Can I Go Canyoneering or Rock Climbing While Pregnant?

Canyoneering Pregnant

Can I go canyoneering/canyoning while pregnant? I’ve been in this situation myself- pregnant with months to go and not wanting to miss out on too many outdoor adventures with my husband. We go canyoneering or rock climbing every weekend so I needed to find a way to continue my favorite activities before the little one came. We planned a few outdoor adventures that I could safely do early on in my pregnancy and canyoneering was one of the things I was able to do.

Is it safe to go canyoning while pregnant? Is it do-able? It’s important to learn as much as you can before you make the decision for yourself. Read on for the details.

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be medical advice. This is only my opinion based on my experience of what you may be capable of while pregnant. Listen to your doctor’s advice; do not do anything risky for your pregnancy. If you are ever worried about an activity while you are pregnant, do not do it.

Always consult your doctor when in doubt and do not exert yourself over what you are able. Do not start canyoneering or rappelling while you are pregnant if you have never done it before. If you choose to go canyoneering while pregnant, take every safety precaution and bring experienced partners with you.

My twin sister and I were both pregnant in this picture.

Can I Go Rappelling or Canyoneering/Canyoning While Pregnant? 

Yes, someone who is pregnant can often reasonably go canyoneering while taking the right precautions. However, there will always be some additional medical risks in doing any outdoor activity while pregnant. Each pregnancy is different. Know your limits and capabilities and always be safer and more cautious than you think you need to be.

We’ve all had those friends that we know ski or rock climb while pregnant. Is this safe and appropriate, or are they being unnecessarily dangerous and careless during their pregnancy?

Consider the risks involved and be the best judge of what you may realistically and safely do while pregnant.  In this post I want to discuss the risks involved, what to expect if you decide to canyoneer while pregnant, additional safety precautions to take, and my advice and tips– I went canyoneering, rappelling, and rock climbing quite often while I was pregnant! Although, I wouldn’t recommend it if you haven’t had extensive experience before pregnancy.

Can you go canyoneering with a guide company while pregnant?

Most guide companies don’t have fixed rules about pregnancy, they will usually allow you to go during your first trimester and maybe in your second if you have extensive experience. Please don’t try to go canyoneering with a guide company during your third trimester. Before booking a trip, call the guide company and ask for specifics. Your needs may be beyond their area of expertise and training.

General Pregnancy Recommendations for Canyoneering while Pregnant:

Exercise is safe during pregnancy, and it is recommended. It is important to exercise during most pregnancies in order to stay healthy and provide benefits to your body.

Benefits of exercise during pregnancy include: relief of discomforts of pregnancy, better preparation for your body for labor, reduced pain and aches, increased energy and endurance, improved your mood, increased muscle tone and strength, better sleep, and it keeps you in a little bit better shape so it will be easier for you to get back into shape after giving birth. Exercising can help you relieve some of the feelings of nausea as well. Worth it.

Continue to exercise regularly (as you are able) throughout your pregnancy. The typical rule is if you were active before pregnancy, it is safe to continue physical activity during pregnancy. Now is not the time to learn how to go canyoneering or rappelling; but if you are already experienced you may decide to go.

I know a fairly serious rock climber who rock climbed until she was 8 months pregnant. She was able to do this because she was used to rock climbing and was very capable and knew her limits. She wore a different harness (see below) and climbed much easier routes than she was used to.  While I don’t recommend going rock climbing that far into pregnancy, most of the rope sports like canyoneering, rappelling, and rock climbing can be safe early on in pregnancy.

First Trimester Recommendations for Canyoneering

If you decide to go canyoneering or rappelling while pregnant, it is best to go during your first trimester. It is possible and fairly do-able at this point. You should still be able to use a normal harness because you likely aren’t showing much by now. However, you might look the same as before, but you don’t feel the same. Remember to take extra breaks and don’t do any new type of terrain or canyon. Stick with easier canyons and choose the safest path through.

My experience canyoning during my first trimester: Although it was a blast and tons of fun, I tired easily and needed extra breaks and plenty of snacks. I didn’t feel too different except I tired very easily and got so winded on any uphill hiking/scrambling section. This affects pretty much everyone and the increased tiredness is usually at its worse during the first trimester.

Don’t feel bad taking tons of breaks. One time canyoneering with friends I was not very far along into my pregnancy, and I kept thinking that everyone would know I was pregnant because I could not keep up like normal and needed lots of breaks, snacks, and bathroom breaks.

