Pregnancy comes with some clear do’s and don’ts, as well as some ambiguous areas.
One is driving, which is typically safe provided you’re comfortable and not fatigued.
Another grey area is skiing or snowboarding, and whether you’re an avid fan of the slopes or just considering your first-ever ski trip, there’s probably a burning question on your mind right now: is it safe – or indeed wise – for a pregnant woman to go skiing?
The answer really depends on your level of proficiency, as well as how much risk you are comfortable taking.
The line from many doctors is that skiing during pregnancy is not a risk that’s worth taking and therefore best avoided, but there are other people who believe the risks are minimal provided the necessary precautions are taken, implying it’s an activity you can do.
Let’s find out more, so you can make the right decision for you.
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Can I Ski While Pregnant?
The first thing to be aware of is that there are certain activities such as scuba diving that women are advised to avoid during pregnancy.
What Do The Experts Say?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the NHS have both created a list of activities that should be avoided during pregnancy, and these two in particular are noteworthy:
- Activities that may result in a fall or lead you to be thrown off balance (for example horseback riding).
- Activities performed above 6,000 feet (1,800m), unless you do not already live at a high altitude.
So if you want to follow this guidance by the letter, then you may wish to put that ski vacation on hold until after your little one is born.
Why Do Experts Recommend You Avoid Skiing?
Let’s take a closer look at why activities that may result in a fall, and spending time at high altitudes, are unadvised during pregnancy.
It’s reassuring to know that your body is designed to protect your developing baby during pregnancy, and the thick walls of your uterus do a good job of protecting your baby, along with amniotic fluid that serves as a cushion.
As a result, minor falls during early pregnancy are typically not of concern, but falls during the latter parts of the second trimester and in the early part of your third trimester could be harmful to both mom and baby.
Medical experts recommend pregnant women avoid high altitude, especially because women respond differently to high altitudes and in many cases you can experience exaggerated breathlessness and palpitations.
This is a particular concern because common symptoms of mountain sickness (like headaches and nausea) are also pregnancy side-effects, meaning it’s difficult to distinguish between the two and you may not realize exactly what negative effects the altitude is having on you.
Are There Any Exceptions?
As with many things in life, a one-size-fits-all recommendation is not always appropriate.
What if you’re a highly experienced skier, the slopes are empty and you’re very used to altitude for example?
This is where you may want to make a decision that you are comfortable with, once you’re aware of the facts and how risks can be reduced (unfortunately they can’t be eliminated completely).
How To Make Skiing Safer While Pregnant
As we mentioned above, there will always be some level or risk if you decide to hit the slopes during your pregnancy.
However, there are certainly some things you can do to make the risks lower, so let’s take a look at these now.
- Speak with your doctor or midwife. These are medical experts who will be able to give the best advice that is tailored to you and your situation. Given the advice from the ACOG and NHS above skiing is generally not recommended, your first port of call should be to speak with an expert to discuss your individual circumstances and level of skill level.
- Consider your level of skill. If you are a first-time skier or snowboarder then it’s definitely not a good idea to hit the mountain, because being a beginner comes with a lot of falls. That’s just part of learning to ski or snowboard – almost like a right of passage! Normally this isn’t a big deal, but it is when you’re expecting because falls can be dangerous to mom and baby. If on the other hand you are a very experienced skier or snowboarder, your doctor or midwife might be more likely to give you the go-ahead, provided you take things easier than usual.
- Avoid the crowds. Just like with driving, sometimes it’s other people that put you in danger rather than your own direct actions. Typically the more crowded the mountain or runs are, the higher the chance is of knocking into someone, so skiing during the start or end of the season, or on a weekday, can reduce the chance of coming into contact (literally) with someone.
- Stay at a low altitude. As we mentioned above, altitude and pregnancy often don’t mix well, so it’s best to stick to resorts lower down the mountain. It might also take you longer to acclimatize vs your pre-pregnancy days, so consider giving yourself more time to acclimatize than you’d normally allow.
- Take it easy. Just like with other forms of exercise like squatting and lifting weights, it’s advisable for pregnant women to take things easier than usual, meaning you should pace yourself and stay at a level below that of which you were capable of pre-pregnancy. This is particularly important because the extra weight you’re carrying around will naturally mean you can’t perform to your normal level.
- Stay hydrated. Experts recommend pregnant women drink 8 to 12 cups of fluids a day (64 to 96 ounces) under normal conditions. But while skiing (or exercising in general), you’ll need to drink much more than that, especially as you’re more prone to dehydration while pregnant.
Skiing While Pregnant During The First Trimester
Skiing carries risks throughout your pregnancy, but it’s probably “safest” during your first trimester.
That ski trip when you are 4 weeks pregnant or 8 weeks pregnant is therefore less likely to be ruled out by your doctor compared to a skiing vacation in your second or third trimester.
This is because in most cases minor falls during early pregnancy won’t cause major complications, whereas falls later along might be harmful to both you and your baby (especially if there is direct trauma to your abdomen).
Can You Snowboard While Pregnant?
In this article, we’ve written a lot about skiing, so all you snowboarders out there may be wondering if things are different for you.
Unfortunately, all the same advice covered above also applies to snowboarding while pregnant.
As we’ve mentioned, the ultimate decision is of course up to you, but it’s vital you know the risks you can make the most informed decision.
So if you are skilled at both, then skiing might be the safer option for you during your pregnancy, but the safest decision of all would be to hold off until after your baby is born.
To wrap up, the ultimate decision as to whether you should go skiing or not comes down to you.
Only you know your individual circumstances, skill level and how comfortable you feel about going against the blanket no-skiing while pregnant guidance.
If you are thinking of going ahead, it’s best to speak with your medical provider first, and to do whatever you can to reduce the overall risks.