CAN YOU SKYDIVE WHILE PREGNANT?
You might be surprised to find we get this question a lot. When you consider about half the people who come out for a tandem skydive are women, it makes sense. Occasionally, women find out they’ve got a baby on board after they’ve already made an appointment to skydive. So, now what? Can you still skydive pregnant?
If you ask your doctor, there’s a 100% probability they’re going to say absolutely not. You can’t even eat sushi while pregnant, so skydiving is kind of a big ask. It’s a physician’s job to avoid liability by advising patients very conservatively. For the same reason, most skydiving centers are going to refuse to let a tandem student skydive while pregnant. There’s too much liability and a lot of added pressure for an instructor to take an extra passenger, especially one as fragile and precious as a baby.
The safest approach is to not skydive while pregnant. Skydiving has inherent risks and so does pregnancy. If you really want your bundle of joy to take to the skies, it’s probably best to let the stork handle that.
Since licensed skydivers are responsible for their entire skydiving experience, rather than the instructor, they have a little more choice in the matter. There are many known female skydivers who have continued to jump during pregnancy without any adverse effects. However, everyone and every pregnancy is different. Just like female athletes in any other sport, they must consider the risks and make an informed decision as to what they can/should continue to do and for how long. It’s a very personal choice.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR SKYDIVING WHILE PREGNANT FOR LICENSED SKYDIVERS
TRAUMA: Trauma is the number one concern when it comes to skydiving while pregnant. Pregnancy can cause loosening of musculoskeletal cohesion which increases risk of injury as well as potential calcium deficiencies. Take any supplements recommended by your doctor to help fortify your bones and moderate risks where you can.
TRAUMA CAUSED BY HARD LANDINGS:
- Consider your canopy skills. Stop jumping if you are not proficient at landing.
- Make conservative decisions when it comes to winds.
- Consider upsizing or changing wings- Your wingloading can increase by as much as 25% during pregnancy. Choose something docile and forgiving.
TRAUMA CAUSED BY HARD OPENINGS:
- Use good packing techniques for softer, slower openings.
- Consider upsizing or changing to a wing with good opening characteristics.
- Consider the fit of your harness as your body changes.
TRAUMA CAUSED BY FREEFALL COLLISIONS:
- Jump in smaller groups. Avoid large, disorganized jumps or “zoo” dives.
- Jump with people you know who are predictable and skilled flyers.
TIMING: If you plan to skydive pregnant it’s important to know the first trimester has the lowest risk of fetal injury. The fetus is the most protected by the pelvis prior to 12 weeks. Many doctors recommend limiting all high-intensity activities around 20 weeks.
EXTREME HEAT: Body temperature greater than 103 degrees Fahrenheit is known to increase the risk of fetal abnormalities. Avoid jumping in hot weather; temperatures inside the plane during the ride to altitude can be extreme. Be sure to stay cool and hydrated.
HYPOXIA: High altitudes can increase rates of miscarriage and pregnancy complication. Little is known about short-term exposure to high altitude during pregnancy. Stay on the safe side and avoid the extra altitude.
- Consider how well you can manage potential added stress of skydiving with your tiny passenger.
- Consider the added stress or distraction for others who might be worried about your bump.
OTHER SIDE EFFECTS OF PREGNANCY: Consider how nausea, vomiting, loss of bladder control and fatigue might affect your ability to skydive safely.
IN HER OWN WORDS
We checked in with our good friend and professional skydiver, Amanda Elkin, to ask a few questions about her pregnancy experience as a skydiver. Amanda has over 2000 jumps, holds a D-License, and works as a Tandem Instructor, Accelerated Freefall Instructor, Skydiving Coach, Videographer and Competitive Skydiver. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: When did you find out you were expecting and how many jumps had you done during that time?
A: I was 4 weeks pregnant when I found out and my baby had already done 45 jumps with me.
Q: How long did you continue jumping after finding out?
A: I continued to jump until week 14 of pregnancy. I made 127 jumps with him in total. I completed a WI State Sequential Record, IL State Sequential Record, All American Big way 4th of July event, and earned a gold medal filming at the USPA National Skydiving Championships, while pregnant.
Q: How did you decide when to stop jumping?
A: Once I started to feel him kicking it felt like time to pause jumping, this was at week 14.
Q: Did you do anything to mitigate risks while jumping?
A: I discontinued doing student jumps (both tandem and accelerated freefall) and organizing at boogies after 8 weeks of pregnancy. Until week 14, I continued shooting video for tandems, video for 4 way and a few select big way jumps with established organizers who vetted the participants for experienced and current jumpers.
Q: Did you consult a doctor about skydiving while pregnant? What was their response?
A: I consulted several doctors to discuss risks. The doctors I found most informed, who gave the most knowledgeable responses, were the ones who were also skydivers. They were aware of the details and process of jumping and most found skydiving to be safe if precautions were taken - no hard openings, hard landings, freefall collisions, hypoxia, etc.
Q: How did your partner feel about your decision to continue skydiving while pregnant?
A: My husband is also a skydiver and understands the risks involved. We openly discussed it and made an initial plan to discontinue after Nationals (week 14), with a tentative plan to pivot or press pause sooner if needed. He's been very supportive of my jumping, and we both felt comfortable with the decisions I made.
Amanda and her husband making a skydive together for their gender reveal. It’s a boy!