Cycling with contractions — would you ride your bike to the hospital while in labor?

Updated Oct 12 2015
Photo from Copenhagenize.

You know what I LOVE? I love riding my bike. You know what else I love? Babies. I think pregnancy is cool, labor & delivery is amazing (and painful), and getting a crazy red-faced screaming tiny person at the end of it is a pretty amazing thing that mammals do. In fact, the whole raising-a-kid thing kind blows my mind, and I'm two-and-a-half years into it.

You wanna know what else blows my mind? Women in Denmark regularly bike to the hospital, in the middle of contractions.

Uh-huh. IT'S TRUE.

John and Lina are a Canadian couple (from Montreal) who are living in Copenhagen. They let Copenhagenize blog the photos John took of Lina biking on the way to the hospital. They note that the hospital is only 1.5km away (.93 miles), but the idea of biking one mile on a regular day is enough to do some people in. Hopping on your bike and pausing only to endure a particularly rough contraction? Dedication.

I absolutely think this is incredible and awesome. It trips my little car-dependent American brain out (I did take the bus to the hospital when I was in labor, but feeling uncomfortable when sharp turns and contractions met up at the same time is nothing compared to this), and I like it. You can see the entire article (with photos) here.

What do you think: would you be able to ride a bike while you were having contractions?

  1. But I'm like.
    What if your water happened to break? Would that just be uncomfortableness on top of uncomfortableness?

    And how do you take the baby home? In the United States, I think you have to tuck the baby into a car seat.

    Nothing but respect for these women, at any rate.

    • You don't have to. We took Jasper home without a car seat because we didn't have a car at the time. No problems at all!

      • Interesting. I've always heard that parents were not allowed to leave the hospital without showing proof of a car seat, and as a non-driving person myself wondered how that would go down.

        • Yeah, it actually didn't even occur to us that we might need one until they asked to do the car seat test in the NICU. We were like "…um." And we told them we didn't have a car and had no plans to buy one (we ended up moving to somewhere that really requires a car, so now we do have one). We walked out of the hospital with Jasper in a sling and hopped on the bus!

          • That's so interesting–in PA, my friend couldn't afford a new carseat and hers wasn't up to code, so they provided one for them 😉

          • That's great! A lot of people in my town don't have cars, and some friends without a car recently had a baby and they still had to show a car seat to the L&D nurse to be discharged. Crazy, eh? (They said it was okay, really, as they do occasionally borrow a car from a parent or friend, but I was irked on their behalf.)

        • Maybe it's a state-by-state thing?

          Here, there aren't a lot of bus systems, so they KNOW you're going to get in some kind of vehicle. As far as I know, you're required to have a car seat that's up to code, or you're provided with one.

  2. That is awesome. I don't think I'd be as worried about getting there as I would be about getting home, though. I feel like banana seats and postpartum pads don't mix.

  3. i always thought it was impossible to cycle while pregnant – i assumed your center of balance would be way off kilter. learn something new everyday!

    • I biked up until week 37 and the only reason I stopped is because it snowed in late December and never really melted.

      Biking while pregnant is fantastic. As long as you're on a bike that you feel comfortable riding and you feel safe doing it, go for it. Biking relieved me of long waddle times and sore legs and backpain, it made every trip to the store easier to manage, and let me put groceries on the bike rather than carry them myself and it gave me some healthy exercise. I'd easily recommend it to every pregnant woman.

    • I rode my bike until around 8.5 months of pregnancy, when my legs hitting my belly and carrying 30 extra lbs. got old. There is no way I would have ridden my bike in labor, but much less so on the way home. Sitting in the car on the way home wasn't even comfortable! I admire these ladies, nonetheless.

    • I biked all the way through pregnancy when I was 18, then again when I was 36. Came home from the hospital in a car, with a car seat, but got a bike seat for the kiddo as soon as he could sit up, then a tag-along, then his own bike–no training wheels! All those years biking with me had already taught him to ride!

      I'm professor who always lives close to campus. Biking as transportation is a big part of my lifestyle

    • I think it would depend on what type of bike you are riding. I have a time trial bike that ride aero with a very forward center of gravity. I don't think a large baby bump (anything after middle of 2nd tri) would even fit in that position. Mountain, hybrid, comfort, and recumbent bikes would probably work great. Road and TT/Tri bikes I would think would make balance a bit difficult, though road bikes could possible be adjusted if you don't ride the drops.

