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Climbing Throughout Pregnancy

My experience with keeping life outdoors while growing a tiny human

words Jennifer Dickinson

This is my experience of climbing in pregnancy. It was 2017, we were expecting our first child and I found myself desperately searching for some other representations of women out there, continuing to live their life adventurously while expecting. To no avail. Maybe because of this, I didn’t venture out as much perhaps as I wanted.

Alas, now expecting our second bundle of joy, there seems to be way more experiences posted online, of pregnant women out there, who continue to explore, climb, swim and more all the way to term. One of my current inspirations is Shauna Coxsey, Olympic Climber, who has been sharing her journey with climbing during pregnancy and seeing the positive responses she has received has been wonderful to follow. It has helped massively seeing someone so confidently and healthily embrace fitness and pregnancy.

But, how do you know what to do, what not to do? There is a very definite do’s and don’ts list when it comes to food and drink, but a vague ‘exercise and keep active’ isn’t a lot to go on. Especially for those anxious parents to be.

Getting advice is very difficult, as one always tend to err on the side of caution. Every case is individual and I suppose the best rule of thumb I’ve found is – if you didn’t do it before, don’t start now. Stick with experience and something you feel confident with.

I have been mostly well and healthy and I decided to note down what we got up to during my second pregnancy. Note, I am NOT an athlete, nor was I before. If on a scale from Shauna to Sugared doughnut I’m maybe in the middle somewhere.

This is basically my pregnancy and how active I have been:

1st Trimester –

Hardly anything as I had morning sickness and was just so tired. I felt guilty about not getting up and about especially feeling a pressure with time to ‘do’ as much as I could before I was physically unable. But, other than a lazy week in Font bouldering…nada. Lots of sleeping, lots of cake. Looking back, I’m glad as I really did feel ill and tired. A Christmas swim in a local body of water with my cousin, surrounded by spectators.

2nd Trimester –

For the first two weeks I was battling a head cold and blocked sinuses so again that prevented any fun. 20 week scan showed I had a low placenta so I decided that whatever climbing I would do, would be gentle and extra careful. A few visits to the bouldering wall – climbing well below my grade and ALWAYS next to a route which meant I could downclimb. Tried to make it interesting by climbing up, then trying to reverse all the moves in the downclimb. I tried the first move on some harder problems and enjoyed just sitting and watching others climb the rest. Plenty of traversing. and lots of climbs only half way up. A number of wild swims, never alone, and I always just bobbed about near the entrance until my toes feel cold. (mind this is in the middle of winter!)

3rd Trimester –

Scan showed placenta has moved way out of the way so less panicking and now more confident to move more! Indoor pool swimming has been lovely, as the water takes all of the heavy weight off and being able to move freely in the water is amazing and being indoors means I can actually ‘exercise’ in my own time without worrying about the cold. Still outdoor swimming and very happy as the temperatures are increasing as it means I can stay in longer with comfort. I love the freeing feeling of being immersed in wild waters and the calming effect on my mental health has been priceless.

I decided to stop bouldering, as the bump has thrown off my balance, but instead have top roped outdoors on some easier climbs and I am very happy to continue with this as it feels great to move my body on the rock.

We are now at 36 weeks, and I happily seconded a VS yesterday. It was a short route I had led before, it felt so nice to move and use muscles in less of a ‘plodding around a supermarket’ way and more of a ‘look I can climb even with this watermelon strapped to me’ sort of way. I feel proud to have kept outside and kept climbing, and I feel fitter than I did with the first pregnancy. It has not been ‘to keep fit’ per se, but more to stay sane. And saneish I am.

Climbing in pregnancy is for sure the right choice for me. I will continue walking, swimming and climbing while it feel nice and enjoyable. With the chilled mind and body, it means I have the headspace to get excited for the bundle of joy who is now only a few weeks away.

Jen

also, here’s a good article where Shauna describes her experiences: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/may/18/im-a-pregnant-woman-making-choices-shauna-coxsey-on-climbing-and-the-bullies-who-want-her-to-stop


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