Sledding while pregnant

Here is some advice from a mother on whether you should ride while pregnant

by Trish Drinkle

A pregnant woman in a red and white shirt standing beside her sled.
Andrea Hand, a member of the Betties Power Sports Network, found joy in riding her snowmobile while she was pregnant. Heidi Henke photo

Many women can enjoy the fun of snowmobiling while pregnant. Your doctor may advise against this if you have a pregnancy-related condition such as pre-eclampsia of if you are carrying multiple babies. There are many benefits to staying active during pregnancy. Maintaining healthy muscle tone and positive emotions and preventing gestational diabetes are all attributed to healthy exercise during pregnancy. 

I enjoyed sledding throughout all my pregnancies and I spent many years as a doula so I’ve thought long and hard about this topic. When Andrea Hand, one of our Betties Power Sports Network members, became pregnant, we all realized how little information was out there for shredding mommas. 

I have four beautiful children who were little in-my-belly braaapers. I needed to ride. My mind and body needed that little bit of woohoo-ness to keep me balanced and happy. Riding is in my soul and I feel it helped me to stay positive and healthy throughout all four pregnancies. It was such a joy riding with Hand during her pregnancy.

We all love our “Baby Momma.” She showed extreme caution, while still getting her groove on. The moment she was in need of help, all of us ladies were there at the speed of light to lend a hand. Her husband, who was always close by, just glowed with pride. His love and admiration of his pregnant wife was apparent to everyone around. She is an amazing and strong woman who absolutely was the poster woman for in-the-belly baby brappin’. Hand has now hung up her sledding boots as she awaits the final days of her pregnancy. We are all eager to see our little baby Bettie. 

Here are some tips for snowmobiling during pregnancy: 

  • Check with your doctor or prenatal health-care provider before continuing your braaap time. If you are a first-time braaper, it’s best to save the first sledding experience for a time when you aren’t pregnant; muscles that are used to riding will have a better time transitioning during pregnancy months. Your doctor may advise against sledding if you have a pregnancy-related condition, such as pre-eclampsia, a history of pregnancy complications or if you are carrying multiples.
  • Do not attempt jumps and drops that could compromise your pregnancy. Sudden impact could pose danger to you and your baby. Generally, the baby is cushioned in the amniotic sac. However, a hard blow to your belly could damage the placenta and affect the baby’s blood and oxygen supply. No matter if your pride or ego could suffer, do not attempt to lift or pull your sled if you have become stuck. You and your baby are a treasure. You are loved, remember that. Your ride buds will have no problem getting you unstuck. Tap ’er cool, Lady. 
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids to keep you and baby happy. Eat small meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar level balanced, nausea at bay and your energy level up. Almonds, dried fruit and other quick energy foods are excellent choices for snacks while riding. 
  • Avoid extreme elevations your body is not used to. Since pregnancy creates a lower than normal blood pressure, you could be more susceptible to dizzy spells and fainting if over-exerted or if you change positions too quickly. Pregnancy makes you shorter of breath at sea level, so understand that higher elevations will magnify this. Continuing to ride your usual terrain and elevation is fine, but to ride in elevations your body is not accustomed to will pose too much of a stress on you and your baby. Use common sense. Headaches, extreme shortness of breath and nausea are all indicators that you are out of your elevation comfort zone. 
  • Leave plenty of time to get on and off the mountain. A rushed pace can invite a spill and leaving the mountain too late can invite danger. Keep it relaxed and choose riding people who respect your desire for safety. Do not push yourself to the point of exhaustion as you may have during your non-pregnant rides. You do not have that buffer zone to push and persevere through. Ride till you’re tired, then rest. 
  • Choose waterproof and breathable clothing that keeps you warm and dry and that prevents you from overheating. Extreme cold and extreme heat can be equally detrimental. Make sure it is easy to pee. Clothing that is not easy to pee in may discourage you from drinking fluids throughout the day. Dehydration is quite common in pregnant women. Increased blood volume and vomiting make pregnant women more vulnerable to dehydration—so when you add physical exertion to the mix, you’ve got a pretty sensitive situation. Drink electrolyte-rich drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade, to sufficiently replenish fluids lost during riding. 
  • Keep to familiar terrain. You need to know what type of terrain is coming up next. This is not the time to participate in the incredible journey. The consequences are absolutely not worth it, if you accidentally tumble down an unexpected steep slope. You will be clumsier—your growing belly causes your weight to be shifted forward and hormones, such as relaxin, which help ligaments to stretch, will make you naturally off balance. Keep your rides easy and undemanding.
  • Listen to your body. Your body knows. If you feel any signs of discomfort, pain or uneasiness, it’s time to call it a day. Generally, in the first trimester of pregnancy, the baby is protected by your pelvic bones. Once entering the last trimester of pregnancy, the baby no longer has that protection. It is imperative to keep this in mind so you can keep your baby protected from harmful impact from either trees, your machine or other obstacles along the way. 

What to watch for

Danger signs include high heart rate, dizziness or faintness, headache, contractions, bleeding or amniotic fluid leakage, nausea, shortness of breath, back or pelvic pain, decreased fetal movements and severe and rapid swelling of your face, hands or ankles.

It is not the end of the world if you skip a season of riding. While all of us she-braapers thirst for powder, if we must wait a season, or even part of a season, we have decades to enjoy the sport we so love and a lifetime to enjoy being a mom. Baby always comes first.

A matter of personal choice

Many mothers, myself included, have enjoyed riding throughout pregnancy. Vera Jansen, who is a pro snowboarder and sledder, shared her experiences with her husband, Slednecks rider Kalle Johansson, while she was pregnant with their little one. It always has been kind of a taboo subject. None of us really have come right out and said, “Yes, girls, go out there and ride when you’re pregnant,” because it is a very personal choice. We are both very passionate about being a mom, and agree that babies are the greatest treasure imaginable. 

Here is what Vera had to say:

“Although I snowboarded till I was six months pregnant, I was extremely careful! As a world champion freerider, I feel I have the knowledge to estimate the risk of falling. Having had someone run into me at a commercial ski area, I chose more remote areas to board. In the backcountry, on my sled, I felt so much safer. I would stick to the trails and cat tracks. KJ doubled me up very carefully so I could enjoy some mellow fun snowboard turns in the deep powder. It just felt so good to be out there.

“This was my choice to make. It was right for me. I think everybody has to evaluate this themselves. if you feel super confident in your ability to do something, you probably can. if you have doubts, don’t risk it. Only you know what you can or cannot do—exactly two months before delivery, we actually went and filmed our Avalanche Awareness video, so I went for a 60-kilometre sled ride and stayed out in the backcountry for eight hours, as the producer! I was so tired after that I slept the entire next day! If you decide to go out, make sure to bring more warm clothes than usual and especially those hand warmers because your body keeps your tummy warm and draws energy from your limbs. Looking back, the nine months went by pretty fast and I was back on my sled and snowboard in no time."

She added, “Having a family, as my friend put it, is the 'greatest adventure of them all' and I am so happy we did it! Nika is the coolest little one-year-old we can imagine and she has been bringing such joy and happiness to our home that can’t even compare to a million powder days in a row.” 

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