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Diving with a bump!

Due to lack of research into this subject (most current information has been gained through accidental diving experiences or via recompression nurses, again unaware of their pregnancy) there is no definitive guide as to whether it is safe to SCUBA dive whilst pregnant. Current guidelines strongly advise against diving, mainly due to this very lack of information. Also common sense tells most people that should there be an accident, the effects of bubbles in the blood stream of an adult can be devastating and painful enough, so the effect on a foetus is likely to be far greater. Accidents aside, doctors are still unsure as to the results of exposing a foetus to the higher pressure that is encountered.

In light of this, all the major diving organisations advise strongly that women should not dive at all whilst pregnant or whilst trying to get pregnant. On the positive side, should you have discovered a pregnancy after a dive, whilst you should obviosly stop diving, and absolutely seek medical advice immediately, current anecdotal evidence implies that the risks to the foetus may not be as harsh as previously thought, so blind panic may not be the order of the day.

Here is the current advice given on the Divers Alert Network web-site:

Question: Long time back I read in one of your magazine that you were looking for pregnant divers to study the affects of diving while pregnant. What happen to that survey. Please advise me where to find information about the above subject. Answer: The recently mailed European Alert Diver shows an article specifically dedicated to Diving Women. From this I extracted the following information which I hope your will find useful. From Alert Diver, European Edition, II quarter 1999 PREGNANCY Fitness and Diving Issues: There are few scientific data available regarding diving while pregnant: much of the available evidence is anecdotal. Some retrospective survey-type questionnaires have been performed, but these are limited by data interpretation. Nevertheless, researchers theorize that diving is in some ways similar to taking a drug: the pharmacological effects of nitrogen or other inert gases and high oxygen partial pressure on a developing fetus are not completely known. There is the possibility that diving may induce bubbles in the fetus. Also, fluid retention during pregnancy may cause nasopharyngeal swelling, which can lead to nose and ear stuffiness and the risk of ear or sinus squeezes. Pregnant women experiencing morning sickness, coupled with motion sickness, may have to deal with nausea and vomiting during a dive. This is at best an unpleasant experience, and it could lead to more serious problems if the diver panics. Due to the limited data available and the uncertainty of the effects of diving on a fetus, it is recommended that scuba diving should be postponed until after the pregnancy."

We have created a little return to diving guide for those of you new mums that are itching to jump back in the water after your maternity break. There is no hard and fast rule however we thought of a few bits and bobs that you may wish to consider if only to make your return to bubbles a little less stressful.

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Diving advice: Clare Wilders PADI MSDT
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