As a hiking enthusiast who has gone through three healthy pregnancies, I've learned that hiking during pregnancy is a great way to stay active, reduce “wonderful” pregnancy symptoms, and get my outdoor fix. Many women enjoy the traditional pregnancy exercise activities such as yoga, walking and swimming but this hiking mom still had to get her HIKE ON during my 40 weeks of pregnancy!
Note: I am not a medical health professional, but these are my own personal observations and suggestions based on my three HEALTHY pregnancies with the approval of my personal doctor.
Listen to Your Doctor and Body
Always consult your doctor in regards to your exercise regimen, which in my case involved hiking 2-3 times a week in addition to cycling and running. Hiking is just walking but on a dirt trail, in the outdoors with or without elevation gain. My doctor actually motivated me to keep up with hiking and other activities, but she let me know that my pregnant body would let me know if I did too much.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Hydration was one of the first things I noticed I needed to change during pregnant hiking, I needed to almost double the amount of water I normally consumed. On a few occasions during my first trimester, I was constantly thirsty even though I drank more and sometimes the amount of water made me feel MORE nauseated than I was already from the pregnancy! Not good.
I was able quench my thirst and reduce my nausea by adding some type of electrolyte additive to my water bottle. A down side to hydrating more is having to pee often so if you haven’t mastered how to pee outdoors, I suggest you learn quickly!
My body is growing a human, 24 hours/7 days a week for 40 weeks, which is a lot of work. Throw in hiking and pregnancy, woo hoo! You think a hiker likes to eat after a good hike, try a pregnant hiker! Just like water, pregnancy changes woman’s body nutritional needs. Similar to small children and toddlers, a pregnant hiker needs to eat frequently (and have breaks) to keep energy levels up. Fuel up on calorie packed foods, before, during, and after a hike to avoid exhaustion.
Pregnancy Clothing & Gear
Other than the plethora of maternity yoga clothing, there aren't many real “pregnancy outdoor clothing” companies other than Mountain Mama, which has a great but pricey selection of real outdoor clothes including maternity hiking pants. Thankfully, I could wear most of my outdoor clothing for over half of my pregnancy with a few additions:
- Any maternity wicking yoga tank/razor back top. Wear it underneath base layers to cover belly.
- Maternity Band: A stretch fabric used to extend use of all pants like hiking pants, unbuttoned.
- Borrow larger outdoor clothing – I borrowed my husband’s larger fleece sweaters.
- Jacket extender: Make My Belly Fit jacket extender allows to extend the use of most zippered jackets during pregnancy, which can also be used after birth to hike with your little one tucked in your jacket in a soft carrier.
As for hiking gear, I would highly suggest using hiking poles and a daypack to adjust the center of gravity. A protruding belly puts a pregnant woman’s center of gravity in front of their “original” torso, with a higher chance of being off balance. Having a light daypack helps with re-centering and hiking poles help with taking off the ever growing baby weight off hips, knees and back.
Learn to Slow Down
As an active outdoor mom who LOVES hiking, I know it is difficult to learn to slow down during pregnancy. Here is my suggested timeline for slowing down hiking mileage:
1st Trimester ~ Weeks 1-12: Most women don’t even know they are pregnant for half of this trimester like myself, so I continued with my normal 1-13 mile day hikes with low and high elevations gains. I started noticing more thirst and needing to snack more often towards the end of the 1st trimester.
2nd Trimester ~ Weeks 13-27: I continued having major morning sickness and exhaustion throughout this time, but actually getting out to hike helped feeling re-energized and I slept better at night. Midway through the 2nd trimester I had to reduce my hiking mileage to maximum 5 miles with low/moderate elevation gain to not be in pain for multiple days. Towards the end of the 2nd trimester hiking poles were a must to keep from tripping on the trail.
3rd Trimester ~ Weeks 28-40: Morning sickness gone, but ligament laxity (loosens the hip bones) are at its highest which can cause major hip pain. Hiking involves hip movement, hiking poles and significantly reducing mileage and elevation change helps with not being in pain after hiking. My pregnancy hiking mileage usually dropped to a max of 3 miles with very little elevation change.
A healthy pregnancy doesn't mean you have to give up your love of hiking, but with a few adjustments you can continue enjoying your love of hiking while your body grows a lovely new baby hiker.
BY: MELISSA AVERY, Chasqui Mom