Going for a dive can be a fun and exciting activity, but when it comes to the practical aspects of scuba diving pregnant, women have to be extremely careful when going underwater. Not only can factors such as decompression stress, excess nitrogen and the intake of higher pressure oxygen be a problem, but it has been discovered that the changes in the body associated with pregnancy can also play an important role in affecting both the mother and the unborn baby’s health during multiple, strenuous diving sessions.
Probably what is considered to be the primary risk linked to scuba diving pregnant women and their babies might be exposed to is decompression illness (DCI). Although there isn’t enough evidence to sustain that DCI will be a consequence in most cases, the fact that the circulation of fetal blood bypasses the lungs and the increase in excess fat during pregnancy can potentially affect inert gas intake and lead to significantly higher risks of DCI for the fetus.
If they want to go scuba diving, pregnant women also need to be aware of the practical difficulties associated with this fun but somewhat risky activity. Constricting scuba diving gear, the increased pressure of the oxygen and the hazards associated with poorly fitted gear – such as buoyancy compensation devices – can all take their toll on the mother and the unborn infant. Moreover, mucous membrane swelling can cause pregnant women to experience nausea, increased discomfort and clearing difficulties during the diving process.
The ethical considerations of researching the direct effects of diving on fetuses mean that scientists are not able to perform studies that could be in any way conclusive, in terms of explaining these effects entirely. A Few volunteer studies have been done, however, showing that pregnant divers were about 5% more likely to negatively affect their infants’ health through birth defects, by continuing to dive during their pregnancies. Also, animal studies done in hyperbaric chambers have shown that some birth defects, pregnancy complications and adverse effects of hyperbaric oxygen may be possible. Although it can be considered that, when it comes to the actual effects of scuba diving, pregnant women can usually breathe easily, even these inconclusive animal research studies still seem to point out that caution may be necessary. Therefore, the general recommendations that experts have given are for women to avoid scuba diving until the pregnancy is over.