Whether is hiking safe for early pregnancy, is something every woman asks if they decide to go hiking. Hiking has several health benefits. As a bonus, you get to see beautiful places, test your skill and stamina, and get a great cardio workout at the same time. Pregnant women are generally considered safe to hike in moderation.
If you take some safety measures before engaging in any physical activity and keep an eye on your body during workouts, hiking can be a safe pregnancy activity.
The benefits of hiking during pregnancy
Good workout: Hiking strengthens leg muscles and provides a good cardio workout. These are both helpful during pregnancy. Having a healthier pregnancy, shorter labor, and faster delivery can be achieved through exercise.
Additionally, it reduces the risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension during pregnancy.
A sense of serenity and calm can only be achieved by being out in nature and taking in its beauty.
Guidelines for Hiking when Pregnant
While walking is generally considered a good and safe form of exercise while pregnant, It can be much more intense to hike than to stroll around the neighborhood. Here is what my nurse suggested.
I received these recommendations from my nurse. Every person and pregnancy is different, so consult with your doctor to determine what type of exercise is safe for you.
- Avoid overheating
- Stay hydrated
- Regularly eat well and stay healthy
- You should not go above 10,000 ft elevation (this is a recommendation for those who live in Colorado. For those who live at sea level, the recommendation is 5,000 ft) due to the change in oxygen levels and lower oxygen levels at higher elevations.
- If you are not feeling well, stick to short distances so you can get back relatively quickly
- Hikes with a lot of elevation gain should be avoided
- Lighten your backpacking load by having your partner carry a bit more of it
- The distribution of weight in your body changes during pregnancy, and it’s easier to lose balance – hiking poles can help you keep your balance.
Tips For Hiking While Pregnant
1. Consult your doctor first.
You should always consult your doctor first. Every momma is different, and so are their medical history, fitness level, and height of pregnancy risk. If you’ve been hiking for a long time, you should probably be fine. You may be advised against taking up hiking if you have a complicated pregnancy or are new to it.
2. Know The Terrain.
There is no need to embark on a researched hiking adventure. The last thing you want is to end up lost on a 15-mile loop where you must cross rivers, climb narrow ledges, and squeeze into tight rock crevices.
Depending on how far along you are, you may be carrying upwards of 25 extra pounds on your body. Slippery rocks, steep inclines, and unstable surfaces all pose significant risks to your and the baby’s safety. A baby weight may throw your body off balance. Research the hike trail before you leave home to avoid unnecessary risks.
3. Use Hiking Poles.
As a result, I have never used hiking poles on hikes less than 20 miles. However, hiking while pregnant is different. You are off balance and your knees are more prone to injury. Hiking poles help with all of these issues.
In addition to distributing the weight more evenly, poles take some of the pressure off your knees and ankles. I use the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles and highly recommend them. The webbing strap and foam handles allow a more secure grip and provide a more secure grip. They are also lightweight, collapsible, and easy to adjust.
I can see how a support belt could be useful for pregnant women during a hike, although I have not used one myself.
4. Watch For Altitude.
Aside from knowing the terrain, you should be aware of the altitude at which you will be hiking. At higher altitudes, there is less oxygen available to you and your baby.
Hiking at 10,000 feet above sea level isn’t considered a risky activity if you live in Breckenridge Colorado (altitude: 9’600). If you live in the higher altitudes of Colorado, you might not consider it high altitude. The highest elevation in Washington DC is 409′, so you might want to reconsider hiking to Breckenridge. When in doubt, consult your doctor.
5. Pregnant women should expect to pee a lot while hiking.
Taking several potty breaks is inevitable since you will be drinking so much water and a baby will press on your bladder. I barely noticed that I had a baby in my belly when hiking at 16 weeks pregnant. When I hiked at 30 weeks, I felt every movement, toss, and turn. When that baby presses against your bladder, there is nothing you can do about it. If you do not have access to a bathroom nearby, the urge to go is uncontrollable and strong. If you need toilet paper or wipes for an urgent situation, it is wise to bring a toilet paper or wipes. Check the trail map ahead of time to find out which bathrooms are available.
