Do’s and don’ts
Deciphering what you can and can’t do on the rock when you’re pregnant is no easy task. Few scientific studies even mention rock climbing and pregnant women in the same analysis. But there are plenty of opinions in the cyber-world: Pictures of ladies climbing with baby bumps typically inspire and infuriate in equal measure. Individual women should talk to their doctors about what’s best for them, but since few doctors understand climbing, we sought general advice from Long Huynh, an ob/gyn doctor and climber practicing in Boulder County, Colorado.
Elevation: Heading to moderate altitudes is safe as long as you’re used to high elevations. But for women who live at or near sea level, traveling to significantly higher altitudes isn’t recommended.
Hydration: All that extra blood volume pumping through your veins makes it especially important to stay hydrated during your entire pregnancy.
Full-body harness: Once your baby bump develops in the second trimester, switch to a full-body harness, which crosses below your belly, like a seatbelt, instead of across your waist.
Fatigue: Exercise can be good for you and your baby. Keep climbing when pregnant—assuming you feel like it. Many women experience crushing fatigue (your body is increasing its blood volume by half or more), not to mention morning sickness.
Balance: During the first trimester, your center of gravity probably won’t change, allowing you to keep climbing without adjusting your technique.
Trauma: Your fetus is well protected in the first trimester, but a big fall could still cause a miscarriage. Many women choose to keep leading, but select your routes carefully to avoid serious falls.
Fatigue: Many women feel a resurgence of energy in the second trimester, which could make climbing (and approach hikes) seem more fun again.
Balance: Most women get a baby bump by their fourth or fifth month of pregnancy, which begins to throw off their balance. Be cautious on even the most familiar climbs.
Trauma: The shearing forces from taking or catching a big fall could rip the developing placenta from the wall of the uterus. Most women stop leading, or lead way below their pre-pregnancy limit.
Fatigue: Fatigue often creeps back in, because you’re lugging an extra 25 to 30 pounds up the wall. If you choose to keep climbing, reduce the difficulty.
Balance: Your center of gravity will shift significantly forward, away from the spine. As you climb, you’ll need to work to find new positions of balance instead of relying on the instincts you’ve built up over the years.
Trauma: The time for leading has passed. Feel free to keep toproping with your full-body harness, but dial back the grade and type of climbing. Embrace the slab; eschew the overhang.