Is Rock Climbing OK while Pregnant? – What to Watch Out For

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Most people think that once you get pregnant, you have to kiss your rock climbing days goodbye, at least temporarily. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though, especially for women who already rock climb regularly. While you may need to make some tweaks and changes during your pregnancy, there is definitely a way to rock climb safely. Read on to learn everything you need to know about rock climbing when pregnant.

What to Watch Out For

While normal climbing is relatively safe during the first trimester, once the second trimester sets in, you’ll want to take extra precautions. While this doesn’t mean you have to stop rock climbing, some women feel less comfortable with it as their pregnancy moves forward.

After the first trimester, the abdomen will start protruding, which means there’s an increased risk to the fetus. Things that pose a risk include the pressure of the harness, falling and other objects that can fall. Many pregnant climbers choose to wear a harness that sits lower on the abdomen instead of across the belly. You may also want to avoid areas that tend to see a lot of rock fall. It’s also a good idea to climb only on routes you’re familiar with and to stay close to the ground. This isn’t the time to experiment with new techniques and to try to increase your ability, but you can still enjoy safe climbing while pregnant.

Setting Boundaries Throughout Pregnancy

As you move through your pregnancy, your external and internal experiences as related to climbing are going to change. Here are a number of boundaries you may want to consider setting, of course tweaking for personal experiences and preferences:

  • To limit risk, it may be a good idea to only climb easy routes throughout your pregnancy. Also, your joints will loosen while you’re pregnant, and easier routes will put less stress on your joints.
  • As your pregnancy moves forward, you may feel more and more concerned about falling. Some women opt to stop bouldering around 10 weeks to limit the risk.
  • At around 12 weeks, you may want to stop leading.
  • As you start to show more, around five months for a lot of women, you may want to start wearing a full body harness, which will provide more support.
  • Some women find that they naturally want to stop climbing as they get further into their pregnancy. For example, by around six months you may find that you feel swollen a lot of the time and somewhat out of control of your body, and it may be a natural time to stop rock climbing until after the baby is born.
  • If part of your regular climbing training is abdominal exercises, consider stopping them for the duration of your pregnancy. Diastasis is a possible occurrence during pregnancy (the abdominal muscles split), and you may not want to put extra stress on your abs during this time. Some women opt to only train via daily walks and light shoulder exercises.

Internal Cues and Changes to Pay Attention To

While there are some technical changes you may opt to make, such as using a full body harness as your tummy grows, there are going to be a lot more internal changes to pay attention to as you continue rock climbing. Everything from shortness of breath to nausea will affect your activity level and performance. Here are a few things to expect and how to handle them.

Loose Joints

In order to prepare for giving birth, your body has the pregnancy hormone relaxin right now. This is what primes your pelvic joints to expand during birth. During pregnancy, more than just your pelvic joints are loosened, though, which means your entire body is at a higher risk for sprains, strains and instability.

To care for your body while pregnant, steer clear of any risky climbs and tweaky moves. You don’t want to put your joints in a bad position, particularly if you’ve had dislocation problems in the past. Be extra careful climbing right now, and opt for easier routes. It’s also a good idea to stretch regularly to avoid strain.

If you feel extra instability and pain in the pelvic area, you may be dealing with a more serious issue. While you don’t have to be too concerned, you should listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel good, even with the appropriate tweaks to your climb and harness, you may want to stop doing it for the time being.

Feeling More Tired

Practically every pregnant woman finds that she gets more tired more often than normal at some point during her pregnancy. Even very active women who usually maintain a high energy level end up feeling exhausted at some point. Tiredness tends to be especially bad during the first trimester, which is also when you’re going to want to do your rock climbing because you won’t be showing yet.

To battle tiredness, listen to your body and rest when it tells you that you need to rest. This isn’t the time in your life to continually push yourself. On days when you have more energy, channel it into rock climbing; on days when the exhaustion sets in, rest as needed. If you’re a bit tired and still want to climb, go slow, pace yourself and drink a lot of water.

Pressure Down Below

It’s common for women to feel swollen in their nether regions during pregnancy, which can make climbing uncomfortable or even scary. However, you don’t have to worry about something bad happening to your body or your baby, even if you’re feeling uncomfortable down under. Your hormones and extra blood flow are causing that feeling, which isn’t anything you have to be concerned with. After your climb, you can relieve some of the swellings with an ice pack.

Difficulty Breathing

Shortness of breath isn’t anything to be overly alarmed by, as it’s a common side effect of pregnancy. However, it can make working out uncomfortable. During the early stages of pregnancy, hormones can affect your shortness of breath. Later on, the fact that your body is expanding can be blamed.

You don’t have to stop climbing just because you’re dealing with some shortness of breath. Instead, go slowly, particularly during up-hills. If you can tell that your heart is beating very fast and that you aren’t able to hold a conversation, slow way down or take a break. Also, don’t carry too much gear with you during pregnancy – a lot of extra weight can make breathing even harder.

Dealing With Nausea

Some women go through their entire pregnancy without even a bout of morning sickness, while others feel ill the entire time. Of course, there are plenty of women who fall somewhere in the middle. Also keep in mind that your past pregnancy won’t necessarily mirror your current one and that you can feel more or less nauseous than you did the last time you were pregnant.

Some women find that their nausea actually gets better when they’re active, so even though exercising isn’t the thing you’ll automatically want to do when you’re feeling sick, give it a try to see if it eases your symptoms. Since you love climbing, it’ll also be a good distraction – start with a short session to see if it helps. Try not to workout on a totally empty stomach, though. Instead, have a light meal beforehand and keep snacks nearby in case you want to stop partway through to refuel.

Climbing with Swollen Feet

Swollen feet are no fun for any pregnant women, especially by the end of the day when discomfort and swelling are at their max. For climbers, putting on those shoes is even more difficult, as climbing shoes are purposely on the tight side to help you with grip.

This is the time to wear climbing shoes that are larger than the ones you normally wear. They’ll still be on the snug side since your feet are bigger than normal, but they’ll provide a bit of relief.

Feeling Unmotivated

Even if you want to enjoy rock climbing as you always have, being pregnant may leave you feel tired and unmotivated. It’s also difficult to stay committed to something, even an exercise you love, if you feel like you’re getting worse at it as your pregnancy continues. You don’t have to give in to this, though, especially if you know you’ll actually enjoy rock climbing and maybe even feel better afterward.

Don’t worry about tracking your progress right now, even if you’re going backwards instead of getting better. This isn’t the time in your life to push the limit. Instead, remind yourself that you’re rock climbing simply because you love it, because it feels good and because it’ll help you bounce back more quickly after you give birth. Also, when you do want to take a bit of time off, don’t beat yourself up for it.

One Last Thought

Before you start any type of fitness regime during your pregnancy, even if it’s something that you’ve been doing regularly for some time, you should speak with your OB or midwife to make sure you’re staying safe. Ultimately, though, you athletic mamas out there don’t have to worry that your workouts are going to be shelved for the next nine months – most of the time, there’s a way to remain active throughout your pregnancy.

Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.

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