You can continue almost any type of exercise or adventure safely during your first trimester of pregnancy- some places even let you bungee jump while pregnant! It is during the second trimester that you’ll want to make some changes or maybe decide not to go.

Second Trimester Recommendations for Canyoneering

Early in the second trimester you may be able to still go canyoneering and rappelling. You still may be able to use a regular harness, but on a larger setting. Once your belly is bigger (around 20+ weeks), your harness could put some extra pressure on your stomach and baby. If you continue to insist on going canyoneering or rappelling, you will want to buy a full-body harness that does not pull or put pressure on your stomach in any way. See below for my recommendations on harnesses.

My experience canyoneering during my second trimester: I only went canyoneering a few more times during my second trimester. and had to start wearing some of my husband’s canyoneering clothes as I got farther into my pregnancy with a bigger waist!

I also required a belayer/spotter on the rappels and scrambles. I was very careful during the whole canyon and we did some of the easiest canyons we’ve ever done, but I felt so empowered and proud of myself for conquering a canyon while I was pregnant.

I kept thinking that this was a great story to tell my future baby, I wanted my little girl to learn to be adventurous and brave someday too. I stopped canyoneering after I was 5-6 months pregnant. It got a little too uncomfortable, exhausting, and difficult for me by that point (plus I couldn’t fit in a regular harness anymore and I didn’t have a full-body harness). 

Once your belly starts to protrude, it is not a good idea to go canyoneering. It is still possible, but not the safest idea past 6 months of pregnancy- your balance will be off and the risk of injury is higher. Even if you are experienced and an expert at specific canyons, take extreme care and weigh the risks and benefits at this point. A moderate scenic hike may be a better option at this point if you are craving some time outdoors and still able to do some physical activity.

Third Trimester Recommendations for Canyoneering

I recommend NOT to go canyoneering during your third trimester. You don’t want to be far away from medical professionals or doing something too strenuous this soon before your due-date. The risks aren’t worth it. If you can’t see your feet, it’s probably time to call it!

You may still be able to hike, swim, and participate in other appropriate and safer outdoor activities this far along in your pregnancy, but that depends on how you feel. Some more advanced rock climbers choose to continue rock climbing in the 3rd trimester and can safely do so especially indoors, but I wouldn’t recommend rappelling and canyoning outdoors.

Tips for Rappelling while pregnant

  • Use a rappel backup like a fireman belay. Do not risk a fall!
  • Triple check that you are tied into the system correctly and feel comfortable.
  • Be careful around edges! My balance was off pretty much from the beginning of my pregnancy.
  • Switch to a pregnancy harness before the waist belt starts pressing on your stomach.
  • Clear the edge of any rocks that could be either kicked over the edge or knocked over by the rope. Your main risk is impact to your stomach.

Other Tips and Advice for Canyoneering/Canyoning While Pregnant:

Bring plenty of water and food– You’ll be surprised at how hungry you get and you need the extra energy. Stay extra hydrated while you are out there.

Take lots of breaks– Don’t over-do it. You already feel fatigued a lot sooner than normal, take it easy and take extra breaks even if you don’t feel like you need it.

Don’t push yourself– Listen to your body. Again- be wise, don’t do anything your mom wouldn’t want you to do- this is her future grandchild after all!

Don’t try anything new– Stick with routes and trails you’ve already done or similar ratings. If you choose to canyoneer, pick a canyon much easier than your ability. Now isn’t the time for extreme adventures. You can still have a good time while knowing that this is well within your regular abilities. Take simple and easier routes for less exertion. You’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors and enjoy canyoneering while being very safe. Don’t be the first one through a route, go second or so and allow a spotter to help guide you through any tricky spots.

Use a belayer and spotter– Always have a belayer and spotter that knows what they are doing. Bring someone with you that can help you- hopefully your husband or partner likes to canyoneer and is highly experienced. They will be a good spotter and help you to be smart and careful. If not, choose someone else you can trust. Give them some ideas and tips of what you are capable of and where you might need some assistance. Have them check in on you regularly to remind you to take breaks, stay hydrated, and make sure you don’t go too hard.

Don’t carry all of the gear– Let your friends do that. It’s the least they can do because you’re already showing them up since you’re pregnant. Plus you’re already carrying the most valuable cargo!

