Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Rock Climbing and Pregnancy: What Changes to Expect

A lot of folks assume that rock climbing and pregnancy go together about as good as ants and a picnic.  However, with one pregnancy under my belt, and well on my way to completing a second, I can honestly say that climbing can be a healthy and enjoyable prenatal activity.  That being said, just as not all women should attempt to run/bike/yoga during pregnancy, climbing is not for everyone.  If you suffer from back pain, which is a common thing for many women, you would not even think of climbing. I can suggest you to read this content and hopefully you will feel better soon. But if rock climbing is an activity that you engaged in on a regular basis before becoming pregnant, it’s an activity that is perfectly acceptable to continue for most women.  (Disclaimer: it’s ALWAYS a good idea to clear it with your OB/midwife first.)

There are a few extra precautions that many expectant moms choose to take at certain points in their pregnancy.  For example, with both of my pregnancies, I stopped bouldering and leading early on and switched to a full body harness around 20 weeks.  For more specifics on those safety precautions and why they are important, click here.

Crankin' at Pilot Mountain during my first pregnancy

Crankin’ at Pilot Mountain during my first pregnancy (28 weeks)

But in addition to these logistical changes that are made on the OUTSIDE, a pregnant mama will undoubtedly experience numerous physical and mental  changes on the INSIDE.  And that’s what I’d like to focus on in this post.  Obviously, every woman’s body handles pregnancy in different ways, but the following is a compilation of what symptoms a cragmama-to-be can expect to feel and experience on the rock, and some tips on how to handle them.

SYMPTOM:  Increased Tiredness. Ok so this one may seem obvious because it literally affects EVERY pregnant woman I’ve ever met, no matter how active or lazy they are, but don’t underestimate the impact it can have! Tiredness is ironically at it’s worst during the 1st trimester, when most people don’t even know you’re pregnant!
HOW TO HANDLE:  Rest when you need to rest.  Now is not the time to push for one more pitch before dark when you know you have a grueling hike out at the end of the day.  Pace yourself, drink plenty of water, and listen to your body.

SYMPTOM: Nausea. This will affect some women more than others, and can vary from pregnancy to pregnancy in frequency and intensity.  With my first, I had zero nausea, but the second time around I had an almost constant low-level nausea for the first 10 weeks.
HOW TO HANDLE:  My nausea seemed to improve with activity, so a short session at the climbing gym was a great remedy.  I learned the hard way that activity on an empty stomach did not bode well, so a stash of snacks in my gym bag was essential.

SYMPTOM:  Out of Breath.  Without fail I would start sucking wind the minute I put a pack on my back (or a 30 pound toddler, in the case of pregnancy #2.)  Hormones are responsible in early pregnancy, and your growing womb-mate is to blame later on.
HOW TO HANDLE:  Take it slow on approaches, especially the uphills.  When your heartrate starts to soar and you can’t carry on a conversation, take a break.  Be realistic about the amount of gear you need to schlep in.

A 6 months pregnant Melissa Love training at her local gym.

A 6 months pregnant Melissa Love training at her local gym.

SYMPTOM: Swollen Feet.  Edema in a non-climbers feet make for some slight discomfort, especially at the end of the day.  But to a climber, it can make putting on a pair of climbing shoes downright torturous!
HOW TO HANDLE:  You know that very first pair of climbing shoes you bought, way back when you didn’t know how they were supposed to fit and sized them 2 sizes too big?  Or your comfy “all day trad” shoes?  Time to break those out full time – trust me it’ll make a big difference!

SYMPTOM:  Pressure “Down There.”  While rather unlady-like to talk about, a swollen feeling in the nether regions is something most women endure at some point during pregnancy.  Don’t worry, your baby won’t fall out!  Pregnancy hormones and all that extra blood flow are to blame.
HOW TO HANDLE:  As odd as it sounds (and embarrassing as it is to admit!), a post-activity ice pack can help relieve the swelling.

SYMPTOM:  Loose Joints.  Relaxin is a pregnancy hormone designed to loosen up the pelvic joints to prepare them for all the expanding they’ll need to do during your baby’s birth.  Unfortunately, this “loosening” is not limited to just the ligaments involved in childbirth, which makes a pregnant woman’s entire body more vulnerable to strains, sprains, and instability issues.
HOW TO HANDLE:  Avoid tweaky moves that put your joints in a compromised position, especially if you’ve ever had dislocation issues.  Drop-knees, hard gastons, and cranking hard on tiny holds with bad feet are some examples of situations where you’ll need to be extra careful.

SYMPTOM: Pelvic Instability.  Related to the above, this condition involves an instability of the joints that make up the pelvis.  Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction (SPD) and SI Joint Pain are quite often the source of a lot of hip, back, and pubic/groin pain for pregnant women.
HOW TO HANDLE: Kegel exercises can help strengthen everything in that area, but there’s not really a way to prevent this from happening, as the body preparing is itself for what it will need to do during childbirth.  As with the others, listen to your body – if it feels good, it’s probably fine, but if a certain type of movement causes pain, stop doing it.

Aimee Roseborrough "preggo-pointing" 5.12 in her 8th month with baby #2!

Aimee Roseborrough “preggo-pointing” 5.12 in her 8th month with baby #2!

