Cycling During Pregnancy – Advice for Women Who Want to Keep Fit
What is safe during pregnancy, and what is best left for after the baby is born? Every mother-to-be has questions about whether certain activities are safe at some point during their nine months. And many of them turn to their doctor and midwife for advice. Societal attitudes are often reflected in the advice you’ll hear from a healthcare provider. Some go so far as to say that stretching is the recommended pregnancy “exercise”, but doctors in many countries recommend that pregnant women refrain from cycling, because a fall could seriously hurt the baby.
In the Netherlands, people don’t agree. Everyone is familiar with the stereotype of clogs, windmills, tulips and… bicycles! As someone who largely grew up in Holland, I can say that bicycles are definitely an important part of Dutch society. Cycling is more seen as a mode of transportation than a form of exercise, and I’ve never heard that anyone there held the view that cycling during pregnancy is dangerous — barring situations in which the mom-to-be has been placed on complete bed rest. Doctors in the Netherlands even suggest cycling as a way to improve pelvic girdle pain!
They do note it’s better to stick to flat landscapes, which is admittedly quite hard in most countries that are not Holland.
All Dutch mothers I know cycled during their pregnancies (one even went into labor while riding a bike!), and once their babies can sit, they are quickly added onto the bike in a bicycle seat. If you feel like cycling during pregnancy too, there are lots of benefits. You can burn 400 to 500 calories in one hour, get a great cardio workout, and work the quadriceps, hamstring, and calf muscles. Indeed, cycling even does your back some good! Cycling also gives you the fresh air that you probably crave during pregnancy and boosts your vitamin D levels. Women suffering from early pregnancy signs like morning sickness may notice the exercise and time in the outdoors makes them feel better.
Pregnant women should be careful not to overdo it and could also consider using exercise bikes at a lower speed and pace, however, and take a break when their body tells them to. For longer trips in hotter weather, a full water bottle is essential to prevent dehydration. It’s good to avoid bad roads, which could increase your risk of falling and give you a bumpy ride. A bike with shock absorbers is a great idea, and a nicely padded or gel saddle will make you more comfortable as well. Do be aware that your center of gravity will shift as your baby bump grows, and be careful. Keep your distance from other cyclists so your bikes don’t get caught up in one another. And, if you are a little cautious but still want the physical benefits of cycling, you can always ride on an exercise bike at the gym or at home.
Olivia, a mom of two, is passionate about women’s health and fertility. If you are currently expecting or already postpartum, you may like to read her tips for weight loss after pregnancy too!