Wear a helmet– You don’t want an injury on any part of your body. Choose smooth terrains without rock falls and loose rock. Make a controlled descent anytime you are rappelling or down climbing and don’t do any jumping.

Remember, you are not the same person– Remember that your body is very different from normal- your weight has increased, your balance is off so you have to walk differently, you tire easily, and you can’t complete the same tasks you once were capable of. It’s okay! You’ll be able to get back into it in a few months.

This is an amazing time in your life- take some time off and try to enjoy your pregnancy (as much as you can anyway). Be safe and as careful as possible, if you are craving adventure and some time outside, it might be best to choose a simpler hike.

Can I go Climbing Pregnant?

You’ve heard the phrase you are “eating for 2”, but how do you feel about rock climbing for 2? Rock Climbing presents some different issues from canyoning and rappelling. Many climbers find it possible to climb well into pregnancy, with certain adjustments.

According to many mama climbers (myself included), climbing up until about 6 months pregnant is very possible. After 6 months of pregnancy most climbers stopped rock climbing– unless they were really serious, extremely careful, and made some specific changes to their gear and climbing technique.

I stopped rock climbing between 5-6 months pregnant because my harness didn’t fit me anymore and I didn’t think it was worth it at the time to invest in a full-body harness. Instead I spent many weekends hanging out at the crag while my husband and friends climbed. I think I could have realistically kept climbed had I bought a new harness, but I enjoyed the time outdoors cheering on my husband. Come to think of it, I still do that at the crag while we trade off on babysitting duty.

If climbing is an activity that you did on a regular basis before pregnancy, it can be possible during pregnancy. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor first. During pregnancy, doctor’s typically recommend against activities where you could potentially fall. If your doctor is unfamiliar with climbing he/she will probably not be thrilled to hear you want to climb. Describe your goals and your activity expectations, but overall follow their advice.

Indoor Versus Outdoor Rock Climbing While Pregnant:

Indoor Rock Climbing- If you choose to rock climb during pregnancy, I recommend to stick with indoor rock climbing through the 2nd and 3rd trimester. This is better for many reasons including proximity to a bathroom- pregnant mamas know what I’m talking about with the constant need to use the facilities from the pressure on your bladder (keep in mind this also means you’ll also have to get in and out of your harness many times).

With indoor rock climbing you will probably also be in closer proximity to a hospital. It will be more comfortable because you won’t have an approach hike and you’ll have better places to take a break, safer climbs, no risk of falling boulders, etc.

I recommend avoiding lead climbing and bouldering because of the risk of falling and potential high-impact to your stomach. Top-roping shouldn’t really present an issue as long as the belayer keeps the rope tight.

Ask your climbing gym if they have any rules about climbing while pregnant. I’ve been climbing indoors while pregnant and seen others doing it- since you signed a waiver they should allow you to climb.

Outdoor Rock Climbing- Outdoor climbing is possible but just more annoying or unsafe for a pregnant mama for the opposite reasons I just listed (the approach, no bathrooms, possibility of less safe climbs and injury), these will just be a little harder if you decide to go outdoor.

Added to the list of possible complications of outdoor climbing is that crags are usually in remote locations far from medical assistance. That being said, not everyone is a gym rat and enjoys the indoor scene. Some outdoor climbs might be possible, and you can never have a bad day hanging out at the crag if you aren’t able to climb!

If you choose to rock climb indoors or outdoors while you are pregnant, there are a few important tips to keep in mind:

You can’t get as close to the wall. Because of your growing belly, you will have to change the types of climbs you do and your climbing technique, plus a full body harness will probably make you climb differently. I found this fact a little annoying, that my belly would brush against the wall, and this is one of the reasons why I wanted to stop climbing around 6 months.

Listen to your body and comfort level. Unfortunately you’re going to have to let go of unrealistic expectations. This is not the time to push yourself and be a superstar. Try to find a way to enjoy the climbing regardless of the difficulty. Staying active during pregnancy is important, but red-pointing a route is not a priority. If any type of movement causes pain, stop doing it.

Tone it down and be reasonable. Choose the easier routes. I recommend not to lead climb or go bouldering anymore, as the risk of getting injured on a fall is higher. Top-roping may be awkward with a full-body harness, but it’s best. And please don’t trad climb. You’re a different climber each week, so it can be fun to challenge yourself with the same routes.

