My doctor was clear – there’s no danger cycling while pregnant …. providing you don’t crash. It’s a question of individual risk appetite. I asked myself whether I was confident on my bike and willing to accept the chance of a potential fall. I decided to modify my bike route to travel through the park and on cycle lanes, and on that basis, yes, I felt confident riding my bike when i was six months pregnant.
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE WHILE PREGNANT
It was a joy being mobile again after months incarcerated in the tram. Not only was I thrilled by the spring breeze in my hair, I was quietly happy knowing that exercising while pregnant was helping maintain muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness, and maintain a healthy pregnancy weight. Research shows that the benefits are not just phsical, but psychological as well, with excerise during pregnancy reducing the chance of depression, stress and insomnia. It also decreases fatigue and improves self esteem, helping the future mother feel energised and good about herself as her body goes through major physical changes.
A PREGNANCY BIKE
Getting back on your bike when pregnant needs a little thought in terms of bicycle suitability. I tried to mount my trusty red road bike and found that I could touch the handlebars with the tips of my fingers only, not ideal for steering. Pregnant womens changing body shape means that a bicycle needs to have higher handlebars than a road bike and ideally a step through frame (without a high cross bar).
I rode a mountain bike for a couple of months of my pregnancy, which was very comfortable thanks to big tyres and many gears, however throwing my leg over the cross bar soon became challenging in terms of maintaining balance. At seven months I up (down?) graded to a ‘grandma bike’ with a basket on the back. It’s high handlebars and step through frame made for comfortable riding right up to the last moment, not to mention that the basket made transporting groceries home a breeze. This bike took me all the way to the end of my pregnancy, including to the hospital for my 40 week check up. If you are thinking of cycling through your pregnancy, I’d recommend a bike like this.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CYCLING WHEN PREGNANT
Even if you are a seasoned cyclist, you’ll find cycling up hills when you’re pregnant much more difficult than previously. Mostly, this is due to your baby taking up the space your lungs use to expand in, making it harder to breath. Also, you have 40% more blood pumping around your body, not to mention extra kilos to move too. For me this meant avoiding steep hills or even get off to walk and push the bike if necessary. Listen to your body and take it easy. As my doctor said to me, focus more endurance rather than sprinting.
An alternate to cycling on the road is cycling on a ‘trainer’ or exercycle indoors. This removes the risk of a fall and is comfortable whatever the weather. Whether you are riding on the road or inside, your physical capacity remains limited. On the trainer that means downgrading your routines and taking it easy. I had my carbon road bike set up on the trainer however it wasn’t long before reaching the handlebars was impossible. To overcome this you can try raising the front wheel of your bike, or do as i did in the end, simply forget the handlebars and changing gears, and ride with the wall for support.
TO RIDE OR NOT TO RIDE? LET THOSE WHO RIDE DECIDE
Despite these positive effects of exercise during pregnancy, research shows that three quarters of pregnant woman do not do enough exercise during their pregnancy. For me, cycling through my pregnancy was a positive experience. It helped me to stay in shape, enjoy the beautiful weather and to quickly bounce back into shape after the baby arrived.
Cycling while pregnant is not for everyone and there are plenty of other types of exercise that pregnant woman can do. However if you are reading this then maybe you’re thinking about cycling. If so, check it out with your doctor before hitting the road.
Once you and your bump are mobile on two wheels, you will undoubtedly attract stares from those you pass. When challenged about the danger of cycling while pregnant by bystanders, colleagues or family, I simply repeated what a wise cyclist once said to me, let those who ride decide.
By Rachel Stillwell – Originally from New Zealand, Rachel is a keen cyclist living in Switzerland who rides with her baby.