Pedaling Pregnant

pedaling_pregnant.jpgRegina Hope Sinsky. Photo by Scott Crosby.

(Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on the SFBC’s new blog)

I’m seven months pregnant and ride my bike around San Francisco.
Seeing me in action engenders one of two responses from people: “You go
girl!” or “You shouldn’t be doing that, girl.”

As a lowish-risk pregnant lady (fairly young, fairly healthy), I
asked my OB if there’s anything I should abstain from physically for the
next nine months. “Scuba diving,” she said in her laconic style. I
pressed further and she replied, “is there something you are
specifically asking me to tell you not to do?” “Dishes,” I replied. The
main thing I wanted to know was, can I ride my bike? She gave me the
green light and, since I don’t have a car, I ride often. To the grocery
store, to get pancakes, to visit friends, to doctor appointments… where
evs. 

Basically, when it comes to riding while pregnant, ask your doctor
for permission. But if you rode your bike before, you will probably be
cleared to continue doing so.

Most medical professionals say exercise is beneficial during
pregnancy. My doula was running sprints on hiking trails at 39 weeks
(for the uninitiated, there are 40 weeks in a pregnancy… I still don’t
really get the timetable.) The American College of Obstetrics and
Gynecology says healthy pregnant women should exercise at least three
times a week and bicycling is one of their approved forms of exercise.
The American Pregnancy Association says pregnant women should “avoid
riding off the road or when the pavement is wet” because of accident
risk. That’s the only warning they give.

To be safe, I don’t ride in the rain, stick to streets with bike
lanes, and avoid areas with heavy traffic. Fortunately there are lots of
streets in San Francisco that fit the bill. I also always wear a helmet
and multiple blinky lights. Duh. From what I’ve read, some women
experience balance issues in their third trimester… if that’s you, then,
well, maybe a stationary bike?

If you’re steady and ready to ride, biking is a great form of
low-impact exercise during pregnancy. And in anticipation of all the
multi-tasking I am about to embark upon, my transportation has become my
exercise.

Motherhood has made me a more cautious cyclist with a “baby on board”
mentality. I used to hate those little yellow suction-cup signs people
stick to their cars, alerting other drivers to their precious cargo.
Now, as a pregnant cyclist in a major US city, I still hate them, but I
get it. It’d just be nice to say “hey now, how about a little space?”

Of course, it isn’t easy to tell a woman is pregnant when she’s on
her bike. My baby daddy attached a pink bow stating “It’s a girl!” to my
rear basket. From this, drivers and other cyclists may infer that my
bike is female (it is pink). Other than that, you wouldn’t really know
I’m pregnant. From behind, I look like I did seven months ago. I wear
decidedly un-maternity-looking clothing. Second, the semi-dropped
position I assume when riding conceals my growing belly. My arms block
any front views and unzipped sweaters and jackets hang down at my sides
blocking side view. The only person who notices every time I am on a
bike is my baby, who enjoys kicking rhythmically as I ride.

This spring, my bike is about to get a new, wider seat. In the last
month it has also gained new, non-slip pedals. I’ve added some super
duper blinky lights and purchased a more noticeable (and cuter) helmet.
Other than that, my bike was ready for my baby, and yours probably is too.

  • I know a lady who was running till a day before she gave a birth to a healthy girl. And I am sure riding a bicycle while pregnancy is much safer than that! Plus, why people are allow to drive while pregnancy even though there are more chance getting into accidents than to ride bicycles?

  • While I’m a man, I think that riding while pregnant is perfectly healthy as long as your OB approves. In Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, etc. it is quite common to see pregnant women riding bikes.

    However, in Europe most women don’t ride modified road bikes with a semi-drop position and narrow racing saddles. I wonder if the type bike has any effect on the safety of such practice.

  • ZA

    Thank you for leading. I hope that it will lead to the improved facilities we all need.

  • Glad to hear from another pregnant biker in the city. I’m almost 5 months along and get to most places on my trusty touring bike. I’m slower on big hills but otherwise ride just I like always have.

  • Britt

    I rode my bike up until my due date, which kept me fit and I probably had an easier birth as a result. Any future mommy that bikes (and future dads as well) should bike as much as possible before the baby comes, since there really aren’t many options for biking with an infant. We started putting junior, in his carseat, into a trailer at about 2-3 months, but until then he just seemed to fragile to risk it.

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