This post originally appeared on Beth Rodden's blog. For more info, check out her athlete page.
I'm not used to writing in English.. Sorry for eventual mistakes...
I just finished reading an article about you and your pregnancy a few minutes ago and damn, I wish you were pregnant one year ago when I was pregnant. I am not a professional climber but climbing is/was my life too. I got pregnant in September 2012, and just like you I started immediately researching and was really scared about what I found: nothing. It seemed that climbing and being pregnant is taboo here in Europe as well. No information, nothing. In the end I found a little information from an American mum, but no medical information, statistics, or much help. I had to decide by my own if I should continue to climb or stop. Many people told me to not climb, to accept that being a mum means to renounce climbing, but I couldn't agree with this. I decided to follow my instinct. What felt good for me, also felt good for my baby. Here in Europe, many people still pointed their fingers and said, "Oh my gosh she's pregnant and climbing." Often telling me that I was being stupid without sense of responsibility for my baby. This is the main reason why I avoided indoor gyms. How do climbers handle this in the US?
I stopped bouldering after my 2nd month because I was afraid about falling. But I lead climbed until the 4th month (only easy routes, 5a/5b French scale) and then switched to toproping and a full body harness. I eventually stopped climbing completely at the 6th month because my belly got way too big and I felt too heavy.
Anyway, in Europe there are not a lot of female climbers getting pregnant, with the exception of the Germans—I see a lot of them climbing during pregnancy.
I am convinced that climbing in pregnancy is good for the body and soul and indeed for the baby. As climbers, we love the risk but it's a risk we analyze and study before facing it. A climber depends much on their instinct and not only on our muscles. A mothers' instinct always knows how many risks to face. What I want to say is that instinctually for me it was like this, I avoided certain routes or movements that could have been bad for my baby.
I found out, during pregnancy and even more after Elia's birth, that not many people understand this "pregnancy-climbing" thing. This needs to change. It's hard to walk an hour with an 8kg womb plus climbing gear and rope to reach a crag. My husband and I started asking strangers to belay. I stopped belaying immediately when I found out I was pregnant and often friends didn't want to come to places with us because we had to choose short approaches. Often in Italy this means only easy routes and crowds. The same after birth. We started climbing outside when he was two months old. Any earlier was impossible for me. It takes a lot of time to get back in shape, but I will not stop climbing even if it's harder now! It's not that a women delivers and after two months she does a marathon or Mount Everest. We still choose places with easy access...and often I feel damned lonely. Many of my female climber friends don't have kids and won't have for a while. I hope for you that you have many many good friends helping you now and in future to deal with your baby. It's not that you couldn't go alone with baby and husband (especially when the baby is less than 5 months and isn't very mobile yet) but I can assure you that it's more comfortable to climb and know that there is somebody watching over the baby, even if only for half an hour.
Ok, I think it's enough for now. As you can see, I would like to make other women understand that climbing+being pregnant+going to climb with toddlers is completely ok and attainable.
Best wishes again, please continue as long as you can and use your popularity to share this magical, beautiful, and important life changing experience with others. I think only by sharing experiences we might hopefully change things for pregnant climbers.
Best wishes for your pregnancy from Italy (I'm based in Milan, but originally from the Dolomites),
Jasmin & Elia
Hi Jasmin -
Thank you so much for your very thoughtful message and information. I think women in the U.S. will find your perspective very valuable and interesting. I know that I always thought European women and mothers had access to much more information and acceptance while climbing during pregnancy and with children. I'm sorry to hear that it's not necessarily the case!
I will say that at least in California, where I'm located, climbing in the climbing gym seems completely acceptable for pregnant women. I've been seeing it for a long time, and it's nice to know that you can go climbing in most gyms and not be ridiculed. Climbing outside while pregnant is less popular, but so far I haven't seen anyone souring their faces at me when I climb outside.
The medical professionals here are not as educated about climbing and pregnancy, often thinking that all climbing will involve a serious ground fall. But once I explain to them about a full body harness and climbing on toprope, they seem much more amenable to the idea.
I'm now in my third trimester and climbing a lot less just because my belly is getting a lot bigger and gets in the way of climbing. I think if my joints were tighter, I would be climbing more as the movement of climbing feels great.
Thank you again for your very wonderful message. I wish you and Elia all the best and hope to run into you at the crags one day!