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cycling while pregnant: the third trimester and dealing with ‘SUA’

May 24, 2011
biking to my 30 week appt 30 weeks :)

{getting ready to bike to my 30 week doctor’s appointment}

Last week, I biked to my 30 week doctor’s appointment, about 4.5 miles from our house. It was sunny and warm and I pedaled easily across town on my Peugeot Mixte. Lately, it seems like everywhere I turn, someone’s talking about marathon training plans and long runs on the weekends, I’m hit with such a longing for running and training for a race. A friend of mine from my prenatal yoga class is also starting to run again (she gave birth last month) and that too makes me long to join her.

But although I can’t quite embrace those urges yet, I have been embracing all of the other modes of excercise that have kept me sane and happy during this pregnancy; cycling, walking (with friends or my dog), prenatal yoga (heavenly!), and hopefully swimming (I’m wait-listed for a prenatal water aerobics class). All of these mild modes of excercise have kept my body active and fit and my mind at peace. They’re also undoubtedly preparing me for labor as that, too, will require fitness and stamina, and they are also making baby C. fitter before she’s even born.

While I’ve been seeing a group of midwives for my regular care, we visited with a doctor for our last appointment to discuss how we’re going to manage our baby’s SUA condition during the last trimester. (I read about our discovery of having a baby with SUA here). I was worried that this appointment would trigger all sorts of feelings of worry and fear once more but it actually had the opposite effect. Our doctor was very reassuring and he noted that based on all the information we have from the level II ultrasound we did at 21 weeks, baby C. is most likely part of the group of SUA babies born perfectly healthy and with no problems to her organs. We’re happy and hopeful that that will be the case.

Because she’s only connected to me by two vessels in her cord (instead of three), there is a concern that she may not be receiving or eliminating the proper amounts of food and waste respectively (although many babies with this kind of cord overcompensate and have one very large vessel that does the job of two). With this in mind, T. asked the doctor once more whether excercising could possibly have a negative impact on our baby’s well being (i.e, am I robbing her of the bits of nutrients that she’s already struggling to get?). But no such thing. As with every physician, midwife, and medical professional we’ve consulted, I’ve received the green light to excersise and ride my bike at will.

Ready to bike to my 30 week appt Mixte at rest

I even had my bicycle helmet in at the doctor’s office with me and I asked specifically about cycling and I still was given the approval to continue doing what I was doing. Now, I write this in hopes of encouraging pregnant women out there to consider their options and to consult with their medical caregivers in deciding what’s best for them. Every pregnancy is different and I’m no medical professional qualified to say what one can and cannot do while pregnant. But I am someone who is cycling well into my third trimester now and enjoying all the benefits of maintaining a regular fitness schedule despite an increase in size and the addition of a baby belly.

I’ve had numerous people express concern or even just surprise at my running (up to the second trimester) and cycling (still ongoing) and all of these people could have made me doubt myself and give up on something that makes me healthier and stronger. I chose to take all of their comments with a grain of salt and to rely instead on the opinions of the medical staff overseeing my pregnancy. With their approval (and encouragement!), I’ve been able to continue on this modified excercise plan that has seen me stay active and happy thus far. As I’ve noted in all my previous posts on excercising while pregnant, I do follow certain precautions…

  • I keep my heart rate under 140
  • I listen to my body and only do what feels good (no pushing it like in pre-pregnancy days)
  • I hydrate plentily
  • I take days off
  • I cover less mileage and at a lower pace (this applies to walking, running, and cycling)
  • I continuously adapt my weekly mileage and activity level as I progress in the pregnancy
Because of points #5 and #6 above, I didn’t ride my bike home after the 30 week appointment but rather hooked the bike up to my husband’s car (who had driven from work directly to the clinic to meet me there) and enjoyed a ride to dinner and then home with him. There is no need to push my limits these days. Just getting out there for a brief bike ride or a quick walk sufficies. The days of marathon runs and long distance bike rides will come again, they’re there in the future waiting for me. For now, it’s all about finding balance between motion and rest and that third trimester belly keeping me grounded.
35 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2011 06:56

    Good for you! I’ve been an avid cyclist for years. Have taken a break from racing and recently started bike commuting. Went carfree last week and got a positive pregnancy test yesterday. I plan to cycle through as much of my pregnancy as my doctor will allow.

    Best wishes on the rest of your pregnancy!

    • May 24, 2011 09:56

      Congratulations on your pregnancy!! And good luck with cycling through it, I am sooo happy for cycling as it’s allowed me to keep active in a low impact way. I hope you continue to enjoy it as well!

