Ah, the mountain air, the sounds of birds, the trail mix. Chances are, if you love the outdoors, you love to hike. I know my husband and I do. It is so meditative and freeing for us, but is it safe to hike while pregnant? If anybody deserves some meditation and fresh air, it's a pregnant person.
The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology encourages exercise during pregnancy, but hiking is a rather complex form of exercise with many components to consider. For one, you're out in nature. Nature has creepy crawlies and things that bite. With the Zika and West Nile Viruses, mosquitoes are definitely a concern.
A few questions to ask yourself: is it mosquito season? Are you planning on hiking in an area where there is or has been a known outbreak of Zika? Are you planning on hiking in an area prone to places full of standing water? According to the University of Florida, areas of standing water are some favorite dwelling and breeding spaces for mosquitos. Will you be uncomfortable in long sleeves and long pants? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended them for areas with elevated mosquito populations. Are you going to feel comfortable using an insect repellant with DEET in it? According to Obstetrics and Gynecology, it has a low acute toxicity and doesn't appear to adversely affect the developing fetus, but that doesn't automatically mean you'll feel comfortable using it.
Bugs aren't the only concern, however. Altitude is also a worry. According to High Altitude Medicine and Biology, altitude affects mothers differently. For instance, if you are from a region with a higher altitude, you'll be able to better handle the hike. If you're like me, a sea-level Sally, you would need to acclimatize first before being able to hike safely, according to the article, which takes many days, so if you're looking to hike on a day trip or vacation, this may not be possible.
Once you've chosen an area where there are no bugs and it hovers at just above sea level, how do you choose your course and stay safe? Fit Pregnancy recommended you pick a trail that is sure to be stable and straight so that you can avoid falling on your bum — or belly. The Seattle Backpacker's Magazine also suggested the use of hiking poles and lighter boots for the pregnant hiker to help with both stability and comfort.
Medically, dehydration is a real problem during pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association, so make sure you're getting plenty of fluids. Which means you should also map your route for areas to stop to use the bathroom. Also, you don't want to get out on your hike only to feel tired and cranky because you haven't eaten properly. The Springer Handbook of Nutrition and Pregnancy recommended fueling with carbohydrates. So maybe not trail mix. Maybe chocolate granola with no raisins. Raisins ruin granola.
If the proper precautions are taken, and you consult your physician for the OK, there's no reason not to go take a hike. Enjoy the fresh air and quiet before baby comes. (It may be a while before you experience it again.)