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“Guess you won’t be hiking as much anymore now that you’re pregnant…” How many times did I hear that when we first told people that Little Man E was on the way? Since my husband and I first got together, hiking, camping and general outdoorsiness had been a staple of our relationship, but now that there was a baby on board, that had to change?
Fortunately, that answer was NO. But it took a little while to know that was the right answer for us. Innately, getting out on the trails, breathing deep and stretching my legs seemed like the most natural and healthy thing that I could continue to do as this baby grew in my belly.
But there was that nagging part of my brain… that omnipresent cloud that second guessed every little thing. What if I exert myself too much? What if I trip? What if I fall? What if we hike too far? What if I get too hot – will the baby overheat? What if a tick bites me?
You name it, I worried about it.
So for my sanity and the health of my weeks old little embryo, I started researching – surely on the great big Internet there would be lots of information about other women who camped and hiked throughout their pregnancy. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much.
Thankfully, around week 8 I had my first appointment with my midwife where I could finally broach the subject with an expert. To my great relief, she was thrilled to hear that we were hikers and fully endorsed hiking throughout the pregnancy. She even gave two big thumbs up to a Rocky Mountain hiking and camping vacation that would fall around week 16 in my pregnancy.
Armed with this support from my healthcare provider and my new favorite mantra, “Pregnancy is not an illness,” I happily laced up my hiking shoes, grabbed my CamelBak and hit the trails. While I got the green light to keep trekking, we did learn that hiking during pregnancy does require some special considerations. And yes, it was a “we” discovery – my husband was an amazing support:
Disclaimer: Every pregnancy is different for every woman. ALWAYS listen to your health care provider and follow her recommendations. This is simply what worked for me.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
My midwife recommended drinking 80 – 100 oz. of water every day and increasing that intake on days that we hiked. Yes, this meant a LOT of bathroom breaks, but this hydration was key for me to maintain good energy, avoiding a racing heart rate in the middle of the night after a long day’s hike (that happened once!) and staving off muscle cramps.
My husband even started packing his portable water filter to make sure we’d always be able to have a clean water source if I ran out of water in my pack – even on short hikes.
Snack Often, Snack Healthy.
Crazy blood sugar drops were a hallmark of my early pregnancy. I’d be fine one minute, then the next I was a hiking zombie. Eventually I learned to nibble on a granola bar or grab a handful of trail mix the first moment I felt the rumble of hunger. This helped keep my revved up metabolism in check.
Exercise at Home.
Staying active even when not outdoors made a huge, positive impact on my pregnancy. I fell in love with two prenatal workout videos (Summer Sanders Pregnancy Workout and Pilates During Pregnancy). The point of these workouts was to prepare my body for pregnancy and labor, but the added benefit was that I was stronger and had better stamina on the trail.
Trekking Poles Are Your Friend.
Around 20 weeks is when I really started getting concerned about trips and falls. To keep my balance, I slowed down in places where the footing seemed iffy and later in the pregnancy my husband surprised me with a of pair trekking poles.
If I could do one thing differently, I would have started using trekking poles early in my second trimester. They helped reduce the impact of round ligament pain and helped minimize my fear of slips, trips and falls. A friend who hiked during her pregnancy also found a pregnancy support belt to be a great help, too.
Challenge Yourself, But Listen to Your Body.
I summited my first two mountains during my second trimester – one in the Smokeys and the other a 14’er in the Colorado Rockies. I was proud to be able to take on these challenges with a bun in the oven; however, I always listened to my body and slowed down if anything ever seemed “off.”
On more than one hike, we turned around and headed home early – I was proud that I got on the trail but never regretted the change in plans if I didn’t feel right.
Get Some Rest & Take It Easy.
I was intentionally very active during my first two trimesters, but that activity was followed up by a whole lot of resting! I’m pretty sure I conked out for a good long nap on every car ride home. And as my belly grew, we exchanged long hikes with challenging climbs for shorter distances, flat lands and a much slower pace.
I took my last pregnancy hike during week 39. We didn’t go very far and we certainly didn’t go very fast, but that hike energized my spirits in ways I never expected. That quiet afternoon in the woods was an unexpected respite from the anxiety and excitement that had been building for nine months. Four days later, Little Man E arrived and my world has never been the same.
What about you? How were you able to maintain an outdoorsy lifestyle while pregnant?
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