    • I don't know about actually during labour but I was cycling my work commute (only 2k each way and cycle paths not on the road) until the day before my daughter was born. I amn't super sporty or anything and I did find cycling while pregnant to be MUCH easier than walking – especially on Dutch style bikes so your knees don't keep hitting your bump (like on sports bikes). My husband and I even did a long cycling tour in Spain while I was 7 months pregnant absolutely no problem. We just picked the most flat and safest route (cycle paths OFF the road) and took it easy. SO much fun and SO much easier than walking! I recommend cycling to all of my pregnant friends.
      We live in Ireland btw.

  4. UP until the point where my water broke, yeah. I didn't even realize/admit I was in labor. But after that? I could barely sit in the car as I arced in pain. There is no way I could have kept a bike upright.

    • Same here. I was 7cm dilated and had Vasa Previa…..and thought I was 3 months pregnant…awesome? Yeaaah.

  5. I'm actually hoping for the chance. I think riding a bike would be easier than riding in a car. On down hills you can coast, and you can stop and get in a some what comfortable position if need be. You also get plenty of fresh air. In a car you are stuck on you're back(usually)and have to deal with the confines of the car. You also have to deal with possibly getting pulled over in your car if you're driving a little fast or erratically because of contractions.

  6. while pregnant, I basically lived on my bike. So much better than walking!
    The birth center was only four streets away from our apartment, so our midwife said it would be good to walk there when things got started. I chickened out though after a few hundred meters and sent my husband for the car.
    With the contratctions I had, I´m not sure if I would´ve come down from the bike safely during one.. but if it helps..?
    The solution for me next time around: don´t go anywhere at all (but the bathtub).

  7. I rode my bike up until my due date. It was so much more comfortable than walking.

    I'm not sure if I could/would do it during labor. I had to be induced and I'm not sure how those pitocin contractions compare to natural ones.

  8. I drove my car to the hospital twenty minutes before giving birth. It was only a one minute drive, but I had to stop once – thankfully it was 4:30am and the roads were completely empty! I was 7cm when I arrived, so no way can I imagine sitting on a bike seat at that point.
    But, cycling while pregnant sounds kind of fun to me, and I can imagine biking to the hospital earlier on in labour. Probably not where I live, though – regional Australia is not particularly bike-friendly. I fear for my safety when I ride my bike. 🙁

  9. I rode my bike up until 15 hours before I had my son, for the full 42 weeks that I was pregnant. Cycling was way way more comfortable than walking during the last 3 months of the pregnancy.
    But, I live in the Netherlands. The infrastructure here is geared towards cycling. I have also lived in the US, and I would probably have been less inclined to cycle there during pregnancy. Hardly any cycling paths, people in cars are completely oblivious, and finding a proper bike on which you can cycle while sitting upright is hard. Non-pregnant, I could easily deal with that. Pregnant, I probably could not deal.
    By the way, I did not cycle to the hospital because I gave birth at home. I also don't know anyone who has cycled to the hospital while having contractions. I think that is because potential-contraction-cyclers are also more likely to simply stay home to have their baby, and thus only go to hospital when things are not going as planned. And in those cases, cycling is usually not really an option anymore.

  10. To be honest I think thats pretty freakin amazing!!! If the temperature would have been more reasonable, and if I would have even known this was an option, I totally would have! I live very close to the hospital (maybe a 5 min drive), so its not that far at all for a bike ride. Plus there are 2 firestations along the way, so I know if worse were to come to worse I wouldn't be lacking help.

    Unfortunately in -30C bike riding and ice are a little intimidating for me at the best of times. Not to mention that our city isn't bike friendly at all (I was almost hit by a truck when I was 12 weeks pregnant). Middle of summer or spring or fall though…sign me up!

  11. Gotta love the Danes.

    It's amazing what we see as normal. When I lived in China, people were often horrified by this off milk product called 'cheese', but couldn't understand why some of the people with us could be a bit sniffy about chicken's feet.
    on a similar theme, was a Danish woman in my pregnancy yoga class who couldn't work out why she & I were the only two people planning to have their babies at home. Go to hospital? To have a baby? Why on earth would you need to do that?

    Much respect for cycling with contractions, however- I gave up at 8 weeks as my balance is just too dodgy!

    • Tell a lie, she wasn't Danish, she was Dutch! She was still really perplexed by all this hospital birth business, wherever she came from! 🙂

  12. This is so great! If my due date were during a warmer, drier month I would definitely consider doing this. And for those wondering how to get home after baby is delivered? Um, There are always cabs. Or if you have a car, your partner could just go and get it. Preferably with a bike rack attached.

