While chatting with a friend, our conversation shifted from excitement over a girlfriend who was pregnant with her first baby to how bike riding has completely taken off while people are spending more time at home. Mid-bike talk, the two halves of our conversation collided in my brain and I asked, "Can you ride a bike when you're pregnant?" Neither of us genuinely knew the answer — on the one hand, it seemed like a "Why not?" sort of inquiry, but on the other, I wasn't convinced that there were zero risks involved with going for a ride while expecting, especially in the third trimester.
I reached out to Dr. Lucky Sekhon, MD, a fertility specialist and board-certified OBGYN, who clarified some of the risks associated with cycling while pregnant. Keep scrolling for more information, but as always, be sure to consult your own doctor if you have any questions or concerns during your pregnancy.
Are there any risks associated with riding a bike while pregnant?
While riding a bike while pregnant isn't necessarily a risk in and ofitself, Dr. Lucky says that "one must be mindful of certain issues or potential vulnerabilities." For example, in the first trimester, when nausea and dizziness are most common, losing balance is one potential risk.
"It is important to be careful and listen to your body and if you feel lightheaded to stop what you are doing. Ways to prevent this are to stay hydrated and ensure you aren't riding on an empty stomach," Dr. Lucky told POPSUGAR. "Additionally, the high progesterone levels can make ligaments more lax, which can make one more prone to muscle and/or ligament tears or strains. It is important to slow the intensity or stop if you start feeling this strain and to stretch carefully before and after exercising on a bike."
In the third trimester, there are a number of typical activities that become more risky simply due to the fact that your center of gravity has shifted, affecting balance and increasing the risk of falls. Your growing bump "can make it uncomfortable to ride a bike where you need to lean forward to reach the handlebars." Dr. Lucky added, "It is imperative to minimize the risk of falls, especially in the late second and third trimester as direct trauma/impact to the abdomen could dislodge the placenta and cause dangerous bleeding."
Although going out for a light bike ride seems pretty low risk, especially for those in their first and early second trimesters, guidance regarding any physical activity largely depends on one's baseline, pre-pregnancy fitness level. Take carting your children in a bike trailer or baby seat, for instance. You're still bike riding, but with added weight and a product that extends off the body of your bicycle, potentially affecting balance.
"For someone who worked out regularly or rode a bike with an attached baby seat or trailer frequently prior to pregnancy, it is probably safe and okay for them to continue this level of activity," Dr. Lucky said. "If the patient did not previously do this, early pregnancy is not the time to physically stress your body out and risk injury and it would be best to slowly build up the weight being pulled or the level of resistance/intensity for any workout."
If you want to keep up some sort of cycling routine while pregnant, Dr. Lucky shared that a stationary bike could be a better option. "It may be safer with less of a fall risk as there are no unexpected bumps or risks of skidding on pavement or gravel."