SYMPTOM:  Diastisis Recti.  This condition occurs when the connective tissue in between the Rectus Abdominis (6-pack muscles) thins and separates, creating a gap in the midline of the body.  Julie Tupler, an RN who has worked with pre/post-natal patients on this issue extensively, does a great job explaining what this condition is and exercises that can be used to prevent/heal a separation in this interview.
HOW TO HANDLE:  DO NOT do any sort of abdominal exercises that flex your upper or lower body up towards your midline (ie crunches or hanging leg lifts), or forceful twisting on the oblique (side ab muscles) after the 1st trimester, and make sure any separation has healed before attempting ab work post-partum.  Fellow climbing mama and PT Aimee Roseborrough (who’s been interviewed on this blog here) recommends sticking to vertical/slightly overhanging terrain during pregnancy, or well below your limit on steep terrain.  She also recommends wearing an ab binder and seeing a PT specializing in women’s health post-partum if you end up with a separation – the first 6-8 weeks post-partum are the best opportunity for healing, before scar tissue starts to build up in the separation.   Fellow Trango athlete Melissa Love had a diastasis with her 2nd child that went undiagnosed for 15 months, and after lots of time off is still climbing in a splint – she warns, “Be careful!  You do not want this!”

SYMPTOM:  Braxton Hicks.  These annoying “practice contractions” are a prelude to the real thing, although in my experience, feel nothing like real labor.  With my Braxton Hicks I could feel (and often see) a “hard spot” on my abdomen where part of my uterus was tightening.  While they were not painful, they got progressively more intense and uncomfortable as the weeks went on.
HOW TO HANDLE: While there’s nothing to do to prevent these harmless annoyances, a surefire way for me to trigger more of them was/is to let myself get dehydrated or by standing on my feet too much.  If you feel them coming on at the crag, take a rest and some swigs of water and they should eventually settle down.

My 1st pregnancy and 35 weeks along

My 1st pregnancy and 35 weeks along

SYMPTOM: Lack of motivation.  It’s hard to stay psyched to do something that you get measurably worse at it with every passing week.
HOW TO HANDLE: If you stay focused on the numbers, you’re going to be disappointed.  It’s time for a shift in perspective – pregnancy is not a time for sending at your limit, it’s a time to enjoy the freedom that comes with moving on the rock. That being said, it’s certainly okay to take some time off, especially if any of the above symptoms are starting to get to you – do what you feel is right for your body.

SYMPTOM: “I can’t do _________ anymore!”  Depending on the level you were climbing at before you got knocked up, most women find themselves saying this to their partner at some point (and often in a whiny voice…thanks hormones!)  The bigger my belly got (gets), the harder it was (is) logistically to do mantles or certain high foot/rock on type moves – that darn belly just got in the way!
HOW TO HANDLE: Again, shift your perspective – staying active is important, but sending that red-taped project in the gym is not.  Laugh it off and move on.

Pregnancy is a unique and miraculous journey, one that I have been blessed to experience twice now.  Despite the various unpleasantries I had to endure, it was always worth it in the end.  Fellow Cragmama Charmagne Cox once said something when I interviewed her that always stuck out to me – “I never regretted the routes I didn’t send while I was raising my babies.”  My guess is that I’m not the only mama out there that wholeheartedly agrees with that one!

If you’ve climbed through a pregnancy before, what was your experience?  If you stopped at a certain point, what symptom(s) finally “did you in?”  If you are a climbing mom (or dad!) hoping to start a family in the next few years, what do you think your attitude towards climbing will be after you see those two pink lines on your (or your significant other’s) pregnancy test?  (And thanks to all the strong mamas out there who shared pictures and advice with me for this post!)

Aimee Roseborrough still crushing at 37 weeks!

Aimee Roseborrough still crushing at 37 weeks!




64 Responses to “Rock Climbing and Pregnancy: What Changes to Expect”

  1. BethC

    I climbed about once a week a the gym during my pregnancy. I think I stopped around 20 weeks when my belly started making my harness uncomfortable. I was nervous about taking falls so I didn’t move on to the full-body harness. I just started going to the (regular) gym while my friends climbed (in retrospect, it was kind of a bummer).


    • BethC

      PS. Having to get in and out of my harness ten million times for bathroom breaks wasn’t too fun either.

  2. Really great article Erika! I needed this 8 months ago. 🙂 I kept climbing through my first trimester, but with my nausea (similar to you, an annoying low-level throughout the first 12 weeks) and new stretching sensations in my upper abdomen when I’d reach, I found it hard to enjoy as much.

    That, with an OB’s look of horror when I talked about climbing (although trail running – which has just as many risks in my opinion – didn’t seem to phase her), left me feeling worried and questioning my judgement, which, as a first-time mama-to-be, was much more challenging.

    It took me a few months to let go of that worry and trust my instincts, but by then, I was out of climbing shape, bigger, and less motivated to get to the gym, so I ended up letting it go and focused on running and hiking.

    Thank you for assuring us that climbing IS POSSIBLE and that trusting ourselves is the best thing we can do. 🙂


  3. I climbed throughout my first trimester and a little into my second. I also noticed that exercise helped a lot with my nausea. If I could overcome the desire to hibernate on my couch, I was always happy I made it out to the gym and felt better.

    I had planned on continuing to climb but my main climbing partners were out of commission for various reasons and I didn’t have the motivation to go on my own. I wish circumstances had been different so I could have seen how it would have gone but it worked out for the best as the time I stopped climbing coincided with the best weather for hiking!


  4. Erica

    Beth – The good thing is that long-term it really doesn’t matter, ya know? Kudos to you for still finding other ways to stay active. Oh…and I TOTALLY hear you on all the bathroom breaks!!!

    Amy – Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the feedback that it would have been helpful. Hopefully it will be a good resource for other mamas-to-be out there! It’s so hard to navigate what to do and what not to do. There’s a big misunderstanding out there from non-climbers about what it is that we actually DO on the rock. But again, the important thing is to stay active in whatever way feels best, and it sounds like you did that, so good on you!