If you carry anything onto the trails, take it with you. Just because a wipe is biodegradable doesn’t mean it won’t sit there for months or even years.
6. Wearing a pack is okay under certain circumstances.
When I asked my doctor if it was safe to wear a hiking pack while pregnant, she told me as long as I usually wear one, you should be fine:
- There is no weight difference between the pack and what you are used to carrying
- You do not have to wear the strap over your belly
Also, it is a good idea to use common sense when carrying a 5 lb. Camelbak with a granola bar during all three trimesters. If you are used to carrying a 20 lb. trekking pack during your first trimester, it may be ok, but I would definitely consult your doctor before carrying the same weight during your third trimester.
When I was 16 weeks pregnant, I carried that 20 lb. pack just fine. In 30 weeks, I could not imagine carrying the same pack when I was 20 lbs heavier (not including the weight of the pack), had a protruding belly, and had constant lower back pain. My doctor has already advised me not to carry a heavy pack during my third trimester. It’s sometimes best to err on the side of safety.
7. The Talking Test is more important than heart rates.
During exercise, doctors advised keeping your heart rate below 140 beats per minute in the 1980s. Due to the complex effects of maternal exercise on fetal heart rate, heart rate limits aren’t typically imposed during pregnancy. Doctors recommend trying the talking test rather than obsessing over your heart rate. If you are able to converse normally, then you are fine. Shortness of breath and difficulty carrying on a conversation, however, may indicate that you are pushing yourself too hard and should ease up.
If a pregnant woman was previously highly active or engaged in regular aerobic activity, they can continue doing so. If you intend to exercise while pregnant, including hiking, you should always consult your doctor and practice reasonable precautions.
8. Stay Within Mobile Service.
In general, hiking in the great outdoors is a place where you go to recharge and disconnect from the world around you. That being said, pregnancy is not the best time to go completely off the grid. You should always have your phone with you and be within range of mobile service. Make sure your phone is turned off and tucked away in your pocket or pack so that it is not a distraction. I hope you won’t need it, but if there is an emergency, you will be glad you prepared ahead of time.
9. You should plan to go slower than usual.
During my non-pregnant state, Scott and I typically hike for 30 minutes per mile. When you add steep inclines, 25 pounds of baby weight, and excessive potty stops, that pace can easily double or triple. Scott and I learned this the hard way on our trip to the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains on the Three Ridges Trail.
The idea that being 16 weeks pregnant wouldn’t slow me down much surprised me, even though I consider myself pretty tough. As a result, we ended up hiking at a pace of over an hour per mile, putting us back considerably. Our goal was to complete the loop in about 7 hours, but instead, it took us 15 hours, and we hiked the remaining 1.6 miles in total darkness in a black bear’s territory (not an ideal situation).
Take frequent breaks for snacks, water, potty breaks, or just a breather during your hiking adventure. Don’t rush and don’t push yourself too hard.
10. Don’t Go Alone.
The benefits of hiking with a friend are many, and hiking while pregnant is one of them. Should something go wrong, you are not on your own.
It is also necessary for two or more people to distribute snacks and water. It was a great relief for my pregnant back to be able to offload some gear and snacks into Scott’s pack on one of our hikes because I overestimated my carrying capacity.
Take advantage of hiking during your first trimester
In recent years, pregnant women have been stigmatized as highly fragile and breakable.
It’s more and more common for pregnant women to stay active and stay healthy. Hiking is definitely a great activity to enjoy while expecting.
The most basic guidelines and safety protocols can prevent you from becoming a couch potato during pregnancy as long as you consult your doctor first. If you get close to your baby during the first trimester, you will be ready to hike with your baby once they join you in person. Before you know it, you can go hiking with your baby strapped to your back!
So hiking is safe for early pregnancy, While I did not expect pregnancy to affect my hiking and exercise to this extent, each pregnancy is different.
This has all been a big adjustment for me, but I’ve learned to accept that this is the best my body can do right now. After all, it’s bringing a little miracle inside!