  2. May 24, 2011 09:30

    I’m inspired seeing you continue to exercise! I think the hardest part for me is the “no pushing it” rule. I didn’t realize how much I do this (and enjoy it), until now when I am trying not to! Because I was a little tired, this weekend I opted to bike to the coffee shop along a flat route rather than the one that is uphill.

    • May 24, 2011 09:57

      Bex, tell me about it! I really miss having a really hard workout where I feel beat afterwards. Never thought I’d actually say that! :)

  3. May 24, 2011 09:45

    Good for your for keeping up the exercise — and for listening to your body! Hopefully your athletic conditioning will help with later-pregnancy discomfort and, of course, that laboring business!

    I’m at 38 weeks, and I haven’t been on my bike since 36. I get really tired these days. My absence, though, has a lot to due with the fact that I’m nervous about riding my bike alone. I have a cell, wear a helmet, and obey all traffic rules, but I’m worried about reaction times and general clumsiness. If I’m feeling up to it, however, I think I’ll try to bike with my husband over the holiday weekend.

  4. May 24, 2011 09:47

    I think it’s very inspiring that you have continued to cycle and exercise during your pregnancy! It must be exciting to be in your third trimester!

  5. Emily permalink
    May 24, 2011 09:50

    Hey,

    As a reader of Academichic for probably a year and your blog for several months, I just wanted to comment and say that you’re inspirational. I’m certainly not in a stage of life where I’m likely to be having children soon, but reading about this makes me excited for that stage whenever it might come. As a scholar who also likes to dress well and loves to bike, I identify with your interests and I love reading about your journey. Thank you! Best of luck and health in the last few weeks of pregnancy, to you and your baby.

  6. Jen permalink
    May 24, 2011 10:19

    My impression is that most doctors and midwives want to encourage pregnant patients to continue exercise that they have been doing — it may not be the best time to take up things other than yoga or water activities (gentle stuff) if you haven’t been too active, but healthy mom = healthy pregnancy = healthy baby.

    I fell going down the stairs a few weeks ago at the end of 35 weeks, and I have been in a cast and crutches since. Nothing wrong OB-wise, thankfully, but I had to give up all of my activities and usual abilities even more, since I was basically confined to the house for a week. I am worried about what kind of stamina or strength I have lost since, especially since I am now halfway through 38 weeks and the due date is looming. But I am trying to be grateful that my foot injury is healing and that I will probably be out of the cast and off the crutches before labor. (And let me tell you, if I thought I was awkward before… woah. Cast and crutches so much worse…)

    Glad you are doing well and staying true to what you think is best! Just be sensible and remember that you know your abilities and body better than anyone who might give you “helpful” advice.

  7. May 24, 2011 11:38

    Good work. You are an inspiration. Bonus points if you cycle to the hospital to give birth.

  8. May 24, 2011 12:18

    I love this post. And I’m treating my exercise in very much the same way as you are. I’ve read lots of hardcore blogs about running, for example, during pregnancy. But when I found out I’m pregnant, I decided I wanted to do what’s best for the baby and for me. And that’s a very intertwined relationship. So, I keep my heart rate low, I don’t run as many miles, I listen to my body, I rest when I feel I need rest (versus always pushing through — this was hard to get used to), etc. It’s really the best gift we can give ourselves and our babies to treat our bodies right. <3

    And I love your outfit!

  9. May 24, 2011 13:01

    So glad you’ve had positive experiences with cycling while preggers and a supportive medical team (and of course, husband!). You inspired me to start cycling a year ago, and your example has helped me not talk myself out of riding simply because I am pregnant. Of course I have gotten to ok from my doctor’s office, and I even started bike commuting a few weeks ago. I hope you’ll be willing to share your insights and experiences on getting back on your bike after baby C. is born; they will be very appreciated :)

  10. May 24, 2011 13:18

    you are doing such a great thing for you and your baby! yes for sure will need all that energy for when you birth your beautiful little one! you are gonna be so fantastic! keep rolling lady! such an inspiration!!!

    xo,
    cb

  11. Daniel permalink
    May 24, 2011 16:46

    ICH WUENSCHE EUCH GANZ VIEL GLUECK FUER EUREN KOMMENDEN ZUWACHS….ICH FREUE MICH SCHON MORGEN AUF MEINE RADTOUR INS GRUENE…-PICKNICK AM WASSER UND UND UND- WIE GERN WUERDE ICH EUCH DAVON EIN PAAR BILDER ZUKOMMEN LASSEN:)…..IHR INSPIRIERT MICH IMMER DAZU STAENDIG NEUE RADTOUREN ZU UNTERNEHMEN

    MACHT WEITER SO ICH LESE HIER SEHR GERN MIT ;)

    • May 25, 2011 19:04

      Hey Daniel, das klingt wirklich super! Ich würde gern Fotos von dem Radausflug sehen, du kannst sie an mir schicken, wenn du Lust und Zeit hast! Vielleicht könnte ich ein Paar davon auf dem Blog zeigen?