  5. Erica

    Sarah – YES, getting off the couch was the hardest step for me too! So glad that phase is over! Each season has it’s own “perfect” activities. Glad that hiking has been enjoyable for you 🙂


  6. Noell Lewis

    I climbed up til 8 months in my pregnancy, and led up til about 5/6 months. I wore my own harness up til around 4 months, and then I actually decided to wear my husbands harness instead of investing in a full body harness b/c Craig’s harness fit on top of the belly (where my waise belt went right across the belly and didn’t fit anymore). I will say that I only led at my limit until about month 4. During the second trimester, I led only what I knew I wouldn’t fall on (ie old tried and true warm ups at my local crag that I could climb blindfolded).

    We took Riley out to the Lily boulder field when she was one week old. I didn’t boulder, I just walked around, enjoyed the outdoors, and hung out with my new little wonder. To be honest – I was sooo nervous taking her out that whole spring! But when I think back – I was nervous taking her to the grocery store and out to eat too! You just have to jump right in and you will learn together, as a family, how to make it work.

    Now, Riley will be two next week, I am sure we will all be out at the Obed this weekend, and I may not be climbing as hard as I was before she was born, but I am pretty happy being a cool climbing mama with a tough little girl in tow each weekend!


  7. I climbed till about 5 months with my first pregnancy, but that was because I was mostly a boulderer and didn’t invest in the full body harness. My son is two now and I have since gotten into sport climbing. I’m just getting into the second trimester of baby #2 and am way more motivated to climb all the way through this time. While I started climbing two weeks after my son was born, it was a long road! I actually cried when I found your blog in those first few weeks of having him at home (dang hormones). It just gave me so much hope! Gave me the confidence to get him out there with us. We took him out for his first trip at 8 weeks and haven’t stopped since. He loves it!

    Thanks for this article. Once again it has given me hope. I am excited to see how you guys manage with baby #2 as we will not be too far behind. Good luck!


    • Simone

      Hi Liz, I boulder and have just found out I’m pregnant! Yaye! It’s very early days but already I’m wondering if I can take falls on our indoor boulder wall. It’s under 4 meters high and it’s the only climbing facility in our area (so no other training options and I LOVE CLIMBING so want to keep going if possible). Since you bouldered well into your pregnancies, how did you find out that it’s okay? Did you find out at what stage you should definitely not fall (and by fall I mean an indoor boulder fall onto mats)? If you, or anyone else, have any links on this, that would be great! And also, I am wondering about belaying my partner when we go on sport climbing trips, he’s heavier than me, so is catching his falls okay? I know about pregnancy harnesses but the jolt itself is a concern maybe? I’m happy to top rope outdoors, but if I can’t even belay him….Thanks in advance for any help 🙂

  8. Sabrina

    I actually climbed (in the gym primarily because of the heat in Alabama in the summer) until I was 7 months pregnant. I actually caved quite a bit then too. I had to put a halt to climbing because I got pregnancy carpal tunnel. CT was the absolute worst (I truly think even more than labor). I still enjoyed going to the crag and hiking with everyone.


  9. Erica

    Noell – Thanks for sharing your story! It’s always awesome to hear success stories from bad ass climbing mamas! 🙂

    Liz – Yeah those hormones can really do a number on your psyche…But I’m delighted to know that you found the blog helpful! Congrats on baby #2! I know so of so many preggo climbing mamas right now – it must be something in the water 😉

    Sabrina – Hmmm, Carpal Tunnel, I’d left that one out, so thanks for mentioning it! With both pregnancies I lucked out to not be large and in charge during the heat of the summer – but I can see how the gym would be a much more pleasant option during that time 🙂 Good on you for staying active as best you could!


  10. Christine L.

    I liked how you put pelvic instability in there. Made me stop climbing both times. I did all sorts of stuff to try to be able to climb with the first pregnancy. Physical therapy (concentrating on pelvic muscles), Pilates, you name it, I tried. But it got to the point where I couldn’t walk very fast the next day after climbing super easy stuff at the gym. I actually went through a grieving process when I had to quit. I had tremendous fear that I may never be able to climb because for some women the pelvic pain can last beyond pregnancy. It was easier the second time. I knew as soon as I felt the pain, it was time to quit knowing the instability will go away, and I will be back. This was not what I had in mind. I always envisioned my water breaking on some hard move on the wall. Used to joke I was going to get an umbrella hat for my belayers. Oh well. Life goes on.


    • Erica

      Christine – I’ve heard that those stability issues can stop anybody in their tracks, seems like you concur! I can imagine that the fear of the unknown would have to be the worst that first time around, I bet it was a lot easier the next time when you knew what to expect. Thanks for sharing your story

  11. Patricia

    My story is like Christine’s. Pubis symphasis pain stopped me around 4 months. I was bummed. I had bought a full body harness and only used it twice. I worked out with a personal trainer and did lots of yoga and hiking to stay in shape and sane. I’m 6 weeks post partum and back my old weight. But I still have the pain. Just started some Pilates and hoping to climb again in the new year.


  12. Erica

    Patricia – 6 weeks post partum? Then congrats to you on the birth of your little miracle!!! I’m sorry that you still have the pain. Give yourself some time though – don’t underestimate the havoc a pregnancy can wreak on your body! Wishinig you a pain-free climbing in the new year – with your little cragbaby in tow!!!


  13. Love this! I believe my last day climbing was around 38 weeks. Up until then I had been slowly decreasing the difficulty of the climbs I was doing, and eventually there was one day in the gym when I just knew it was time for me to quit. I loved my experience climbing while pregnant!


