Mindful of the benefits of being fit and active whilst pregnant, I wanted to keep cycling. I had my concerns, so I read up on the topic and consulted my doctor. Here is what I learnt about each concern:
Injury Risk. Collisions and falls present risk of injury to you and your baby. This applies both on and off the bike, especially as your belly grows and you can’t see the kerb or other things which can be tripped over. Walking, being with kids and motor vehicle accidents all pose injury risk. Overall the baby is well protected by amniotic fluid. As an experienced rider with a good safety record I chose to trust in this. I minimised risk by choosing where and when to ride, e.g. no mountain biking for me.
Heath Risk. Sitting on the sofa eating chocolate biscuits posed more of a health risk for me than cycling did. As with any exercise during pregnancy, it is key to avoid over-heating. Pregnancy raises your core body temperature and raising it further can be bad for baby. Because you heat-up from the inside out, you can’t just ask ‘do I feel hot’, as baby will be feeling hotter than you. Because of this, experts usually advise monitoring your heart rate or perceived rate of exertion (PRE) whilst exercising, (your level of exertion will determine your core temperature). They used to give a maximum of 140 BPM but this of course depended on how fit you were to start. Cycling gently around town with the occasional small hill should be fine providing you don’t over do it. Manage your core temperature with appropriate clothing, plenty of water and cool-down rests as needed. Monitor your exertion in a way that works for you. Follow general guidelines for exercising whilst pregnant.
Fatigue. Growing a baby is hard work and it is important not to over do it in other areas of your life. Listen to your body, when you are tired rest. At the same time keep in mind that staying fit and active will make life much easier during delivery and beyond. It is also great for your mental health, especially when cycling is something you enjoy.
The best advice I read was this:
“when your baby bump starts touching on the top bar of your bike it is time to stop”.
I happily cycled through both pregnancies. With our first we turned up to our childbirth classes by bike. With my second I towed our first child to daycare in our chariot cycle trailer, stopping at eight months when the baby bump got in the way. Both times we had a couples weekend away, hiring a tandem and exploring bike paths in San Francisco and Napier.
For me, cycling when pregnant is a case of:
“if it feels good, do it” ……..with a good dose of responsibility and sensible caution.
Did you cycle whilst pregnant? How was it for you?