(photo from the blog Happenstance)
I'm 33 weeks and 4 days preggers and feeling very pregnant. I had a rough sleep last night, have had non-stop heartburn and have felt overall hazy-headed, but otherwise I've been feeling pretty good physically.
I have been using a bike to get around downtown Toronto for more than 10 years. I used to bike through the winter snow and slush, but now that I have a car to get to my job in the suburbs, I stop biking when the snow starts. So, when March came around this year, I was about 4 months pregnant, I started to re-think my relationship with biking. I spent some time thinking, do I really need to continue biking? I live in the west end of Toronto and can walk almost anywhere I want to go. My hubby Joe is a walker and doesn't bike at all, so I'll just join him. I had been taking long walks all winter to try to stay in shape and ward off morning sickness.
But after some thinking I realized that biking is part of my identity. There's nothing I love more than riding aimlessly, stopping when I feel like it to do some shopping that I tote home in my basket, running into friends. I also love that when I bike I'm able to wear heels or other shoes that I wouldn't want to walk long distances in. To top it all off, biking is just a quicker way to get around than walking or taking public transit.
So, I went in to my local bike shop, Hoop Driver Bicycles and I bought my first brand new bike in years - this one, an Opus Classico. I've always had upright bikes with fenders and minimal gears, but I wanted something that was more reliable. With my pregnancy hormones raging, I was afraid of how I might react to to a chain slipping off or flat tire after flat tire.
I did speak to my midwife about biking, who said that falling is always a possibility, but she also talked about how resilient the body is, how important regular exercise is for both mom and baby and about how I must trust my own thoughts and instincts. For the past few years I've always worn a helmet and I've been a cautious biker. I feel pretty wise to the dangers of riding downtown -- most specifically, getting "doored" and a tire stuck in the streetcar tracks. Over the 10 years of biking in Toronto, most of those years included commuting to a from school or work, I have only fell once, and it was my own fault-- I got my front wheel stuck in the streetcar track at an intersection with a huge amount of track, which was slippery because it was raining. In the past three years I've been commuting to work and just last year I was rear-ended while in a traffic jam.
So, I've continued to bike throughout my pregnancy, however, I have modified the way I bike.
- I have definitely slowed down as my pregnancy progresses. (Right now I ride at a snail's pace.)
- I limit the distance I'm biking.
- I avoid biking in the peak of the day when the sun is hottest.
- I do not take risks I would normally take. I make sure I leave enough room while riding beside parked cars so that if someone opens their door I will not get hit
- I use my bell... a lot! If I don't think my bell is being heard (for example, if someone is about to walk onto the road and are not acknowledging my bell-ringing), I will stop. This is easy because I'm already going at such a slow pace.
- I do not succumb to the pressure to move or change my pace to allow other cyclists to pass me. This is important in Toronto because of all the parked cars and lack of bike lanes.
- I always have water with me.
I have no idea if I'll bike right up until I give birth, but I'll keep you updated!
What other preggos are saying about biking while pregnant:
This post on SimplyBike talks about how all professionals she consulted (midwives, doctors, etc.) supported her in continuing to bike through her third trimester. Here is a nice interview about with the author of the SimplyBike about her experience biking throughout her pregnancy on the blog Naturally Cycling Manchester.
Here's a great post on the Guardian's Bike Blog about the author, Sam Haddad, cycling right up until she gave birth. She's convinced that the fact that she maintained her fitness level by biking (in London!) and by practicing yoga contributed to the relatively quick and uncomplicated birth of her baby.
I consider myself to be a commuter cyclist, using my bike as a form of transportation. If you're more of a hardcore cyclist, into going long distances, here's a post at the blog Skirt Sports discussing cycling while pregnant. Take a look at the comments to read the perspectives of some incredible women who were cycling long distances up until they delivered. My favourite comment: "Ride until you don't think it's right for you anymore. I rode 50 miles the day I had my first child and had mountain biked until a week earlier. I also rode my road bike towing the first until the day before our second was born. Do what suits you and enjoy!"