BY CLAIRE CAUST-TAYLOR
When my husband and I decided it was time to have a baby, I combed the internet for logistics about how long I’d be out of the saddle and how it would change my riding life. I eventually got frustrated with the lack of information online and asked people I knew. However, friends will give you a wide range of answers. Some people stop riding the day they pee on the stick and some ride straight into the delivery room.
So, what do the professionals say? Dr. Patrick Schneider, MD, Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellow at NorthShore University HealthSystem/University of Chicago in Evanston, IL says, “I recommend that [women] should avoid riding during pregnancy if possible. The latest that I would say to stop would be at the end of the 1st trimester (14 weeks).” According to Dr. Schneider, there are very serious risks: “The primary danger that most concerns obstetricians and organizations like ACOG is the risk of falling and associated trauma to the mother and fetus that may occur.” The trauma from falling can cause “abdominal injury, premature birth, low birth weight, fetal demise, uterine rupture, and placental abruption.” He stresses that all women who ride should talk with their OBs as these are expert-based opinions based on the best available evidence rather than a universally accepted rule.
I’m a worrywart. So, the second I saw that positive, I asked my trainer to find someone to half-lease my horse. If you’re a professional who rides eight horses a day, riding in pregnancy is different than if you’re an amateur riding 2-4 days a week, and your physician can give you a more personalized answer.
Another of my concerns was how long I would need to wait to ride after my daughter was born. Dr. Schneider explained that most women could return to riding after “at least 4 weeks depending on the route of delivery… A cesarean section in general will likely take a full 6 weeks or so to feel fully comfortable for most women.” I went to the barn the day my OB gave me the go ahead at 6 weeks. I was so excited that I was shaking. But then, none of my clothes fit and my horse was a little off. Such is life!
Now for something that’s uncomfortable to discuss: post-baby weight loss. I gained quite a bit of weight when I was pregnant. I’m happy that I got back in the saddle so soon, but I also know people who are happy that they waited until they’d lost some of their baby weight. Because I was nursing, watching what I ate, and exercising in addition to riding, I was able to lose about 8-9 pounds a month. Different people have different metabolisms, so weight loss can vary by person. Dr. Schneider elaborates that “most women will be able to achieve their pre-pregnancy weight by 6 to 12 months” post delivery. However activity level, nursing, weight gain during pregnancy, and diet will all affect this rate.
This information is all based on one woman’s experience and one doctor’s opinion. It should not be taken as gospel but as general information and a springboard for a conversation with your physician. It all sounds kind of dire, but I am living, riding proof that having babies and riding can mix. It’s definitely different and in some ways harder (I just texted the barn manager that I couldn’t ride my horse today because my babysitter cancelled), but in addition to all the delights of riding, you will get the delight of a tiny human who will give your horse a million kisses and ride their rocking horse for hours!
You can follow Claire’s equestrian adventures with her horse, Pluto, on instagram @mdadultammy.