  14. Rachel

    I’m mainly a boulderer and we’ve just started trying for a baby. Whilst climbing at the wall a couple of weeks ago I was delighted to get to the top of a pretty difficult (for me) problem but as I dropped off back onto the mat had a sudden panic about the impact of hitting the mat on any potential baby that might be in there, all be it just a tiny collection of cells at the moment! It knocked my confidence so much that I really couldn’t climb very well for the rest of the session.

    I have tried to research the potential risks an impact like that my have on a pregnancy, particularly in the very early stages, but there is very little out there. My partner is taking the attitude of ‘carry on as normal until we know you are definitely pregnant’ but given the fact that they advise you to stop drinking/smoking/caffeine/certain foods right from the off, this feels weird.

    I’d be interested, and indeed delighted to hear anyone’s thoughts and experiences on this (on a safe space like this where we’re not going to get slammed for taking ‘unnecessary risks with the life of your baby’) or if anyone does have any useful evidence they can point me to.

    With thanks and my fingers crossed!


    • Rachel – If it makes you feel better, I spent the first two weeks I was pregnant deep water solo’ing in Thailand. There were a couple of long/awkward falls in there that I distinctly remember. I was just sure that “nobody gets pregnant on their first try” and I had nothing to worry about. Ha ha! Oh well, I have a super healthy little climber boy now, and a pregnancy with no problems related to climbing (a lot of nausea though).

  15. Erica

    Amy – I love how you said you just “knew.” Props for listening to your body 🙂

    Rachel – You are right that there is little information about climbing risks out there, but I think there’s a fair lot of research on contact/high impact sports in general, which from what I understand almost all resources say that it’s safe to continue all activities during the 1st trimester, provided you don’t let yourself get overexhausted. I would suggest “Exercising through your pregnancy” by Dr. James Clapp. I also thought that the link I listed in the intro of this post did a good job of explaining the risks for each trimester. There’s also this link:

    My philosophy during the 1st trimester was to stick to boulder problems that were of reasonable height (ie no highballs) and with solid flat landings and good spotters. However bouldering tends to be more of a winter sport in the southeast, and both times my 1st tri was during the heat of the summer, so any bouldering I did was mainly in the gym. I kept leading both indoors and outdoors all throughout the 1st tri. I didn’t hold back in difficulty level at all, but I did pace myself carefully (ie, maybe only 1 or 2 project burns in a session, rather than working on a hard route all day). I also stuck to familiar routes with safe fall zones (mostly well-bolted sport routes.) In my (non-medical of course) opinion, the impact from a softly caught lead fall, or even jumping down onto the mat from a reasonable distance, is far less impact than what you’d experience in something traumatic like a car wreck. I don’t think any point in pregnancy is the time to push your limits on dangerously runout terrain (or highballs with horrible landings), but the everyday falls and jump-downs aren’t anything to stress about in those first few weeks, due to how well-protected that tiny fetus is. Again, that’s just my take, and you obviously need to do what you feel comfortable with, but based on my own experience, as well as the majority of other preggo mamas I’ve seen/talked to/climbed with, there aren’t that many changes that need to be made during the 1st trimester. Hope that helped!


    • Rachel

      This is really helpful, I had skim read the article but will have another good look at it (when I’m not supposed to working!) and soak it all in.

      Thanks so much for all the insights, help and down right inspiration! I’m looking forward to becoming a blocmama!


    • Simone

      Oops you’ve answered some of my questions that I just asked! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this, it is so good to read (especially about boulder and lead falls)!

  16. Sarah Kay

    Thanks so much for this post! I also delt with some low level, but constant nausea in the first trimester. I still went out to the walls with my group but spent some days just laying on the ground while everyone else climbed! Once the nausea was gone I was right back on the wall! I was still climbing 3 times a week up until the very end and went on several out of state climbing trips for multipitch and back to back days of climbing. I switched to the Mountain Mama harness at the beginning of my third trimester, which is about when I started dealing with the drop in climbing grade / ability, loosing some endurance and that darn belly certainly did get in the way! But I definitely think that climbing during pregnancy can be a great thing for your body (if cautiously approached – just listen to your body!) I even went climbing the day before giving birth. I can’t help but share that being active and climbing during pregnancy seemed to make giving birth (all natural) “easier”. I love climbing mamas! 🙂


  17. Erica

    Sarah Kay – Thanks for sharing. I totally agree with you that climbing (and really just being active in general) is a big if your goal is to go all-natural. Obviously that’s not feasible for all birth situations, but I too think keeping my body strong throughout pregnancy was a major factor in my ability to cope with labor sans medication. My first kiddo went fast and relatively smoothly except for about an hour where he was trying to come out sunny-side up. Fingers crossed this second one will be just as smooth! 🙂


  18. Adrian

    Thank you for this post! I am 26+ weeks and still climbing 3 days per week. I’m lucky because I live in Vegas where the weather has been amazing this winter and I’ve been able to get out every weekend in Red Rock. I’ve definitely experienced many of the changes you list here. One strange thing is that my crimping strength has actually improved…not sure what that’s all about. However, overall I have noticed a decrease in my ability from week to week, which is fine with me as long as I can still get out and climb and have fun! I’m experiencing two other things that I’d be interested to hear if anyone else is experienced/has experienced: 1) I have the Petzl full body harness. When I lower off a climb the leg loops ride up in the front and sort of pinch my belly on the sides, which is uncomfortable and worrisome as I don’t want to squish my little peanut. I’ve tried adjusting the harness and it still happens every time. Anyone experience this? Have any comments/suggestions? 2) When doing certain moves, usually moves that require core tension on a steeper climb or a dynamic move, I’ve experienced what feels like a pulled abdominal muscle. I try to steer clear of these types of moves, but sometimes it’s just instinctual to move like that while climbing. The pain has gone away in less than 24 hours both times this has happened, but again, it worries me a little (FTM here!). Anyone else experience this? Thanks again for your post and your blog. Great resource for pregnant climbers and climbing families!!!


    • Erica

      Adrian – Congratulations on your pregnancy! Sounds like you have a healthy mindset about everything, and are well on your way to giving your little one the healthiest start possible. Unfortunately I can’t speak for the harness issue or the ab issue, but maybe some others on this thread can and will chime in. It could very well be a tweaked abdominal muscle, or maybe just a severe round ligament pain? Just hypothesizing though. I will say that whether I’m climbing or just walking around, pregnancy causes all sorts of weird twitches/sensations that I’ve never been able to identify. While we’re just sticking to our normal routines, our bodies are doing all sorts of crazy stuff on the inside! If you are concerned about it or if it keeps happening, it might be worth mentioning the ab thing to your doctor or midwife.

  19. Kristel

    Especially for Rachel (and of course for all other mothers-want-to-be);
    I’m 12 weeks pregnant now! I’m also a boulderer and now googling around what I can do and can’t do… It’s impossible to find investigated information. But now I’m 12wk I want to know what is dangerous for the little one. Till yesterday I jumped of the boulders (if I couldn’t climb them down) but now I read a bit on the internet I descided just to climb down.
    But till now I just bouldered as I did before. So, Rachel, don’t be afright that it will harm inplanting or developing the foetus! It won’t!


  20. Maridith

    I didn’t climb during my pregnancy and after working out some pelvic floor issues in physical therapy, I’m getting back into at 8 weeks PP. I seriously feel like my climbing shoes are way too small now!! I don’t remember pain like this. (And come on, I pushed a 9 lb human out of me-no epidural- 8 weeks ago.)
    Anyone have to change climbing shoes after pregnancy?


    • Erica

      Congratulations Maridith and welcome to motherhood! My shoes were definitely tight for a while. I cant remember when things got back to normal, but after both pregnancies I had to wear my comfy trad shoes for at least a couple months!

      Dont worry, it took 9 months for your body to produce a baby, at 8 weeks postpartum your body still has a ways to go! Good on you for getting back to it – listen to your body and go at your own pace 🙂

  21. Laura

    Great article!! I have a question for everyone about the Relaxin hormone… when does this start to kick in and affect your climbing? In other words, when should I stop doing twisting motions and other types of moves?

    I’m 20 weeks now and still able to top-rope at my usual level (when I’m not completely exhausted!) and I still haven’t switched to a full-body harness. I should probably order one soon, but I have been putting it off because it seems like a pain in the butt to belay from such a high point. I have noticed that my belly makes belaying uncomfortable anyway, especially when lowering a partner and the belay loop presses against my tummy.

    Thanks again… I love reading everyone’s comments as well as the article 🙂


    • Erica

      Hi Laura,
      It’s my understanding that the relaxin is in your system from the beginning, but becomes more of an issue the later you get into pregnancy, as pretty much everything just gets looser and looser…but i’m of course not a doctor. As far as twisting and other specific movements, those questions might be better geared toward a doctor, but as for me, I just went with what felt good – if it started to hurt, i stopped doing it. If it still felt good and I had the energy, I kept doing it.

      I went into the full body harness at 20 weeks with my first, around 23 or so with my second. The higher tie in point definitely takes some getting used to, but it is far more comfortable in my opinion than having a waistband/belay loop that presses against the tummy. Best of luck with your pregnancy! 🙂

  22. Zoe

    Good resource. I’m currently climbing at 34 weeks, and I feel like I could keep going until 40+, so I was trying to research when other climbers stopped and if there were outstanding reasons to stop close to the due date.

    Personally, I switched away from bouldering almost immediately, and I’m slowly decreasing my level to climb more “ladder-like” climbs. I climb in a gym, so my main concern is other climbers falling and swinging towards me. Because of that I shifted my schedule a little bit so I’m climbing at less popular times to avoid the potential for impact.


  23. Laura

    Update in case anyone is curious–

    I’m currently 39 weeks and still indoor top-roping a couple times a week. I haven’t had any issues in terms of ligaments and joints (phew!), my only issue now is that my huge belly gets in the way and really impacts my reach and range of motion. I also don’t have the endurance that I had before, probably because I am up about 25 lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight. I’m mostly top-roping 5.6-5.8 and only doing about 5-10 routes per session. I think rock climbing has been the main reason that I have had a really healthy pregnancy- no swelling, no excess weight gain, and I’ve (mostly) had a good energy level throughout! I plan to keep going until my water breaks 🙂

    Good luck out there, ladies!


  24. I’m having a lot of trouble finding either the Mountain Mama harness or the Petzl full body harness either used or new. Does anyone have one they want to sell or know of where to purchase?


    • Erica

      Hi MD! Sorry you are having trouble finding the harness. They are a hot commodity (mine is currently lent out for the 3rd time!) Have you tried emailing the company directly?

  25. Steph

    MD- I just today ordered one from

    They have some in stock if you are still looking.


  26. Emily

    Hi Steph,

    I am currently 11 weeks pregnant and I am an experienced climber. I decided to do top rope only climbing and i am in a regular harness still. I am a little worried as I took a small fall on top rope. My husband and climbing partner both reassured me that it isn’t really a fall on a tight top rope. What are your thoughts on this?



    • Emily

      so sorry! i meant to write Erica. Sorry about that lol

    • Erica

      Haha no worries Emily! On the name mistake ASWELL as the TR fall…in my non-doctor opinion of course. I agree w your hubby and partner. A good belay on TR really is not a “fall.” At least not of any consequence really. Especially at only 11 weeks!!! Baby is nestled inside so deep, it would take some super hard forces to cause a problem. Think about pioneer women working out in the fields…certainly more strenuous than a little tr fall. My (again nonmedical) advice is dont give it a second thought. Enjoy your little bump and congrats!!!

  27. I am six months postpartum, and I realized around five months out that my diastasis wasn’t healing right because I started having some pretty intense SI joint pain,as well as a horrifically tight pelvic girdle any time I go for a run. (sports of choice are running and climbing). I started doing a program (MuTu Mamas) for that, but I am super afraid that I won’t ever be able to climb again without making my diastasis worse because they talk about how you are to never do a crunch or sit-up again, etc. I had actually started climbing again a little bit as well as working on my upper body strength with the pull-up bar we have in our house, but those were definitely making things worse so I stopped. Anyone else out there with diastasis/pelvic instability/si joint pain who were able to heal enough to get back to climbing?


    • Erica

      Hi MJ…I only had a minor separation after my second. It is still there a small amount (like 1-2 fingers separation), but I was told that unless it caused pain or instability, not to worry about it. I’m sorry you are having issues. 🙁 Hopefully someone will chime in here with what worked for them? In the meantime, have you talked to a PT abotu it? Perhaps they could help with some exercises of some sort (although I assume that is what the MuTu Mamas was as well.)

  28. It is great to see pictures of other ladies pulling down and to read about other women climbing through pregnancy! One way in which my perspective differs on climbing while pregnant is that instead of viewing it as symptomatic I’ve chosen to accept the unique strengths of climbing while pregnant: increased flexibility, more bloodflow (read: at 34 weeks I am still unable to get pumped!), and the increased stem cell activity that shortens recovery time while increasing the hypercompensatory response. Wahoo pregnant climbing!


    • Erica

      Brittany – Here, here, yay for pregnant climbing! 🙂

  29. Paulina

    Hello ladies,

    I decided to post here for all the pregnant climbers out there. I have to start saying that I’m a very active person and that so far my pregnancy is very normal (I’m 35 weeks and still climbing!) I have climbing mostly indoors my entire pregnancy( a few outdoor trips during my second semester) and it feels great!
    Also I have climb for years before I got pregnant
    I did not switch to a full body harness, but got one of the gym harness that you can adjust to any meassument and I just wear it bellow my big bump (I should say, it is not that big either)
    I did “level down” i only do climbs that are way below by level and just do as many as I feel comfortable without overworking
    Indoor climbing – while belaying I always tied to the ground at least all the gyms I have visited have these slings to the ground to compensate while the climber is heavier that the belayer. Even if that is not the case for me sometime I always tied to the ground, if for some reason the climber falls It does not pulls me up or puts any pressure on my stomach 🙂
    I know some of you may “hate” me for this one, but my feet have not been swollen at all so still using my same shoes! But I do keep my old (larger size) pair on my backpack just in case.
    Always keep water with me! Specially on those early outdoor trips we brought more water than we needed.
    I don’t feel bad about not completing routes, if I can’t do it on the first try I don’t obsess about it, I may try again a different day but that is.

    I hope this helps someone out there! I really think that if you take a few precautions there is not reason for stop doing what you love. 🙂


    • Zoie

      So you didn’t have any issues with the regular harness?
      I just tried to switch to a full-body harness at 27 weeks, but it feels so awkward.
      I think I may go the same route and just get a bigger gym-style harness.

  30. Zoie

    Does anyone know if using a regular harness (below your bump, more around your hips) is dangerous in any way during pregnancy?
    The full-body harness feels so awkward to me.


  31. Amanda

    I am pregnant with my second child, and it’s been really hard to climb. Mostly I am extremely tired and I can’t do any of the routes I used to just warm up on. It’s been frustrating dealing with these major changes in my body that I didn’t experience with my first born and I am really demotivated because no one wants to climb with me anymore because I can’t keep up, but this blog makes me feel better. I should be more forgiving with myself and try to enjoy the little I can do. I really want my new baby to enjoy climbing and be as involved in it as my first son. Thanks climbing mamas for the support and inspiration!


    • Erica

      Congratulations AManda! You said yourself all the words I would have said to you. Accept yourself (And your body) right where you are at right now. You WILL be able to get back to climbing hard one day if that’s one of your goals. I promise! -E 🙂

  32. BECKY

    Hello! I live in London so I climb boulder 3 times a week at indoor centres, and only climb outdoors in summer on a rare weekend in the countryside.

    I’m at 16 weeks now and plan to keep bouldering as long as possible (probably another 1-2 months until my growing size becomes a problem) so still going regularly.

    However, my confidence vs fear is now shocking! Whenever I get to the top of a tricky route I worry about the fall, so I’ve swapped right down to routes I can do without even thinking about them.

    It’s disappointing and I sometimes feel embarrassed I am doing such basic routes. I feel worried I’ve ‘peaked’ at climbing and probably won’t ever get any better than my pre-pregnancy standard because after the baby is born I won’t have the free time. However, I think its more important to keep familiar with the wall and keep the technique in practice – and more importantly I enjoy it!

    I’m still doing the hanging upside down routes as I didn’t realise this could cause ab separation – not sure whether to scale back on this now.

    Was really interesting to read this post and all the comments on other peoples experiences!!


    • Erica

      Congrats on your pregnancy Becky! Kudos to you for staying active throughout your pregnancy – both you and baby are healthier for it 🙂 Don’t worry at all about “peaking” at climbing. I know several mamas (myself included) that now climb harder post-kids than we did before! It’ll take work and you’ll have less time to do it… but that just means you have to stay focused during the little training time you do have. Moms are awesome, welcome to the club!!!

  33. Betsy

    Hello fellow pregnant climbers! I’m at 29 weeks and still climbing, my second pregnancy. I decided not to climb during my first pregnancy after kind of a scary, multi-pitch push early on in the pregnancy but this time I was already taking a great bouldering class at my local gym around the time that I found out I was pregnant and decided to just keep going until it doesn’t feel good anymore. Surprisingly (to me at least), at 29 weeks it still feels pretty damn good! I’ve kept up with my bouldering classes, though I only do things that I don’t think I will fall on, or if there is a fall, it’s just a short butt-fall. I’m still climbing outside and started using a body harness around 24 weeks. The body harness was key as the last time I went climbing with my normal harness it was really uncomfortable belaying. I don’t know if it’s the climbing or what, but this pregnancy has been better (more fun, more active) than my first, despite having a toddler to take care of (and sometimes wailing at the base while my husband belays me on a climb).

    Keep it going out there! Staying active really is the key to a better pregnancy.


  34. Erin

    With so little information out there for pregnant climbers, having blogs like this is so very helpful, thank you for doing this! I am 7 weeks pregnant and am still leading, but wondering if I shouldn’t be? I have read so much conflicting information about whether it is safe to lead in the first trimester, with some saying the fetus is well protected and others saying a fall can result in miscarriage even at this stage. I don’t know if they mean a high impact fall where you hit the wall or if they mean any kind of fall. I have had trouble getting informed answers from health care professionals because they don’t really understand what a lead fall entails. I think they envision it as a high trauma, 25-foot fall where you smack into things rather than a few foot drop and a soft catch. Since pregnant I have been sticking to steep, overhanging routes where a fall results in no impact with the wall, but should I be concerned about taking even those kinds of falls? Since pregnant I haven’t put myself in a position where I felt there would be any “trauma” from falling, but is a short fall over air still a bad thing in the first trimester? It seems to me that it is still lower impact than running, and doctors seem to pretty readily give the green light to running. Just wondering if others have taken lead falls that they deemed safe in first trimester? I’m reluctant to scale it back so soon but the lack of reliable information out there makes it hard to know what to do.


  35. Amanda

    This website is so amazing! I’m 15 weeks pregnant with my second baby, and only took up climbing about a year ago. I’ve only done bouldering and still go to the climbing gym often, and a few spots outdoors. Have been considering top rope, but was hoping for a good maternity harness recommendation. Thank you for all of this information as it really put my worries at ease!


  36. Melissa

    I quit lead climbing as soon as I found out I was pregnant… I just had more fun by eliminating the worry that came with it. I’m really lucky to have lots of climbers to set ropes for me to top climb though so that made it easier!

    I am 25 weeks pregnant and I have been climbing in a gym and sport climbing outside (top rope only) since the beginning of my pregnancy – I had to stop for 3 weeks in the middle of the 2nd trimester to go on BED REST (awful) because of a worry about my cervix that turned out to be nothing. My 1st climb after bed rest gave me a huge pump and I ended up feeling extremely dizzy, I think because of the drastic change in blood flow. So far my climbing experience has been fun, I’m just not as good at the harder climbs and I get tired easily! I feel so heavy on the wall and the worst part is my abs. I feel like my core doesn’t help me like it used to since the muscles are all stretched out in front of me! I slightly injured one of my fingers during like week 15… and a couple of times I felt a knuckle kind of slide out of place? No pain I just popped it back in, but I can tell my joints are a little looser. Recently, certain moves that are twisty or just extremely taxing on my abdominal muscles can cause my abdominal muscle to hurt sharply, I’m really worried about pulling the muscles apart and getting bad diastis recti. I’m really not worried about harming my baby, I think climbing is safer than running – I don’t even run the risk of tripping and falling down lol! Hoping to keep climbing for at least another couple of months.


  37. Moira

    I have been climbing outdoors throughout my pregnancy (I didn’t/don’t climb in a gym) and it was going great until this past week or so when I developed pain in my pubic symphesis, first in yoga and then climbing the next day. Now it hurts all the time just being alive, sitting, standing, sleeping – there is no relief except when I spoon my body pillow. I am stopping climbing now, but wondered if any other climbers have had it, were you able to recover after giving birth? How long did it take to return to pain free climbing? Did you find you could do any exercise at all after developing it and if so, what was pain free for you? I am hoping I can at least hike. Of course some get it and some don’t but now I regret continuing to climb as long as I did.


  38. Susie

    Great article! I had my baby three weeks ago now, and managed to keep climbing up to 35 weeks indoors, and about 30 weeks outdoors. Unlike you I switched to only bouldering and kept to very easy grades. We even managed a trip to font when I was 6 months along, and I went round all the yellow and (some) orange circuits. I think it’s really important what you said about not worrying about your grade, or not being able to do certain moves anymore- the year before in font I had been working on reds and had to downgrade significantly for this trip, but it felt great! Also meant I felt confident that I wouldn’t fall off! I think you know what your body is capable of, and you can just work to that level. By 35 weeks in the climbing centre I was doing maybe 8 bouldering toutes in a session, then sitting down with a cuppa to watch! I definitely recommend keeping up some climbing if it feels right to you.


  39. Carla

    I am 26+ weeks and have been climbing throughout. I took a bit of a break during first trimester when nausea was bad. My doctor suggested not bouldering, but that top rope, as long as I had a good belayer who kept the rope pretty tight, was fine. I am pretty active, and her advice was any fall over two- three feet ( no matter what activity) is a concern once into second trimester, and I should check in with her if that were to happen. In top rope that is not really an issue, but obviously makes bouldering or lead more limited.

