Can you Ride a Bike During Pregnancy?

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can you ride a bike during early pregnancy or after giving birth

Disclaimer:  I’m not a doctor.  I am a loving husband who wanted to find out if pregnant women can safely ride their bikes while expecting a child to be born. So, this post is secondhand information and advice from MY doctor and MY WIFE’s doctor.  Before you start biking while you are pregnant, please talk to YOUR doctor.

My wife took our doctors’ advice and rode into the start of her third trimester when she was pregnant a few years ago.  Not only did my wife’s OB/GYN say that riding a bike during pregnancy was fine, but she also encouraged her to ride as much as she wanted, as long as she followed a few guidelines.

The good news? She got pregnant (the fears, discussed in this article about E.D. and fertility issues due to riding your bike, were unfounded)!

Precautions to Take to Bike While Pregnant

Biking While Pregnant has all of the inherent dangers that biking while not pregnant.  You can blow a tire and wreck.  You could hit some road debris and wreck.  Your foot could slip off the peddle causing you to wreck.  You can be hit by an unobservant motorist. But, what are the odds?  Well, your job, while pregnant is not to run away from a healthy exercise because something bad may happen, your job is to make that exercise as safe as possible.

For some, that is not biking at all.   For others, a stationary bike may be the answer.  For my wife, it was limiting cycling to quiet streets with little traffic and putting the mountain bike away.  For others, it can go as far as continuing daily bike commutes to training for road races.  

With that being said, the precautions that you should be taking while biking pregnant are the same precautions that you would take any time you are riding a bike.  

  • Always wear a helmet
  • Follow all traffic rules
  • Be observant to motorists
  • Don’t ride at night without lights
  • Don’t ride in poor weather conditions
  • Watch for road hazards and changes in road conditions
  • Don’t ride a bike and use a phone at the same time.
  • Stay hydrated

This list could go on, but you get the point.  If it isn’t safe when you’re not pregnant, it isn’t safe when you are, but being pregnant doesn’t make any of these precautions more important.

Benefits of Biking While Pregnant

The Benefits of biking are the primary reason why our doctors wanted my wife to continue to enjoy her daily bike rides. Our rides are generally about 12 miles and take a little over an hour on a cruiser-style bike.  We go in the evening in our neighborhood and the one across a busy street, which we cross at a protected intersection.  During my wife’s pregnancy, we cut out our occasional 20-30 mile rides just for the sake of her comfort.

Much like the precautions you have to take while biking, the benefits of biking while pregnant are similar to the benefits while you are not, like…

  • Improved cardiovascular health and endurance
  • Improved mental health and mood
  • Lower stress
  • Improved sleep
  • Strengthens muscles and bones

There are some extra bonuses to exercising while pregnant.   According to the Mayo clinic, biking while pregnant will…

  • Help reduce body aches, especially your back
  • Help reduce bloating and swelling
  • Help prevent excessive weight gain
  • Could shorten Labor
  • Could reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.

As you can see, the benefits of exercising while pregnant are wide-ranging and can actually help your pregnancy progress with fewer complications.  Just make sure to check with your doctor throughout the process, especially when you enter your third trimester.

When Should you Stop Biking While Pregnant?

Keeping open communication with your doctor is critical during any pregnancy.  Make sure to notify your doctor if you think anything might be wrong, whether you are biking or not.  Your doctor may put the brakes on your biking if you have some extra risks like a history of miscarriages, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, high blood pressure, or a host of other ailments.  

But, if you get the “Go Ahead” from your doctor, keep an eye out for these warning signs that you should reduce or stop biking and call your doctor if you have:

  • Bleeding or spotting
  • Balance problems.  Many women, start to have problems adjusting to the added weight and how it is distributed, especially later in the pregnancy.  Balance is, of course, important in riding a bike.
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Headaches 
  • Swelling feet, ankles or calves

This is by no means a complete list.  The important thing to remember is to listen to your body.  If you think something is not right, stop biking and call a professional.

Alternative Exercises While Pregnant

There are inherent risks to riding a bike.  If you or your doctor would prefer you not to ride a bike while pregnant, there are plenty of other ways to keep active and enjoy the benefits of exercise.

It’s best to choose a low impact exercise while pregnant.  Walking is great for just about everyone.  You will want to walk at a brisk pace, but not too brisk.  An easy test with most exercises is the “conversation test.”  This test is a gauge of how hard you are working.  If you are breathing so hard that it is difficult to have a conversation, then you might want to slow down just a bit.

If you are a runner, then with your doctor’s ok, it is fine to continue running.  My wife’s OB/GYN suggested that non-runners should start by walking during pregnancy and continue to increase speed after delivery and recovery.

Of course, if you have access to a stationary bike, that is a great alternative to riding an actual bike and most of the dangers that come along with it.

A thorough discussion of weight-training while pregnant would require a whole post of its own, but If you trained with weights before you became pregnant, you should be able to continue during your pregnancy.  There are extra precautions you need to take with lifting weights, so discuss it with your doctor before continuing your training.  

As mentioned several times throughout this article, you should consult with your doctor to do what’s best for you & your baby. For example, one of my sisters was told that she shouldn’t ride her bike at all during pregnancy. Whereas my other sister trained for and ran a full marathon while pregnant… I wouldn’t want to do that because it just SOUNDS uncomfortable, but for her situation it was fine.

What About Biking After Giving Birth?

You now have your new Bundle of Joy and some extra time, (YEAH RIGHT!)  How soon can you get back on your bike?

My wife and I didn’t even think about biking, it literally did not cross our minds for several weeks. By the time we had the first postpartum checkup at 4 weeks, we were ready to ask our doctor about getting back in the saddle.  She suggested we wait at least a couple more weeks but would prefer another 4.   So we waited 2 months before getting back on the bike.  In the meantime, the three of us took lots of walks.  

My wife had a complication-free vaginal birth.  It might take longer if you had complications or excessive tearing during birth.  It will certainly be longer if you had a C section, but don’t worry.  Your bike will be waiting for you.

Final Thoughts 

I’ve said it several times and I’ll say it once more, talk to your doctor before doing any exercise while pregnant.  Every pregnancy is unique.  Your pregnancy is unique.  In many cases Biking while pregnant is just fine, but only you can make that decision, with guidance from your doctor.

Thanks for reading and Have a Good Ride!