Can Pregnant Women Ride Bikes? Everything You Need To Know About Bike Riding While Pregnant

We consult medical professionals regarding the safety and benefits of cycling while pregnant

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reviewed by Rory McAllister

Pregnancy is a time of massive change, and this comes with a lot of excitement and anticipation, but it also comes with a myriad of questions and concerns about how best to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

One common question that arises is, “Is it safe to ride a bike while pregnant?” There are various considerations to be made, and you will need to weigh up the potential risks to the benefits of staying active.

Riding your bicycle is a safe, low-impact option for aerobic exercise that many woman can participate in and enjoy throughout the entire pregnancy.

As Veronika Matutyte, MD tells us, “Ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy is paramount, and cycling can be a fantastic way for expectant mothers to stay active. However, there are crucial considerations to keep in mind.”

Riding a bike while pregnant can offer a multitude of benefits, contributing to a healthier and more comfortable pregnancy experience for both you and your baby.

Nevertheless, it is essential to tailor your exercise routine to your individual needs and consult with healthcare professionals to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey through pregnancy.

In this comprehensive article, we will delve into everything you need to know about bike riding while pregnant:

Let’s jump into it!

A pregnant woman rides an exercise bike on a purple background.
Credit: BikeTips Staff

Can Pregnant Women Ride Bikes?

So, is it safe to ride a bike while pregnant?

Cycling during pregnancy is a low-impact form of aerobic activity that can be safe for pregnant women throughout the entire pregnancy.

If you still feel like riding, and the relevant medical practitioner says it’s okay, it is safe to ride a bike while pregnant. As a professional personal trainer, I have worked with many clients who have continued training, including cycling, throughout their pregnancy.

However, it’s important to recognize that the safety of bike riding during pregnancy depends on various factors, including your fitness level, overall health, and the stage of pregnancy.

In the first trimester, most women can continue with their pre-pregnancy exercise routines, including moderate-intensity bike riding, if they feel comfortable doing so.

As the pregnancy progresses, you’ll likely find the need to cycle at a lower intensity, and if you feel unsafe, stationary cycling may be a more suitable alternative.

While exercise is generally encouraged during pregnancy, certain activities may pose risks, and bike riding is no exception.

The main concerns include the risk of falls, changes in balance, and potential strain on the pelvic region. Additionally, as the pregnancy progresses, the center of gravity shifts, making balance more challenging.

Furthermore, riding a bike that isn’t correctly set up for you may contribute to discomfort and strain on the back and pelvic area, exacerbating common pregnancy-related issues such as lower back pain.

So, can pregnant women ride bikes? Yes, absolutely. Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits below in more detail.

9 Benefits Of Cycling While Pregnant

Maintaining an active lifestyle during pregnancy can have numerous benefits for both you and your baby.

Contrary to common misconceptions, engaging in a regular form of exercise is not only safe but highly encouraged unless specific medical conditions rule it out.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, exercise during pregnancy helps to alleviate many of the common problems of pregnancy.

Let’s delve deeper into the advantages of regular cycling during pregnancy:

#1: Reducing High Blood Pressure

Regular exercise has been shown to help lower and manage high blood pressure during pregnancy.

This is particularly important as hypertension can lead to complications such as preeclampsia, which may pose risks to both the mother and the baby.

#2: Lowering the Risk of Diabetes

Exercise plays a significant role in reducing the risk of gestational diabetes.

For those who already have gestational diabetes, engaging in regular physical activity can contribute to better blood sugar control, thus managing the condition more effectively.

#3: Adapting to Changing Body Shape and Weight Management

Pregnancy brings about various changes in body shape and weight gain. Regular exercise helps you adapt to these changes by promoting healthy weight management.

This is beneficial both during pregnancy and in the postpartum period.

#4: Reducing Varicose Veins, Swelling, and Back Pain

Exercise helps improve circulation, reducing the likelihood of varicose veins and swelling in the ankles, feet, and hands.

As long as your setup is suitable, cycling can also contribute to lower back pain.

#5: Enhancing Fitness Levels:

Engaging in regular cycling that increases your heart rate boosts overall fitness levels.

Improved cardiovascular health, strength, and endurance can contribute to a more comfortable pregnancy experience.

#6: Improving Mood and Reducing Depression and Anxiety:

Exercise has a positive impact on mental health, promoting the release of endorphins, which are known as “feel-good” hormones.

This can help alleviate mood swings, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and contribute to overall emotional well-being.

#7: Enhancing Sleep Quality:

Regular physical activity has been linked to improved sleep quality.

Pregnant women often experience sleep disturbances, and exercise can help alleviate insomnia and promote more restful sleep.

#8: Lowering the Risk of Complications:

Cycling and exercise, more generally, have been associated with a reduced risk of pre-eclampsia, very low birth weight, and the need for a cesarean birth.

These complications can significantly impact both maternal and fetal health, and exercise acts as a preventive measure.

#9: Facilitating Labor and Recovery:

Regular cycling can improve your body’s ability to cope with the demands of labor.

Studies have demonstrated links between regular exercise during pregnancy to shorter labor durations and an increased likelihood of a straightforward delivery. Furthermore, postpartum recovery can be smoother for women who have maintained an active lifestyle during pregnancy.