    I am 24 weeks and just did an 11km bike ride a few days ago, and friends and family were amazed and sometimes shocked and concerned that I would do this while pregnant. I can't imagine not being active right now. It makes all the little discomforts i'm dealing with so much better.

  13. I've actually been thinking about this, even though I'm not pregnant (not even trying to concieve). I live quite close (a ten minute bike ride on bike friendly streets) to the hospital, so should I get pregnant while still living here, I'd like to take the bike when in labor if possible. We have no car, I'm the only one with a drivers license anyway, and I'd feel very uncomfortable in a cab.

    But I'm not having a baby just yet, and I might very well change my mind about biking with contractions when it's my turn. I'm impressed by all who does it though!

  14. I rode my bike up till my due date, and it really was easier than walking. It seems to me that riding a bike while in labor might be easier than being in a car, because you would have control over what you are doing while in transit. If you felt a contraction coming on, you could stop and move into a more comfortable position if you wanted to.

    I think I would take the bus home…It was months before I got back on my bike, thanks to a 3rd degree tear.

  15. Awesome but I can't imagine riding during contractions. I rode 7 miles a day to work up until I was 8 months pregnant with my first baby. Today I am 40 wks 5 days with my second baby (come soon! come soon!) and I rode my bike a few weeks ago. I couldn't breathe and I ride upright. I can't imagine riding a bike if I had to lean over AND have contractions. Good job!

  16. I think I would prefer to ride a bike to the hospital. You could stop and get off the bike during a contraction and do whatever ya needed to do. WAY BETTER! I rode in the front of the van on the way to the hospital about a month ago – with a bucket in between my legs and contractions ALL the way – No fun! It was most uncomfortable after laboring for many hours at home.

  17. This is awesome! I am 8 1/2 months pregnant and still ride my bike every day, it is a world full of pro's and wish it was more acceptable in the uk as in copenhagen! I will attempt to change this.. 🙂 Congratulations to the awesome family x

  18. I rode my bike (with very weak brakes) down a big hill into a grassy park to tell my labor coach I thought it was time to go, back in the days before cell phones. No big deal, as I was accustomed to riding to and from class every day, but the other moms she was down there with got very excited feeling my tummy tighten up with contractions. If anything, I think it helped me feel better. I like biking through menstrual cramps too.

  19. Pre-water breaking, maybe. Afterward? No way. Maybe if the next one's a summer baby, we'll consider the biking thing. I do live just a mile or so from the hospital.

  20. This post and the comments have inspired me! I'm going to keep riding as long as I can – I might even try to get to the hospital, as long as it's at night (rush hour is a bit insane here – I'll probably take a cab or bus instead)

  21. I had really bad SPD so it wouldve been impossible.. but yea we have no car and was tempted to do public transport.. luckily we had enough money for a taxi as bub arrived after a 2 hour labour!

  22. I have no idea where I will be living when/if I have children, but I absolutely love the idea of riding my bike to the hospital. Unfortunately, most places in Norway are far from a hospital, so I probably won't get the chance. One can always hope, though ^^
    Also, I giggled a bit at the fact that you have to show a car seat that is up to code before you can take your baby home in some states. Not because it's ridiculous, but because it sounds to typically American.

  23. Thank you! Just had my first pre-natal doctors appointment today and the only thing she said about safety was "stop cycling". I couldn't believe it. Cycling is the best exercise I get and the best way for me to get around. Yes, I had a horrible cycling related head injury just 16 months ago, but the health benefits far outweigh the risks for me. How timely that I found this post today! It'll give me the boost to keep riding, at least until the Toronto winter hits.

  24. Interesting!
    This would probably only be safe in countries like Denmark where there are less cars on the road (I often find bike riding on our busy roads hairy enough when I'm not in labour!) BUT I bet that kind of cycling exercise would be great for getting baby into a good position and progressing labour.
    Any midwives want to weigh in?

  25. And I thought I was a bad-ass when I fell off my bike on my way to work, broke and dislocated my arm, and pushed the bike home while fighting off shock.

    (Granted, I was only 4 – 5 blocks away and my husband was still home and could drive me to the ER, but I wasn't going call 911 and risk leaving my ride behind — I LOVE that bike!)

    But bicycling through contractions? That is some hardcore Dothraki sh*t, right there.

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