Can You Scuba Dive While Pregnant

Whether you are new to diving or an avid diver planning your next trip, the thought of jumping into the water and descending onto a pristine coral reef can be something you look forward to for months and months. For female divers attempting to become pregnant and women that are pregnant, you will need to spend about 9 more months waiting for your next dive.

Although scuba diving is a sport where you take responsibility for your own health and safety, this topic has an effect on not only you, but also your partner, dive buddies and any dive professional that may be accepting the enormous amount of liability to take you scuba diving. Not to mention the developing fetus that you are carrying.

So pack away your dive gear for now and let’s look at the how the scuba diving industry and medical researchers came to the conclusion that pregnant women should avoid diving.

This article is not medical advice and is merely to help you dive safely, please contact your instructor and dive doctor for advice.

It should come as no surprise that there are really no tests carried out on actual pregnant women to come to the conclusions that the dive industry has come to. For ethical reasons, medical organisations strapping cylinders to the back of expectant mothers and sending them underwater is not something that is possible.

Even in hyperbaric chambers, which simulate the diving experience and its increased pressures on the human body, women with developing fetuses are not used. Instead, we have to use animal studies to conduct tests and then translate those results over to the human experience.

Studies conducted will often use rodents in the first and third trimesters. In the first trimester, hyperbaric studies focus on the birth defects that can be caused by the use of hyperbaric oxygen. While the third trimester studies have focused on the effects of decompression sickness and how diving and the circulatory system of a fetus interact.

From all of the tests that have been conducted using hyperbaric chambers, there have been lots of different defects caused. The defects usually depend on the type of rodent and for how long they expose the pregnant hamsters or rats to pressure or hyperbaric oxygen. However the defects that were seen in these studies range from low birth weights, bubbles in the amniotic fluid causing abortion, abnormal skull development, malformed limbs, blindness and abnormal development of the heart.

Stress From Decompression

Decompression sickness is always a consideration when we go scuba diving. Factoring in pregnancy and the effects of the gas bubbles on both the mother and the fetus gives even more cause for concern than usual.

Again, we have seen testing on animals, this time sheep. Sheep are used because of how similar their placentae are. When these sheep were sent on these dives, often the fetus would show signs of decompression sickness even though there were no signs in the mother. When the air bubbles in the fetuses were detected, it was noted that the severity of the decompression sickness was much more dramatic than usual, causing life threatening heart arrhythmias.

Another commonly used term amongst scuba divers and medical researchers is ‘silent bubbles’. These air bubbles are left lingering inside the system for more extended periods and can cause decompression sickness symptoms to occur much later after diving. Our fully formed lungs are usually very good at filtering silent bubbles from our circulatory system, but this is not the case for the fetus;  they become at a much higher risk of an arterial gas embolism which could be catastrophic.

Diving While Pregnant is Impractical

Apart from all of the frankly terrifying consequences described above in this article, scuba diving while pregnant is simply not practical. Let’s consider exposure protection for one. I am yet to see a wetsuit with room for a larger belly bump and a BCD cumberband that will extend to fit a pregnant woman in.

We could also factor in the liability that would be placed onto a dive centre and its poor, underpaid dive guide or instructor that would be responsible for you and your unborn babies lives at depth. I am sure most dive professionals would have a hard time accepting such a huge responsibility.

Swimming while pregnant


Having taken all of the information into account i would hope that you come to the same conclusion as I do. Scuba diving while pregnant is simply not worth the risks. Yes, the underwater world is amazing and it can be hard to say no and feel like you are missing out. However the potentially devastating consequences for your future son or daughter should prevent you from taking part.

I would recommend finding a good book or even spending some time reading some more of my articles on scuba diving with a mocktail in preparation for your first dive back after your healthy and happy baby joins the world.

Other recommended articles

Written by Katy

Thank you for reading. I started to share my passion for diving. I am an environmental educator, scientist and now an MSDT diver.

This platform has been made to create, connect and share my knowledge in the world of diving.

AS SEEN in DiveIn, Columbia & Women In Ocean Science

Leave a comment