Diving and pregnancy

Semin Perinatol. 1996 Aug;20(4):292-302. doi: 10.1016/s0146-0005(96)80022-x.


Scuba diving during pregnancy has increased in incidence as a result of substantial growth in the number of young females attracted to sport diving. This review summarizes the physiological changes induced by immersion, diving and decompression, on male and female divers. Furthermore, it extends to literature review, in animal models, of the susceptibility of a pregnant animal to diving decompression injury. Publications regarding reports of diving injury in pregnant humans are also reviewed, comprising very recent material from the sport diving community. It is concluded that there is no countraindication to diving for the normal, healthy, nonpregnant female. However, pregnant females should refrain from diving, because the fetus is not protected from decompression problems and is at risk of malformation and gas embolism after decompression disease. It is prudent to advise pregnant patients of the increased risk of diving problems for the fetus during pregnancy. However, should a woman have completed a dive during early pregnancy because she was unaware she was pregnant, the present evidence is not to recommend an abortion, because several normal pregnancies have been documented even if diving is continued. Snorkeling can still be practiced during pregnancy, but scuba diving should be discontinued until after the birth period.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology
  • Decompression Sickness* / complications
  • Diving / adverse effects*
  • Diving / physiology
  • Embolism, Air / etiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immersion
  • Male
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications