Can I ride while pregnant?
I’ve been hearing from a lot of friends (it seems like I’m at the age where a good chunk of women I’m close to are having babies!) about riding while pregnant. Obviously, this is a super individualized question, since some women I know were able to spin almost up until their due date (I’ve even heard a story about a woman riding herself to the hospital when contractions started!), but some women just don’t enjoy it, or find it comfortable, relatively early on in pregnancy. I’ve asked a few of our experts to weigh in, and this is the first answer of several.
Exercise is very important for the health and well-being of individuals, and this remains true during pregnancy as well. There are however, several factors to take into consideration when one is pregnant.
In the absence of medical or obstetrical complications, 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most or all days is recommended. For those individuals who exercise more frequently and at greater intensity, it is generally safe to continue to exercise at the same level barring obstetrical complications. For those who are not regularly exercising, it is recommended to work up slowly to avoid undue stress. There are however some caveats to be aware of, and all pregnant women should consult an obsetrical provider (MD, DO, PA, NP, or CNM) before continuing or starting an exercise program.
The recommendation by the American College of Obsterticians and Gynecologists during pregnancy is to avoid full contact sports such as soccer or hockey, as well as activities with a risk of abdominal trauma, such as downhill skiing or cycling. That having been said, there are many women who choose to continue some of these higher risk activities during pregnancy. If you do so, please understand that it is against the recommendations and is at your (and your fetus’) own risk.
If you choose to continue to cycle during your pregnancy, please make sure there are no obstetrical contraindications to exercise, such as placental abnormalities or cervical shortening. There are also some medical conditions that may worsen with pregnancy, such as certain cardiac disorders or lung diseases, so please review any medical problems with your provider as well.
For those that choose to continue cycling, there are some basic precautions to keep in mind. The greatest danger is direct abdominal trauma. This type of trauma can cause, at worst, significant risk of bleeding (both fetal and maternal) and pregnancy loss. If you should fall, please contact your care provider IMMEDIATELY, even if you did not hit your abdomen. Falling can cause a shearing force that may cause the placenta to separate early, which can be a life-threatening emergency for both you and your fetus.
Cycling indoors on a stationary bike, spin bike, or stationary trainer do not pose a risk of falling and are generally considered safe. Again, please discuss activity with your care provider before proceeding.
If you choose to cycle outdoors there are several things to keep in mind. Please wear a helmet. Always. If you are an experienced cyclist and continue to road bike, please use caution with cars and avoid busy roads. For cyclocross and mountain biking, please avoid highly technical areas that increase your risk of falling. Pregnant women in the second and third trimester experience a significant change in their center of balance which increases the risk of falling. In addition, as the uterus grows, the ability to bend at the waist to reach the bars and the ability to mount and dismount your bicycle can be compromised. Although it may not be exciting, it may be safest to be on a bike with a low standover (or a step-through) and higher (or raised) handlebars and to stick to bike paths and rail trails where there is no car traffic and less risk of needing to come to a sudden stop or quickly dismount your bike.