(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.