Pregnant woman in an orange top rides an exercise bike.

Sensible Safety Precautions for Cycling While Pregnant

So, bike riding while pregnant is safe and offers many benefits, but what extra steps can you take for safety as your due date approaches?

If you decide to continue cycling throughout your pregnancy, there are several precautions and tips to ensure safety:

Consult With A Healthcare Provider:

No matter what you have read so far, before engaging in any exercise during pregnancy, it is crucial to seek advice from a healthcare provider.

Your gynecologist can assess individual circumstances and provide personalized recommendations, taking into account any pre-existing conditions, the stage of pregnancy, and overall fitness levels.

Choose A Comfortable Bike And Seating Position:

If you are going to continue riding a bike while pregnant, having a bike setup to accommodate your needs will contribute to a more enjoyable experience without compromising maternal comfort or safety.

This will likely be an ongoing adjustment throughout the pregnancy.

Opt for a bike setup with an upright position, as this helps distribute the weight evenly and reduces pressure on the lower back. A mountain bike or hybrid is likely to be a more comfortable option than an aggressive road bike in terms of riding position, particularly into the second trimester and beyond as your baby bump grows.

Adjusting the bike so that the handlebars are higher and closer to you can also help with a more comfortable riding position for pregnant cyclists.

Additionally, investing in a comfortable and supportive seat may help to prevent discomfort during and after rides.

If you normally ride with clipless pedals, it might be worth swapping to flat pedals to make it easier to quickly put a foot down if you lose balance. This is particularly the case as you progress into the third trimester, as you’re likely to be cycling more slowly and your balance will be more affected.

Wear Appropriate Safety Gear:

Taking all reasonable safety precautions is a fundamental practice that minimizes the potential risks associated with cycling at the best of times but is a non-negotiable aspect of safe bike riding during pregnancy.

The most vital piece of equipment is a well-fitted helmet to protect against head injuries in case of a fall.

Additionally, wearing other protective gear, such as knee and elbow pads, can provide an extra layer of defense.

Ride On Smooth, Predictable, Surfaces:

If outdoor cycling, choosing well-maintained bike paths or smooth roads is a sensible approach to minimizing the risk of falling during pregnancy.

Uneven or rough terrain can increase the likelihood of accidents, especially considering the changes in balance and stability that accompany pregnancy.

As always, there is the danger of cycling around cars. While this is a risk at the best of times, you may want to consider taking extra precautions and avoiding high-traffic areas. Where possible, stick to designated cycle paths and low-traffic roads with wide or protected bike lanes.

You may also want to be more considerate of adverse weather conditions, such as ice or wet leaves, which will make the surface more slippery.

Listen To Your Body And Take Breaks:

Pay attention to how your body feels during and after riding. If you experience discomfort, pain, or dizziness, it’s important to stop and seek medical advice.

Stay Hydrated:

Pregnant women should stay well-hydrated during bike rides.

Keeping well hydrated is of utmost importance at the best of times, particularly during pregnancy, as water plays a pivotal role in supporting both maternal and fetal well-being.

Adequate hydration is essential for various physiological processes, including the formation of amniotic fluid that envelops the developing baby in utero.

Furthermore, water facilitates the digestion process, ensuring efficient nutrient absorption crucial for the optimal growth and development of the baby.

Proper hydration also aids in the circulation of vital nutrients throughout the maternal body, contributing to overall health during pregnancy.

While the general recommendation for daily water intake during pregnancy ranges from 64 to 96 ounces, it’s imperative to recognize that individual needs may vary, especially for those engaging in regular cycling activities.

Cycling, being a physical activity that induces sweating, can lead to an increased loss of fluids. As a result, pregnant women who incorporate cycling into their routine may find it necessary to surpass the standard hydration guidelines.

It becomes paramount to replenish the liquids lost through sweating to maintain a well-hydrated state, support the body’s cooling mechanisms, and ensure optimal functioning of bodily systems.

Consider Cycling On A Stationary Bike:

Choosing indoor cycling over outdoor biking during pregnancy can mitigate many of the potential risks posed by cycling outdoors, thus prioritizing the safety and well-being of expectant mothers.

Indoors, the risk of falls is virtually eliminated, providing a secure environment crucial during a time when changes in center of gravity can affect balance.

The controlled setting of stationary biking ensures a smooth and even surface, eliminating concerns about unpredictable outdoor terrain, such as potholes and uneven surfaces, that could lead to accidents.

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As a qualified sports massage therapist and personal trainer with eight years' experience in the field, Ben plays a leading role in BikeTips' injury and recovery content. Alongside his professional experience, Ben is an avid cyclist, splitting his time between his road and mountain bike. He is a particular fan of XC ultra-endurance biking, but nothing beats bikepacking with his mates. Ben has toured extensively throughout the United Kingdom, French Alps, and the Pyrenees ticking off as many iconic cycling mountains as he can find. He currently lives in the Picos de Europa of Spain's Asturias region, a stone's throw from the legendary Altu de 'Angliru - a spot that allows him to watch the Vuelta a España roll past his doorstep each summer.

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