I am a 20-year-old woman, six months pregnant and a passionate climber. I’ve been climbing for three years, and already have a 2-year-old daughter. For my first pregnancy I wasn’t so into climbing so I decided to take a break from the rock during those months. After the birth, I started climbing again and haven’t stopped. I’ve dialed back the usual strenuous climbs (under normal circumstances, up to 5.12d) and I’m keeping it to 5.9 and 5.10 because I know there’s some kind of risk if I try too hard. Should I keep climbing? Or is there another type of training for a psyched mom who wants to stay in shape but also take care of her baby?
—Natalia | Puerto Rico
Here are some general guidelines for exercising during pregnancy, which have been taken from the American Pregnancy Association website: If you have been following a regular exercise program prior to your pregnancy, you should be able to maintain it to some degree throughout your pregnancy. Exercise does not increase your risk for miscarriage, but it is important to listen to those natural signals that it is time to reduce the level. Never exercise to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness, a sign that your baby and your body cannot get the oxygen supply they need. Avoid exercising in very hot weather, take frequent breaks, and drink plenty of fluids. Go carefully when walking on rocky terrain or unstable ground—your joints are more flexible during pregnancy, with potential for ankle sprains and other injuries. During the second and third trimesters, avoid exercise that involves lying flat on your back, as this decreases blood flow to your womb. Include relaxation and stretching before and after your exercise program. Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates.
Here are some specifics for climbing. When bouldering, absolutely avoid jumping off and instead stick to traversing at a low level. Make sure you use crash pads and have attentive spotters when bouldering outside. For route climbing, leader falls are out but toproping can be sustained to the point when hanging in a harness becomes uncomfortable. A full body harness may provide a better option than a regular sit harness, as it will offer more, and more dispersed, support.
Clearly, this is a non-precise science and I am simply passing on tips from others who have climbed during pregnancy. Every pregnancy, and every body, is different. It is paramount that you listen to yours and do what feels right for you.