Disclaimer: Please consult your physician or OB-GYN prior to rock climbing to address personal safety concerns.
Beth Rodden, a female rock climber, had been climbing for years on end when she became pregnant. She was in reach of crushing her intended 5.14a project when she got the news and immediately began to research climbing while pregnant.
As it turns out, many women in the professional climbing industry were dropped from their sponsors after becoming pregnant, but not Beth. She climbed up until her third trimester, when it became a bit painful, and took maternity leave from the climbing wall.
It’s important to note that during this time, Beth partook in mostly roped climbing. She didn’t boulder or free climb very often to avoid added risks. Today we address the questions: Is it safe to boulder when pregnant? Can I climb during my third trimester? Are there any benefits to climbing while pregnant?
Rock Climbing Pregnant: 5 Quick Facts
- Bouldering while pregnant is possible but risky. When you fall bouldering you have a harsh impact that could cause a miscarriage if you partake after 12 weeks.
- Climbing does not affect fetal growth. A study published in 1997, proved that while a long workday has detrimental effects on the fetus, rock climbing does not.
- Climbing on top rope is the safest way to get your climbing hours in and not pose a substantial risk to yourself or your baby. However, you should invest in a full-body harness. This reduces the pressure on your abdomen and hips and allocates it to your back.
- Listen to your body, always. This one is a no-brainer, but even if your doctor gives you the go-ahead on climbing, don’t do it if you don’t feel up to it. You should never push your limits when you’re pregnant, your body knows best.
- Choose your climbing routes carefully. We know you may be an expert and project a 5.13, but if that 5.9 in the corner feels better, stick to the basics.
Rock Climbing Pregnant in the First Trimester
Full-body harness? Check.
Top rope, tied in? Check.
Rockin’ climbing parent on the rise? Check.
We all know how addictive climbing is, and we’re sure you don’t wanna stop because you’re pregnant. Before you hop on that wall, make sure you consult with your OBGYN to get the green light to harness up.
In the first trimester, you’ll still uphold your sense of balance. Treat your body gently, kindly, and with restraint. Don’t push yourself to dangerously strenuous levels. Maintain your normal workout routines. It is vital in this stage, and throughout your entire pregnancy to minimize stress, both emotional and physical.
Rock Climbing Pregnant in the Second Trimester
Boom, weight gain!
You’ll be feeling the extra pounds when you pull yourself up the wall, and it’s okay. Remember to check in with yourself on physical activity levels as your body changes.
If you’re feeling unbalanced, it’s normal. Your chest and stomach have almost doubled in size and it takes some time to figure out your equilibrium again.
Don’t climb on overhangs — avoid them completely. If you’re going to fall on your back, you risk a jolting fall and shock to the placenta and your body.
If you must boulder, stick to traversing with your heels on the ground. You’ll still feel the addictive burning in your forearms, but without the risk of falling and pain.
Around this term, your joints get loose, and you stand a higher risk of muscle strain and sprain. With that being said, you’ll be climbing routes with an easier grade than before. Don’t worry, you’ve still got it!
Rock Climbing Pregnant in the Third Trimester
Heaviness, fatigue, menstrual cramps, pains, ugh!
Many pregnant folks stop climbing in this stage to nurse their bodies, and some climb straight through until birth.
If you’re feeling achy and sore, start up a daily yoga routine if you haven’t already. There are countless tutorials on YouTube and prenatal yoga classes in your local area to try if you’re feeling up to it.
If you climbed in a size 7 climbing shoe before, chances are with your feet swelling that you’re sporting a size 8/9 now. Take your snug climbing shoes off in between routes to give your feet a chance to breathe unconstrained.
As tired as you may be, doctors state that this is the most important time to keep your body moving. Leaving your ab muscles dormant until childbirth can be detrimental to the process. Taking 20 minutes out of your day for yoga, or climbing rejuvenates those muscles, gets the blood pumping, and boosts your mood.
Getting Back Into Climbing Post-Baby
Before you chalk up on your new climbing project, check everything out internally with your doctor. During and after pregnancy, the right and left abdomen walls can separate due to a condition called diastasis recti. Around two-thirds of pregnant folks have it.
To avoid furthering the injury, refrain from muscle stress, strain, exercise, and some yoga positions.
Rock climbing while pregnant has its benefits and safety concerns, but what sport doesn’t?
It helps prepare for labor by keeping your muscles fit and activated. Hello, core strength!
Expert climbers add that incorporating a top-rope pyramid approach to their routine helped them stay on top of their climbing goals while not overexerting themselves.
Choose two more difficult routes and sandwich them between 3-4 warm-up and cool-down routes to let your body adjust.
Did you climb while you were pregnant? What worked for you? If you have any additional tips, feel free to comment below!
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McKenzi Taylor founded Rock Climbing Women in 2013 after moving to a new city as a new climber seeking more climbing partners (and new friends!). Since her first taste of climbing in Spearfish Canyon, SD, McKenzi has been at the rock face seeking and sharing the thrill of climbing. She credits the support of a consistent climbing partner and community as the motivation to continue developing her skill, whether it’s trad, sport climbing or bouldering. A full-time business owner and mother, McKenzi’s on a mission to get her kids outside and learning to adventure alongside her.