    I switched to a full body harness at about week 20, my regular gym has one they just lend outfor the day, which is really nice. I was worried about buying one and climbing enough to make it worth while. It took a bit of getting used to, but I find it comfortable enough.

    I am climbing a bit below my normal level at this point, but certain types of climbs I am just not able to do. I have not been able to do overhangs at my usual level at all, but have done some 5.8 and 5.9s, just can’t engage my core in a way that is supportive enough to do something harder. And of course my belly is starting to sometimes just be in the way for certain moves.

    I hope to keep going in these last 13 weeks, and am inspired reading about those of you who climbed so late into pregnancy! I think listening to your body and just taking it easier as needed is the main thing, I am reminding myself to just stay happy that I am able to climb still and not focus on numbers!


  40. Kate

    Thanks for a wonderful article. It’s motivating to hear other women climb strongly throughout their pregnancies as well as listening to their bodies when things just don’t feel so good anymore.
    I’ve been climbing since I became pregnant. I stopped lead climbing since I was five weeks and just stuck with top rope. I’m five months now and have had to really deal with the mental aspect that I simply can’t climb at the level I used to. It’s really hard. I can no longer do overhanging routes due to the fact my abs are just not available for me (not to mention the weight gain significantly stresses the joints). There have been many moments recently when I nearly burst into tears because I feel so out of shape, struggling on moves that would have been a walk in the park pre pregnancy. As much as I sometimes want to just quit and save climbing for after the baby is born, I worry I’ll get out of shape and forget how to climb. Therefore I’m just going to make sure I stick to really easy routes and forgive myself for not being able to climb at my pre pregnancy level. I’m growing a new human for Peet’s sake! Also, I was fortunate to have a friend lend me her full body harness and have been using it since the start of my second trimester. It’s so much more comfortable than the regular harness and would highly recommend it to any pregnant mamas! I also have had many nurses and doctors look at me strangely when I tell them I rock climb. They are fine with me trail running and cycling but I honestly don’t think most people, doctors included understand what top roping is in a gym! Do what feels safe and comfortable to you. Your body knows when enough is enough. Happy pregnancies to everyone out there reading this!


  41. Kat

    For my first pregnancy (total weight gain of 25lbs) I climbed until 36 weeks primarily at the gym. I stopped lead climbing at the start of the 3rd trimester. I used my husband’s harness because the free to gym members full body harness was so uncomfortable. I received only positive comments from primarily women about climbing in the gym. I did not notice a decline in my level of climbing. I also continued to run until 8 months. Currently I just entered my third trimester with my second pregnancy (total weight gain so far 14lbs). Climbing with my husband’s harness and leading climbs that are below my limit, mostly overhanging climbs. It’s easier to see the foot holds! Top roping the harder climbs, jogging 3 miles on the days I don’t climb. But the second time around I am way more tired, and my body aches are a bit more intense. I plan on climbing and running until my due date. Interestingly both my husband (my only climbing partner during both my pregnancies) and I are receiving negative comments from fellow gym patrons about climbing while pregnant. For now I just smile and say something unrelated about beta on a climb I just did. Can anyone comment on how they handled situations where people are expressing their unwanted nonprofessional advice on the activities that I am doing while pregnant?


    • Erica

      Congrats on your baby #2 Kat! That is so odd that you had such positive reactions the first go round, and then negative ones for this pregnancy?!? Are you climbing at the same gym for both pregnancies? I definitely had my fair share of unwanted nonprofessional advice throughout both pregnancies. I usually just mentioned something about my doctor and I working together on a good exericse plan during my pregnancy. It annoyed me, but at the end of the day, it really didn’t matter. Two happy healthy babies later, I’m definitely glad I stayed active climbing /running/etc! It made recovery far easier!

  42. Cassie

    My partners, son and I have been climbing for the last year and a half. We really enjoy it. We have done a lot of climbing inside our climbing gym and have just started doing some outdoor climbing. It has become a big part of our lives.

    The truth is our son is almost 16 years old and we were not planning for a baby. But surprise, I just got the news I am 6 weeks along! We are all excited but I am also a little sad as I am in the best shape of my life and I really enjoy climbing. So I am trying to learn all I can about climbing and pregnancy. Thank you for all this info there really isn’t much out there.

    So my question is do you have a recommendation for a full-body harness? Is there a brand/style that you have found works best?


    • Erica

      Congrats on your bundle of (surprise) love! I hope you find some of the info helpful. As for a harness, I used the Mountain Mama one. I reviewed it here: They also have great maternity wear. Check out some of the other posts under the “pregnancy” tag if you haven’t already done so. There will be links for good gear rec’s as well as workout ideas and such. Thanks again for reaching out – don’t worry climbing totally doesn’t have to end just b/c a baby enters the picture !!!!! Take care 🙂

  43. stella


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  44. Jenn

    Hey fellow climbing mammas!
    Just wanted to say how inspiring it is to hear about everyone’s climbing experiences while pregnant!
    Currently I am 22 weeks into my first pregnancy and have invested in the mad rock mountain momma harness! My only concern is the diastasis I have been developing. I noticed that when I am being lowered, the harness pushes my abdomen to the appearance of “coning”.
    From my understanding, diastasis is normal in pregnancy but if your stomach starts to “cone” in the center then you are putting unnecessary pressure on the tendons in the middle connecting your muscles.
    Has anyone else experienced this? When I am being lowered I am trying to relax my core to prevent the coning but it is happening regardless. I am concerned about overstretching
    the diastasis and preventing the development of anything worst like a hernia. Does anyone have any suggestions or have a solution when adapting to a pregnancy harness?


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