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To clarify, I am asking this for my wife!

Blog articles and other webpages differ on the question of the safety of pregnant cycling. Most seem to think that it is okay, but some think that a pregnant woman's balance will become skewed in late pregnancy. Does anyone have experience or knowledge that would shed light on how concerned we ought to be about that?

Sample of webpages: 1, 2 (there are more but I have insufficient reputation to post them all)

Additionally, does anyone have advice about comfort for pregnant cycling - does it get uncomfortable on a bicycle for a pregnant woman and are there good ways to mitigate against that? And is the baby well cushioned against vibrations?

Snippets of wisdom as well as full answers appreciated.

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    The general advice when we looked into this a couple of years ago was to keep riding but keep the risk down. I.e. no mtb except the most benign trail rides, road racing probably out as well. The usual advice on exercise during pregnancy to keep doing it, be prepared to reduce the intensity and watch for dehydration all applies jalapeño check with Dr./midwife for anything specific. Road bike may become uncomfortable surprisingly soon. – Chris H Aug 2 '15 at 15:21
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    She should ask her obgyn. You are going to get a range of opinions on the Internet. How she is carrying is a big factor. – paparazzo Aug 2 '15 at 16:38
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    I know a woman who skied in her third trimester with the blessing of her midwife. I know another woman who was confined to bed for 14 weeks with no visitors on the orders of her midwife and specialist doctor. Only a midwife or doctor with detailed knowledge of you and risks of complications can answer this. – mattnz Aug 2 '15 at 21:22
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    @Batman Sure, they need to talk to a doctor because healthcare always needs to be tailored to the individual. But it's still useful to ask other people. Individual doctors sometimes have some strange ideas and it's good to have some background knowledge. For example, if everybody on the internet says it's usually fine but your doctor says that all women should avoid cycling while pregnant, you should question that opinion. Conversely, if the internet says "You should be careful about X" but your doctor doesn't mention that, you can ask them specifically about it. – David Richerby Aug 3 '15 at 8:55
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    My wife is a regular, but non-competitive cyclist. She had really bad morning sickness from about week 7 onwards. She continued her 3-mile cycle commute to work when pregnant at perhaps 80% of her previous pace. She considered stopping to throw up was much easier & safer on a bike than in a car. – James Bradbury Aug 3 '15 at 12:16
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This would have to be

  • one of the most opinion-based questions we could possibly have, and

  • one of the most important to deal with in a sensible manner.

Firstly, it must be said that what is safe depends on the woman's own behavioral history, and the state of the pregnancy. She certainly should not be taking up new active sports.

Some competitive sports ban obviously pregnant women from participating, not through any risk to the woman or child, but because she has two advantages. She has a greater blood supply, and competitors are likely to "go easy". I recall this was the case when I played competitive squash.

The mother of my children cycled (on a road bike) until month seven in both pregnancies. With her extra blood supply, she would leave me behind on the hills! She only stopped when her belly was hitting the top bar. It should be said that both pregnancies were completely normal. She did discuss cycling with her Ob, who agreed that since she was already a cyclist, she could continue, but that she should be sensible and stop if problems developed. She cycled about 60km (38 mi) in 3 or so rides per week.

She did find her balance changed. By doing the activity continuously, she adapted to that.

My recommendations are

  • Listen to the obstetrician. You chose this person for their guidance, for a reason.

  • Only cycle if already a regular, confident cyclist.

  • Always ride in familiar, safe places, and with a buddy.

  • Ignore those who use emotional blackmail in their arguments. This is an emotive topic; it needs clear factual arguments to form a balanced decision.

  • Every activity involves risk, including no activity, and being wrapped in cotton wool.

Enjoy!


PS The great Sheldon Brown's alter ego Carapace Completed Umber also wrote about Riding while pregnant.

  • Very useful and responsible answer. Thanks for sharing your experience. – CJB Aug 3 '15 at 8:32
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    My wife did the same during her pregnancy, riding on the road until she couldn't stay low enough, then doing some light MTB. Her OB was okay with it and encouraged her to exercise as much as she is able, but cautioned her that any crash or fall can be dangerous for the baby. – Patrick Quirk Aug 3 '15 at 13:37
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Unlike riding horses, there are no body movements that are dangerous for pregnant cyclists in any stage of pregnancy when riding on roads. Mountain cycling is not as safe and I would certainly talk that over with a Dr or midwife.

The risks are mostly the same as any other road user in your area. How do car behave around cyclists and how safe are the roads and paths for cycling. The risks of falling and being hit by a car are greater, the chances of it happening not much.

In the Netherlands all or almost all pregnant women ride through most of their pregnancies.

I have to add that most Dutch women ride bikes to get places, the percentage riding bikes for sports is much lower, although likely still higher than in many other countries. I do not see cycling as sport but as transport.
There is an old joke in the Netherlands: How do you transport five children on one bike? One in a seat on the handle bars, two on the rack on the back and the other two in mommies bellies. (Only work with twins, of course.)
This was nothing special back in the days and now it is quite common to see mothers transporting two kids and have one on the way, families with four or more are rare.

  • On-road there may be certain modifications to be made to riding style. It may be worth diverting on to roads with a better surface for example. – Chris H Aug 3 '15 at 15:53
3

Thank you for advice. Thought I'd post what happened to us in the end.

My wife is still cycling (at 27 wks) from time to time although of course being more tired makes public transport more appealing.

We spent New Year in the Netherlands, as it happens, and I enjoyed seeing the child-carrying solutions there. Of course, Dutch cities are planned around cyclists so it is a very safe place to cycle.

  • Thank you for the continuing updates. Please let us know how you both (all?) get on as the birth nears. – Criggie Jan 4 '16 at 20:52

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