Many women believe that falling pregnant automatically puts a stop to their indoor rock climbing activities at least until they deliver.
This does not have to be the case. While the already risky activity becomes even riskier for a pregnant woman, it can be done safely.
Some women opt to continue climbing until the end of the first trimester while others choose to continue right through the entire pregnancy.
These are often expert climbers who are well aware of the risks involved and know how to take appropriate precautions.
Whether you are an accomplished climber or an amateur, the decision to stop and when to do it is for you to make.
However, if you choose to continue beyond the first trimester, always consult with your healthcare provider.
Is Indoor Rock Climbing Safe While Pregnant?
Some expectant women continue to boulder throughout their pregnancy with a clear understanding of the risks involved.
If you choose to continue climbing you will notice some physical changes which will inevitably affect your ability to climb.
These should not necessarily stop you but it is important to anticipate them, understand exactly why they happen and know how to deal with them. Here are some of them.
It is perfectly normal for your joints to loosen somewhat during pregnancy. A pregnancy hormone known as relaxin is responsible for this. It’s primarily target is your pelvic joints which need to expand during delivery but it does affect other joints too.
With loose joints in your entire body, you are more susceptible to muscle strain, sprains and this causes increased instability while climbing.
If you choose to continue climbing, stay away from risky and difficult climbs which will put strain on your body. Stick to easy routes which you are familiar with to reduce the risk of falling.
Excessive, sudden fatigue
It is common for an expectant woman to feel more then average fatigue, especially at the end of the day.
As the pregnancy progresses, fatigue could be felt at any point in the day and it has a way of setting in with a sudden wave.
Even very active women who ordinarily maintain high energy levels throughout the day feel exhausted at some point in the day. If you are rock climbing, this fatigue could set in right in the middle of a climbing session.
Interestingly, these sudden bouts of exhaustion are most common during the first trimester when most women are still climbing quite comfortably and not showing. It may be tempting to just keep going.
The best way to deal with tiredness is simply to listen to your body. If you suddenly feel very tired in the middle of a climb, get down and take time to rest.
If you have some but not usual levels of energy, go ahead and climb but keep the pace slow and stay hydrated. If you find that on some days you are feeling too tired to start at all, skip it for the day.
This is not the time to push yourself.
Shortness of breath
This is another common symptom in expectant mothers so it’s no surprise when it happens when climbing. In the early stages of the pregnancy this is caused by hormones.
Later on the growing fetus has more to do with it. Regardless of what stage you are at, shortness of breath should not be ignored. If it is light, then there is no reason why you can’t keep ascending.
If you find that you cannot hold a conversation and your heart is racing, it is time to take a break. If you can keep going, do so but take it slow. Also avoid carrying too much gear with you at this time.
The extra weight makes it more difficult.
Swollen feet is no fun for any expectant woman, especially at the end of the day when it is usually at its worst.
For a woman who loves rock climbing this is not just uncomfortable, it can make it impossible to fit into your usual climbing shoes.
Climbing shoes are generally fit nice and snug to make sure they don’t slide off while climbing. Swollen feet can render your climbing shoes useless for a while.
If you intend to keep at it, get yourself a slightly bigger pair of climbing shoes. Not too big though. They still need to fit tight.
Many rock climbers have a slightly loose pair of climbing shoe which they bought before they learned exactly how the fitting should be done. Fish those out now.
Pressure in the nether region:
Yes, it’s not the most lady-like thing to talk about but we shall mention it anyway. As the fetus grows, you will probably start to experience an uncomfortable, swollen feeling down below when climbing.
Despite being uncomfortable, it is not anything to worry about. The hormones and increased blood flow in that area are responsible. To relieve the discomfort, try a post-climb ice pack for a few minutes. It works.
Setting the Limits
It is great to be strong and display a whole lot of endurance but there must be some limits in place to keep both you and your baby safe and healthy.
The limits you set in the first trimester are pretty much dependent on you, your body and how you feel. Some women are completely unaffected by their pregnancy in the first trimester.
For others, the exhaustion and shortness of breath sets in early.
Second and third trimester
This is the point most women opt to limit their climbing. Others choose to continue. If you fall in the latter group, these are some suggestions of changes you should make as you go along.
Climb lower grades:
Lowering your grades helps to reduce the chances of falling which is dangerous for both you and your baby at this stage. Apart from lower grade routes, chose routes which you are familiar with.
This also reduces chances of a fall.
Make use of technique rather than strength:
Different routes demand different levels of strength and technique from a climber. Choose routes which don’t require too much strength.
Don’t forget your joints are slightly loosened which increases chances of injury. When we talk about strength there are different types of this as well. Leg and arm strength is different from core strength.
Putting strain on your arms and legs could cause injury but it would not be anything life threatening to you or your baby.
Putting a strain on core strength could strain lower abdominal muscles which could tear and put a risk on the life of the baby.
Consider lead climbing
This may sound like a drag for risk lovers but it is necessary when you are carrying another life inside you. Lead climbing is safer because it reduces the chances of falling to the ground.
Invest in a pregnancy-friendly harness:
Yes, you can get an expectant mother’s climbing harness. It is a full body harness with an open belly area to accommodate a growing mid-section. It loops at the sternum to easily tie in with a rope.
An X-strap design at the back similar to that in harnesses made for children is another distinct feature.
Getting Back To Climbing After Delivery
Make sure your core is fine:
Diastasis Recti. This is when the rectus abdominus muscles in the abdomen separate during pregnancy. The result is an abnormally large abdomen making a woman look a few months pregnant even after delivery.
These muscle and other abdominal muscle make up your core.
The center of your body from which all movement is made possible. It is important to let the core heal completely before getting back into a climbing routine. Be sure to get a green-light from your doctor first.
No jumping until…:
Even if you decide to get back into it for some light bouldering at the gym, try not to jump from the top of the boulder wall. This puts pressure on the pelvic floor.
If it has not completely recovered from the pressure of the pregnancy, you risk having some embarrassing accidents.
Frequency is key
After 9 months of carrying an increasingly weighty human being inside of you, don’t be surprised if you are not as motivated to exercise as you used to be. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
The point is to do a little exercise as often as possible. Even if you only manage a couple of minutes, doing that every day is better than forcing yourself into a 1 hour workout once a month.
Is indoor rock climbing safe while pregnant? It is safe as long as all necessary precautions are taken. It is possible to continue indoor rock climbing right to the end of your pregnancy.
Anyone who has tried it knows that it gets harder and riskier as the pregnancy progresses. There is need for extra caution to prevent falls and stay safe by wearing the necessary climbing crash pads.
Physical symptoms as a result of the pregnancy also affect a climber’s ability and efficiency which also increases risk.
That said, the bottom line remains that your body will tell you when it is time to slow down and when it is time to stop altogether.
If you are bouldering lover with a baby on the way, take time to listen to your body and follow its instructions.