Your joints loosen. Pregnancy causes looser joints as your body is preparing for changes. You probably should lighten up and not do any tough moves that are hard on your joints.

Swollen feet. This problem is common in pregnancy and can make climbing shoes even more uncomfortable. Borrow a pair of climbing shoes that are a little bigger.

Don’t get frustrated! Remember that your body is totally different and not capable of the same things. It’s okay! Don’t set unrealistic expectations. And if you just aren’t feeling up for it, it’s perfectly fine to time to take some time off and focus on relaxing for the rest of your pregnancy.

Mountain Mama Climbing Harness

The Best Full-Body Harness for Canyoneering and Rappelling and Rock Climbing While Pregnant

You will need all the same gear and supplies for canyoneering while you are pregnant, except you will require a different harness as your belly grows bigger (plus some extra snacks and more water).

A full-body harness is needed if you choose to rappel, rock climb, or canyoneer during pregnancy. This harness will direct the pressure away from your belly. It can be comfortable enough for climbing, belaying, and rappelling (if you already know what you are doing).

The harness goes around your legs, up and around your shoulders, and the tie-in is at chest level. Some people find them uncomfortable, so make sure you try it on well before you use it to make sure you find one that you like and is comfortable enough.

Here are my recommendations for the best full-body harness for pregnant mommas:

Petzl Full Body Harness (Amazon)

This is an adjustable harness that will keep you safe and secure. A harness like this will help you to continue to stay active more comfortably and safely during your pregnancy. This is appropriate for petite women and even taller women with the adjustable straps. It’s easy to slip on and off, comfortable, and provides peace of mind for extra security and safety. And since this is for men and women, if you aren’t pregnant I’ve heard these also work on men with beer guts….

Negative aspects: it can take some practice to appropriately adjust and figure out the straps around your growing belly. This harness doesn’t have much padding and can be uncomfortable during lowering. There are only a few gear loops and they are placed awkwardly in the front.

Mountain Mama

This is the favorite among climbers and rappelling mammas since it is made specifically for pregnant women. This one is ingeniously constructed to keep the pressure away from the stomach plus it has padded leg loops for comfort. It is very simple to adjust with wide and flexible webbing. You can still have a full range of motion and the open design easily accommodates a growing belly. Now you can say your baby has been canyoneering before they were born!

You might actually miss wearing this when you are no longer pregnant.

Negative aspects: It is often out of stock on Amazon, and if you buy it from the Mountain Mama website it can sometimes take a long time to ship (but don’t take my word for it, go check it out to see if there’s improvements).

Unfortunately, there are not very many adult size full-body harnesses available, other than ones for construction and other professional services. If you search for one, make sure it isn’t a kid-sized harness because a full-body harness is the standard for young kids. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe you need one of those too for your soon-to-be little adventurer!

When Can You Go Canyoneering Post-Partum after Giving Birth? 

Depending on your delivery experience you might want to wait a little longer after giving birth before jumping right back into canyoneering. Be sure to ask your doctor for his/her recommendations for when you can safely exercise and wait until the doctor clears you for exercise during your post-partum appointments.

Most doctors recommend physical activity can start between 3 to 6 weeks after giving birth. After this time, take a few weeks to make sure you are feeling healthy and well during exercise before embarking on a canyon that takes a half day to a full day.

Do dry canyons until you are completely healed up. No reason to risk bacterial infections. You’ll want to make sure that your pelvis area feels back to normal before you wear a tight harness. Build up your strength and endurance and then enjoy a canyoneering trip. Congratulations- you have conquered so much.

Here’s my baby now- she already loves climbing.

In Summary…

If you choose to go canyoneering during your pregnancy, go during the 1st trimester or early in the 2nd trimester. Only choose easy and short canyons well within your abilities.

Nine months seems like a long time to go without canyoneering and other outdoor adventures. It’s okay! Substitute some of these high-adventure activities with things like hiking. This is an amazing time in your life and it will go by quickly, so listen to your doctor and be careful with the types of activities you choose. You’ll be able to get back in shape and do more canyons in just a few months after giving birth.

When you do feel ready to go canyoneering again, start out slow with something easy and short, and don’t bring your baby…..

What do you mommas think- what was helpful for you during your pregnancy? Do you agree with my tips? Anything you would add?

Katherine Harmer

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a weekend warrior who loves rock climbing, canyoneering, camping, mountain biking, and anything to get outside. Also a cool mom.

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