Climbing Pregnant: Medical Study Results
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There are two types of people: those who do their homework, and those who fly by the seat of their pants. It’ll come as no shock to any reader of this blog that I’m very much a do-my-homework kind of gal.
During pregnancy I wanted to do as much homework as possible to make sure I was doing everything “correctly.” Unfortunately, the Internet is a horrible place to visit when you’re pregnant, with all of its worst-case-scenario prognoses on every site—especially if you have anxiety issues.
But what was even worse than reading about all the bad stuff that could happen to me during pregnancy was the fact that I found virtually no information on climbing while pregnant. Or any information I did find explicitly said that it was the worst idea ever, and that even thinking it foreshadowed how terrible of a mother I would be.
During my first trimester, I was also keeping the news of my new-found “condition” a secret, mostly out of fear—fear of losing my job, fear of losing sponsors, and just a fear of being open and vulnerable in a way that I’d never been before. My default is to always crawl into a shell with hopes that uncomfortable situations will dissipate. Unfortunately, my growing midsection made pregnancy a time when I couldn’t hide.
So naturally I did what any scared introvert would do, I started writing blogs about it to share with the world 🙂 And, who would have thought that when I started writing about my pregnancy, I was greeted with an outpouring of warm reactions and support from women all around the world. It made all that anxiety disappear, and pretty soon I couldn’t wait to share more of my story on this blog. And, even more importantly, we (meaning all the readers, women and moms out there) were starting an important discussion about what it means to be a climber who is pregnant, in postpartum, or just thinking about one day becoming pregnant.
Ultimately, two doctors approached me about doing a medical survey on climbing pregnant and postpartum experiences. Of course, I jumped at this opportunity to support the creation of new information—information that I know I would have loved to have had at my disposal when I first found out I was pregnant.
Below are the results of the survey. We got 325 responses from women around the world about 339 pregnancies, which is incredible. I’ve also included some comparison notes from a similar study of 110 female runners*. I hope that there are women who will find this information useful.
Most women from the survey climbed well into their pregnancies and only a small percentage had an injury. Overall, from the results, it seems that the women were able to use climbing as a healthy form of exercise during pregnancy.
Special thanks to Long, Jenny, Lester, Colin and Randy for compiling the survey and getting it out there. Here’s to keeping the dialogue open, to being open with our fears and concerns and our successes!
* Tenforde, A., Toth, K., Langen, E. et al, “Running Habits of Competitive Runners During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding”. Sports Health. March/Apr 2015, 7:2, (172-176)
|Our Respondents||US National Average|
|Age at delivery||31 years||25-29 years|
|Weight gain during pregnancy||31 lbs||25-35 lbs recommended
>50% gain more
|Gestational Age at Delivery||39.5 weeks|
|* EGA = estimated gestational age|
|Average EGA* when you limited your climbing?||20 weeks (+/- 10 weeks)|
|Average EGA* when you started wearing a pregnancy harness?||78.4% used one
Average EGA* 21.6 weeks
|Average EGA* when you stopped climbing?||31 weeks (+/- 8 weeks)|
|Did you sustain any injuries while pregnant?||6% did|
|Did you notice a change in your strength?||74% did|
|Did you notice a change in your joints?||59% did|
|Did you notice a change in your balance?||73% did|
Running Study Comparision
- 70% ran at some point during pregnancy
- 57% ran through second trimester (roughly 26 weeks)
- 34% ran through third trimester
- They decreased their intensity and distance by about 50% during pregnancy, as compared to non-pregnant levels
- 3% sustained a running injury during pregnancy
|% of Respondents||US National Average|
|* Women who suffered a miscarriage were probably less likely to fill out the survey, so this reflects a bias in our sample, it does not mean that climbing leads to a lower miscarriage rate.|
|** The 20-40% bleeding rate of the national average also includes women who went on to miscarry, whereas again, our survey was more likely to be filled out by women who did not miscarry. Since women who bleed are more likely to miscarry, there is naturally be a lower bleeding rate in our study since most of our respondents had pregnancies carried to term.|
|Bleeding during pregnancy||9.8%**||20-40% first trimester, rare after**|
|Severe post-partum bleeding requiring transfusion||0.6%||0.4-1.6%|
|Vaginal Tear or episiotomy of 3rd degree or higher||14%|
|Routine recovery within 6-8 weeks||96%|
|% of Respondents||US National Average|
|Used an epidural||50%|
|IV pain meds during labor||25%|
|Average time to return to climbing after delivery?||3.5 months|
|Did you breastfeed?||96% did|
|Did you notice a change in milk volume when you started climbing again?||7% did|
Running Study Comparision
- After delivery, 25% returned to running in under 2 weeks, most returned to running in under 2 months (the article does note that returning in 2 weeks is not recommended – they recommend 4-6 weeks)
- 90% ran during breastfeeding
- 76% noticed no effect of the running on breastfeeding
- 7% noticed a positive effect on breastfeeding
- 7% noticed a negative effect
- 10% sustained a running injury while breastfeeding
- Post partum depression rates where 6.5% in the runners, as compared to 15.2% of those who didn’t run while pregnant
- In those who ran while breastfeeding, 6.7% had post-partum depression, versus 23.5% of those who did not run during breastfeeding