>Sifting through the published literature
>reveals why there is debate over the topic.
>Data are limited and, in many cases,
>apparently inconsistent. While this makes
>drawing conclusions more difficult, it
>should not be surprising.
>Science is very rarely as clear-cut as
>might be desired. It is difficult to design
>an ethical experiment that tests only the
>variable of interest and controls for all
>others. It is the researcher’s job to design
>the best experiments possible, and it is the
>individual’s or advocate’s responsibility to examine the results and decide how
>to best respond to them.
>The question of diving and pregnancy is
>a difficult one to study since the trend is
>for women to refrain from diving while
>pregnant2. Most physicians treat diving
>as they would any drug for which the
>evidence with respect to pregnancy is
>incomplete: If there is not a good reason
>to take it, avoid it.
>Anyone who inadvertently dives while
>pregnant, however, may take solace in
>the anecdotal evidence from women
>reporting repeated diving during pregnancy
>without complication. There is
>certainly insufficient evidence to warrant
>termination of a pregnancy. Moreover, if
>emergency hyperbaric oxygen is required
>during pregnancy, for example to treat
>carbon monoxide poisoning, the evidence
>suggests that the risk to the fetus
>with treatment is lower than without.
>The overall picture of the literature
>indicates that, while the effect may be
>small, diving during pregnancy does
>increase the risk to the fetus, and the
>consequences could be devastating to
>all involved. Appreciating these essential
>factors, the prudent course is to avoid
>diving while pregnant. While it is possible
>that some diving could be completed
>without impact, the absolute risk of any
>given exposure cannot be determined
>from the available data. Given the ethical
>challenges of research on diving during
>pregnancy and the fact that diving represents
>a completely avoidable risk for most
>women, it is unlikely that studies will be
>conducted to establish the absolute risk
>in the foreseeable future.
>About the Authors
>undergraduate degree in biomedical science
>at Texas A&M University in December 2005.
>She was placed at the Center for Hyperbaric
>Medicine and Environmental Physiology,
>Duke University Medical Center, Durham,
>N.C., as a DAN research intern in the
>summer of 2006.
>at the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and
>Environmental Physiology, Duke University
>Medical Center, Durham, N.C.,