Fitness Level
While it isn’t usually super demanding, snorkeling is still a physical activity. Pregnancy makes many physical activities more difficult. If you’re not usually able to snorkel comfortably when you’re not pregnant, you shouldn’t try to snorkel when you are pregnant.
If you are planning on becoming pregnant soon, now is as good a time as ever to focus on your health! Carrying a baby around, while a beautiful thing, can be very tiring. The better your fitness is now, the easier things will be!
8. Purchase Travel Insurance that Covers Tour Cancellation
In my early traveling days, I never purchased travel insurance. I just figured I would never have a need for it. That all changed when British Airways lost my bags for a full month while I was visiting family in Europe!
Since then, I have become a big fan of travel insurance and I don’t plan a big trip without it. Pregnancy can be unpredictable, and there’s a good chance that on the day of your snorkeling expedition, you just won’t feel like leaving your hotel. If you pick the right travel insurance policy, you may be able to cancel your snorkel tour and receive a full reimbursement!
9. Pick Your Bathing Suit Wisely
If you are in your first trimester of pregnancy, you may be less impacted by this. However, if you are further along in your pregnancy, you may want to think critically about which bathing suit you wear when you head out to go snorkeling! Sunburns are never fun, but they can be especially uncomfortable while pregnant.
Pregnancy limits the positions you can sleep in. If you get a sunburn on your back and sides, you might not be able to sleep comfortably for days! On top of that, you never know what marine life will brush up against your bump while you’re in the water, and a one-piece swimsuit can protect against nibbles and stings on your already-vulnerable belly skin.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Have Fun!
Last but not least, it’s important that you remember to relax and have fun! Snorkeling can be a great thing for both your physical and mental health during pregnancy, and it’s important not to get too bogged down in worries and questions. While it is important to take precautions before any major physical activity while pregnant, it’s also important to let yourself unwind and have a little bit of safe, cautious fun before the little one comes!
Hopefully this post answered any questions you may have about snorkeling while pregnant. If you have any further questions, let us know by dropping a comment below!