7 Tips for Hiking While Pregnant
Hiking offers a variety of health benefits for moms-to-be – increased cardiovascular health, a clearer mind, and a great way to get outside before baby arrives. If you’re hiking for two, a few additional considerations should come into play. Before you hit the trails, here are a few suggestions for a healthier, safer hike.
(1) Stretch before you go and while you’re on the trail.
Stretching is important – and feels fantastic! – for pregnant women who are carrying more weight while hiking. Make sure to stretch out your quads, calves, and hip flexors. Also spend a minute or two rolling your ankles from side to side, and up and down, to help prepare them for more uneven terrain. After a long day of hiking with an oversized belly, a little cat-cow yoga pose can help release tension in the spine.
(2) Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Skin tends to be more sensitive during pregnancy, so make sure to apply, apply, apply and then reapply along the hike. If you’re at higher elevation, the sun’s rays are more intense, so beware of the additional exposure, even on a cloudy day. Also, consider lightweight UPF clothing and a large-brimmed sun hat for extra protection.
(3) Invest in a belly band and compression socks for support.
A belly band can offer some additional support and help take the pressure off your lower back. There is a variety to choose from, so find the one that works best for you, keeping in mind that belly bands can be worn throughout later pregnancy and aren’t specific to exercise. Additionally, compression socks can increase blood flow when you go hiking while pregnant. They work to keep the blood moving through your legs, which can help prevent blood clots.
(4) Hike with a friend and bring a cell phone.
While this might seem obvious, it’s worth reminding. Pregnancy comes with a variety of additional strains on the body, most of which are perfectly manageable throughout the day, including during exercise. But when the trail takes you away from medical support, it’s wise to have someone along in case there is need for medical attention. Trekking poles are another helpful tool on the trail that can be used to help improve balance on uneven trails and make it easier on the body when descending the trail.
Before you go, let friends or family know where you’re planning to hike and how long you intend to be gone. Carry a cell phone with a trail navigation app and, if you plan to leave cell service, consider throwing in a GPS device that can let people know where you are and if you need help.
(5) Choose trails with manageable terrain and elevation.
Balance can become a little trickier during pregnancy, so it’s important to find a trail that doesn’t present too many challenges, such as loose rocks and exposed roots, large boulders or downed logs, and steep ups or downs.
Also, pay attention to altitude while you hike. Hiking at altitude is a beautiful way to see the surrounding vistas, but there is less oxygen in the air the higher you climb. Learn how to stay safe while hiking at altitude.
(6) Stay hydrated and keep the conversation test in mind.
Hydration is a biggie throughout pregnancy, but definitely when hiking while pregnant. Drinking plenty of water keeps both you and baby safe when you’re exerting more energy than normal. If you’re concerned about getting your heart rate too high, there’s no need to pack a heart rate monitor.
Simply be mindful of how your body feels, and make sure you can maintain a casual conversation with your hiking buddy without feeling like you need to stop and catch your breath. If you can chat comfortably, you’re most likely not over-exerting yourself.
(7) Discuss your exercise plan while pregnant with your doctor first.
Before you hit the trail, make sure to talk with your physician about an appropriate level of exercise. Everybody – and every pregnancy – is different.
Things to consider and mention to your doctor are:
- How active you were before getting pregnant (as a general rule, pregnancy isn’t the best time to introduce new strenuous activities).
- If you have a high-risk pregnancy for any reason.
- Family medical history and personal risk level.
For many mamas, hiking is an ideal form of low-impact exercise that comes with the added benefits of wildflowers, beautiful views, fresh air and mountain destinations. Don’t forget to take pictures along the way. It’s always fun to show baby where they wandered in utero! If you have any more questions about hiking while pregnant, reach out to the experts at the Aspen Birth Center.