  12. May 24, 2011 23:00

    What a wonderful post! I biked though my last pregnancy until the day before the baby arrived. Your list of precautions is great. I coasted through Braxton-Hicks contractions and started pedaling once they passed, never equating the hills and contractions. Duh. Have a terrific remainder of your pregnancy and a restful babymoon. :)

  13. May 24, 2011 23:23

    The third trimester already? Time flies. Sounds like you’ve got a great plan to keep you and little S happy and healthy. I wish you the best in these final weeks.

  14. May 25, 2011 02:00

    Your thoughtful article will surely help others to discuss with their health care providers whether they, too, can bike through pregnancy.

    Like you, I biked in my 9th month of pregnancy as well. You have lots of company–including these Copenhagen mothers-to-be:
    http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com/2008/05/with-child.html

    Congratulations, and happy birthing.

  15. May 25, 2011 07:54

    I went for a walk yesterday and then broke out into a little jog. It was the first time in almost a year that I’ve jogged. I ran in a big relay last June, then took some time off, then found out I was pregnant and didn’t care one bit if I ran or not. But pushing the stroller with my six week-old (her car seat fits in the jogger) made me feel strong and capable (even if it was pretty pathetic). Hopefully your time off will make it even sweeter when you’re able to run again!

    Best wishes for a continued healthy pregnancy and baby. It sounds like you’re doing all you can to keep it that way!

    • May 25, 2011 10:15

      Glad to hear your doctor supports your biking.
      I am 32 weeks now and rode to my 30 week appointment (as I had all the previous – since it’s only a couple miles) and my doctor ‘got on to me’. She had previously told me it was fine to continue to run and bike but reduce my mileage and not push myself. I’m not sure what happened, but she said she was worried about risk of falling and overheating.
      I know my body and I don’t feel unstable on my bike or I wouldn’t do it and I keep hydrated in the heat. I’m going to continue to ride short distances in town and commute to work. I was just disappointed in her jumping to the conclusion that I was harming my baby and be so closed minded about biking. I could go onabout the dangers of driving a car vs. biking, but mostly I want to say I think it’s great that you and all of the other people who have commented are continuing to bike & stay healthy during pregnancy. Also, so nice your doctor and midwives support your decision!
      Keep it up!

    • May 25, 2011 10:41

      Yay for running with a baby stroller! I look forward to running again after the pregnancy and to taking little C. along for the ride (and fresh air). I also got a running stroller and car seat that fit together and look forward to having her join me on my runs :)

  16. May 26, 2011 00:34

    My doctor too said that I should try to lead my life as normally as possible, though being prudent not to push through discomfort in an effort to “prove” anything. He also said that one of his clients in the past kept on riding horses for her entire pregnancy, so biking was a non-issue in his opinion.

    As you know I was riding up until the end.

    What was most annoying was all the moms of the students I teach – warning me about the harm I was doing to baby (none of these women bike at all). Then I would just sort of joke to dismiss the situation… so awkward. What’s more awkward is the moms reminding me it’s “really healthy” to go walking. One even recommended going to the mall to walk around in circles.

    Sounds pretty healthy… huh?

    S*!

    • May 26, 2011 07:32

      Ugh… mall walking is a pet peeve of mine! I cannot understand why you’d go to the mall, of all places in nature and outside, to go for a walk! Find a park, a trail, anything is going to be better for you. But I regress…

      Sarah, I totally know what you mean, I didn’t have this happen to me directly, but when I was still running, my mom’s co-workers (non of them runners of course) kept telling her that they didn’t think it was safe or good that I was running. I was having some cramps very consistently in the evenings during my first trimester (which are normal in some women when your cervix is stretching and you actually feel it, not all women feel it though) and they kept telling her that surely the cramps were a result of my running. Like I was somehow purposefully hurting the baby. I kept trying to reassure my mom that I had talked to my midwives and family doctor and that the cramps and running were not related, that running and being healthy was good for me and the baby. She eventually came around to my point of view, but I hated having to combat all the opinions of women whose only credentials were that they had had babies. But in a totally different context: their fitness level, age, health, etc were all different than mine so how could they claim to know my pregnancy?

