Exercise is important for pregnant women to help maintain mental well being and physicality. Bicycling does have its risks, so while it’s okay to continue biking while pregnant, there are things a woman needs to keep in mind.
Biking isn’t considered a high-risk activity to avoid during pregnancy, such as downhill skiing or horseback riding. As with any sort of exercise, it’s important to discuss your activity with a doctor, and these are just some general guidelines.
Benefits of Biking While Pregnant
Exercising while pregnant delivers a number of different benefits, and while these benefits aren’t exclusive to biking, biking is still an excellent form of exercise and beats a sedentary lifestyle throughout pregnancy. Some complaints of pregnancy include fatigue, swelling, and varicose veins, and these complaints can be reduced with regular exercise.
A Chinese study found that women who begin biking in early pregnancy for at least three times a week, and for 30 minutes at a time, found there is a reduced risk of gestational diabetes in pregnant women with a high BMI. Aerobic exercise, which includes biking, helps reduce stress and the hormone cortisol to help maintain a healthy weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar level.
Benefits of biking and exercise while pregnant include improved posture, better sleep, better mood, and the ability to cope with labor.
Risks of Biking While Pregnant
Some of the risks that are present when biking while pregnant include falling off the bike, sustaining injuries, and overheating. Overheating in the first trimester can cause abnormalities in the fetus. Keep safety in mind so you can avoid falling off, especially as your belly grows and balance becomes trickier.
Things to Keep in Mind
Pay attention to Your Body: When biking while pregnant, what matters most is how you feel today. It doesn’t matter how far or fast you could ride last week or even the day before. Each trimester will present different challenges to biking, which can range from nausea to exhaustion and even balance issues. It’s important to listen to your body, and if it is telling you to stop or slow down, pay attention. Toward the end of pregnancy, you can expect to feel more tired and it can make biking more difficult. There isn’t an exact point when you should stop biking during your pregnancy; expect to listen to your body. Some will stop biking later on due to the uncomfortable feeling, while some continue to bike right up until due dates.
Hydration: Drinking plenty of water is important during normal exercise but is even more important during pregnancy. Since pregnancy can already put additional pressure on the bladder and cause increased urination, you should know options for the bathroom before you hit the road. Plan a route that has plenty of bathroom options, so you can be more comfortable. Between pregnancy and the added hydration, you could be stopping to go to the bathroom a lot more than before. In addition to fluids, you may also want to pack some snacks for longer rides, since pregnancy can lead to increased hunger.
Use Different Tools to Stay Comfortable: As your belly grows, the fit of the bike is going to change. Get familiar with different saddle adjustments and sweptback handlebar options, so you can stay comfortable and safe.
New Clothing Options: Bicycling bib shorts may offer more comfort for growing bellies and it’s still important to dress in layers, so you can adapt to any changing temperatures that happen during your ride. Pregnancy can make you feel hotter than normal, so you will also want options to stay cool and not overheat during your ride. Keep this in mind when choosing your clothing options and tie a cool towel around your neck to keep the temperature down. Also, avoid exercising in the hottest parts of the day in order to avoid getting too hot. You may have to invest in some new sport bra options, since your belly isn’t the only thing that will grow as you get further along in your pregnancy. Get a comfortable and supportive sports bra that doesn’t feel like a straitjacket.
Pay Attention to Heart Rate: Doctors may recommend you keep your heart rate below a certain point while exercising, and one of the ways to be mindful of this is to keep it conversational. If you are pedaling so hard that you can’t have a conversation, then make sure you dial the pace back a bit. You can use heart rate monitors to also monitor your rate, but you don’t want to keep looking down. You need to pay attention to the road ahead, so being mindful of a conversational pace can be more helpful.
Be Careful of Off-Road Biking: Off-road biking can cause too many jolts and bumps, with a higher risk of falling off the bike and injury, so it’s best to stick to paved bike paths during these nine months. This means staying off the hardtail and sticking to the road biking.
Ditch Any Expectations: Pregnancy can be an unexpected time and, while you may have had visions of biking throughout your entire nine months, take every day as it comes and don’t worry about pace and the expectations you have. It may take you longer to complete your usual loops, so plan accordingly when you head out on a ride.
Biking Through Different Trimesters
Your first trimester can mean dealing with fatigue and morning sickness, which may actually last all day, so you may not feel like biking. Keep it light and only go when you feel like it. During the second trimester, you may have more energy than before, and biking during this time can help with some of the aches and pains that can occur with the extra weight. Even with the newfound energy, still pay attention to your body. For your third trimester, the bump will be noticeable, so you will need to pay attention to how your bike fits. Leaning over the handlebars could be a bit of a challenge. You may experience shortness of breath more easily in the third trimester, especially when going up hills.
Once you have your baby, listening to your body doesn’t stop. Loosened ligaments that occur during pregnancy and birth can leave you more vulnerable to injury, so paying attention to how you are feeling doesn’t stop once you have a new little one. Just like you should ditch any expectations during pregnancy, the same goes for your postpartum journey. Don’t worry if you get back on the bike at a difference pace. Enjoy the new journey and teaching your little one about biking. Soon enough, you may be headed on family bike trips!