  17. May 26, 2011 01:30

    I’ve wondered a lot about pregnancy and biking… because I’d want to be doing it. Thank you for sharing this story. Taking it easy – that makes so much sense.

    I love the pictures that accompany your writing. Beautiful!
    Katie

    • May 26, 2011 07:34

      Katie,

      as you can see from my post (and the comments here), it’s totally doable! And I bet that if you did it in Germany, you would get a lot less raised eyebrows than in the US. In fact, when I was thinking about getting pregnant and reading up on the topic, I was in Germany and I went into a book store to peruse the pregnancy books there. There were a bunch on the topic of staying fit and healthy during your pregnancy and a couple even had a pregnant woman on a bike on the cover.

      S.

  18. anna permalink
    May 30, 2011 08:31

    Hello, I followed your link from Academichic. I am still riding my bike at 25 weeks – it’s fine when I don’t have my daughter on the back, but I really notice that extra 15kg when she is there. I also seem to be struggling to balance the bike more when getting on/off when she’s on the back. But my mum cycled up until the day before I was born!

  19. Annie permalink
    June 8, 2011 00:34

    Hi,
    I’m 26 weeks pregnant and have continued my regular commute to work (9 miles). I love it, though I HAVE slowed down a bit so it takes me longer than it used to. A concession I’ve made to pregnancy is that 2-3 days a week I meet up with my husband after work and he gives me a ride home rather than me riding home every day as well. This has more to do with overall fatigue than anything else. My OB and my doula both encouraged me to keep riding until it “doesn’t feel good anymore”. So far it feels great, I don’t even feel pregnant while I’m on my bike. That said, I think it makes a difference that I was used to riding an average of 80 miles a week pre-pregnancy, and my doctor definitely encouraged me to keep up any activity that I was already familiar with. The worst thing that has happened on my bike since I got pregnant is as follows: early in my pregnancy my husband bought me a “baby on board” sign to pin on my bag, the idea being it would encourage cars to pass me safely, a few weeks ago someone responded to it by screaming “you’re an idiot” at me as they drove by (this is by far the least obnoxious insult that has been hurled at me out of a passing car, and hey- they gave me plenty of room though, so I guess that’s all that matters).

    Possibly more controversial: I’ve also kept up rock-climbing: indoor (at the gym), top-roping only, and using a special harness that goes around my shoulders and legs- not across my abdomen. That has REALLY slowed down, right now I can only do the easiest routes and only one at a time.

    I think the benefits of exercise while pregnant WELL outweigh the risks. Use common sense, listen to your body, and keep doing what you love.
    Annie
    ps: that picture of you is super cute!

    • June 8, 2011 09:17

      Annie,

      thanks for chiming in! It sounds like you’re doing great in keeping fit and preparing for labor (which is hard work). I cannot believe that someone would yell insults out their car window when seeing that sign on your bike, I don’t even know where to begin with that. It’s really upsetting but I guess you just have to write it off as coming from someone who’s extremely ignorant. And it’s such a cultural thing because I highly doubt it that anyone would yell something like that in a culture where cycling is a lot more mainstream.

      Keep on cycling and rock climbing and all the best for the rest of your pregnancy!

  20. sue permalink
    November 3, 2011 08:19

    i’m 38 weeks and have been biking all the way through my pregnancy, if it wasn’t for my bike, I’d be immobile!!

    Its harder for me to walk, wish I could bike inside the house or office!

    If I can I’d bike to the hospital on the day…..who knows

    • May 30, 2014 19:16

      Sue did you get to pedal to he hospital? I can’t imagine that working for me (I’m a 30 min drive away) but it sure would make for a great story! Maybe my hubby and I could get a tandem bike so I can do that with baby #2 due in Aug 2014.

  21. May 30, 2014 19:12

    Nice work staying active! I love biking and recently hopped back in the saddle after running with my 28 week baby belly left me too worn out. Now I need a cruiser bike like yours instead of my road bike to give me more breathing room. 😀

  22. Charity Freeman permalink
    June 1, 2014 11:46

    I have 13 days to go in my pregnancy and I still am biking around town. It makes me happy to see other active women keeping their bodies fit during pregnancy as well…Thank you!

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