Cycling While Trying To Conceive – What The Research Says


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Cycling can involve some impact on the groin area. If you take a bump the wrong way it can hurt and therefore it’s reasonable to assume that it can affect your ability to conceive a child. So, I looked into the scientific research on this topic and today I will share what I found.

It’s perfectly fine to cycle if you’re trying to conceive according to a study performed in 2018 published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. The study found that regardless of whether a woman never rode a bike, rode a bike somewhat often, or rode a bike a lot, it had no effect on sexual health.

In this article, I will summarize the findings of various studies and describe the ins and outs of whether cycling affects fertility in both men and women, and what effect it has on being able to conceive a baby. On top of that, I will explain if it’s OK to cycle if you’re pregnant.

Cycling while trying to conceive

Can Cycling Affect Fertility

It’s fairly common when cycling for the bicycle seat to make hard contact with the area between your legs. The seat also makes contact with this area with a reasonable amount of force for extended periods of time.

Therefore, here’s an explanation of whether cycling affects fertility:

Cycling does affect fertility in men but not women. A study performed at Boston University found that men who cycle for more than 5 hours per week have a low sperm count, and reduced sperm motility (the ability for sperm to move under their own force).

A study performed by multiple medical doctors, and medical scientists found that cycling does not affect women’s fertility in any way (source).

As part of the study, they analyzed the fertility of 3113 women and categorized them into groups based on how much they ride bicycles. 

These groups are:

  • Non-cyclists – 34% of all the women in the study
  • Low-intensity cyclists – 53% of all the women in the study
  • High-intensity cyclists – 13% of all the women in the study

They found that cyclists reported more issues with their vagina, such as soreness, numbness, and minor sores from chaffing.

But, they did not have any statistically significant difference in fertility rate compared to women who were non-cyclists.

For men though it was a completely different story. 

Men’s fertility decreased overall if they rode a bike frequently

10 years’ worth of data from males who attended fertility clinics was analyzed and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility (source). They found that if men cycled for more than 5 hours a week on average they had reduced sperm count, and their sperm weren’t as strong and moving.

It was surprising to note that 25% of people who didn’t exercise at all had a low sperm count. Whereas, 31% of people who cycled 5 hours or more per week has a low sperm count. 

It was similar numbers when they analyzed the motility of sperm. 27% of people who didn’t exercise at all had low motility sperm. Whereas, 40% of cyclists had low motility sperm.  

Therefore, it’s very clear that, on balance, for fertility, you’re better off not doing any exercise at all, than to cycle for 5 hours or more. 

However, there are additional well-being benefits to cycling such as a better overall mood from exercising, and the fact that virtually everyone finds cycling very fun.

Female cyclist riding near the sea
Research has demonstrated that there is no difference in fertility rates between female cyclists and non-cyclists

Is Bike Riding Safe During Early Pregnancy

Due to the nature of cycling, the seat bumps against the groin region, and presses against it for prolonged periods of time. There’s a space in between where a baby grows and where the bicycle seat presses. 

But, it’s important to know whether it’s safe to ride a bike or not during early, mid, and late-stage pregnancy, this is what is recommended by medical professionals.

Stationary riding is safe during early pregnancy provided that you have been cleared to do so by a doctor. There are no conclusive results about whether riding outdoors is safe, and therefore, it’s best not to do it without first consulting your doctor.

The scientific journal, Obstetrics & Gynecology recommends ONLY the following exercises for pregnant women:

  • Low impact dancing
  • Aerobic exercises like treadmills, and pilates
  • Stationary cycling
  • Using weights or elastic bands
  • Stretching
  • Exercises in water – water aerobics

They report that if people do exercise while pregnant it has a range of benefits. These include having a lower chance of:

  • Putting on a lot of pregnancy-related weight
  • Gestational diabetes – diabetes caused by pregnancy
  • Early/premature birth 
  • Needing to have a cesarean birth
  • The weight of the baby is lower than normal weight

All of these factors are very positive and show the benefits of exercising. The main disadvantage of cycling on a regular bike – not a stationary bike is that there is a risk of falling off and having an injury. 

Due to the added weight of an unborn baby, a pregnant person is far less mobile and able to adjust to breaking their fall.

Also, the overall vibration and pressure on the hip region put additional risk to harm an unborn baby

In my opinion, both of these reasons are why the medical professionals and scientists who contribute to the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology don’t recommend cycling except on a stationary bike.

They also say to watch out for the following symptoms when you’re exercising while you’re pregnant:

  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Painful contractions that occur regularly
  • Vertigo/dizziness
  • A headache
  • Pain in the chest
  • Feeling weak on your feet – hard to keep your balance
  • Pain or swelling in the calf

Overall, these are all symptoms of doing a very hard workout. Which, while pregnant should be avoided. But, can also be caused by the extra stress put on your body due to being pregnant. 

If you’re ever done a Crossfit, P90X, or another type of hard cardio workout, you will know that they make you push yourself to the absolute limit. The same is true of some competitive sports. 

This type of workout should be avoided. Instead, you should work your body to an extent to raise your heart rate, and work up a bit of sweat if you want. But, not really hard cardio.

A stationary bike creates no impact on the groin region.

Instead, it’s only a leg, hip, and butt exercise. Many stationary bikes also have a larger seat that allows the butt to rest on it, relieving pressure from the groin region. And if you are feeling any discomfort you can ride it standing up.

Cycling is a recommended exercise during early pregnancy
The scientific journal Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends stationary cycling as one of the best exercises to perform during early pregnancy

When Should You Stop Riding a Bike When Pregnant

As you get more and more pregnant it becomes more difficult to move around, and it’s common to experience pain from the extra weight of carrying around an unborn baby.

Riding a bike involves sitting but is a great workout.

So, here’s whether there’s a time when you should stop riding a bike if you’re pregnant.

Overall, you should only ride a stationary bike when pregnant. Riding a moving bike should be avoided when pregnant because there is the potential to have an accident that can cause an injury to the unborn baby, or create complications during delivery.

It’s somewhat common in cycling to have an accident and fall off your bike.

Over the 9 months of pregnancy, the chance that you would have an accident is quite high around one-tenth of a percent. That means out of 1000 women who are pregnant one will have an accident. 

This seems like the odds are quite rare. But, all things considered, it’s best to be on the safe side.

It’s not every day you have a baby. And there will be plenty more time to ride a bicycle once your baby is born.

Can Riding a Bike Cause a Miscarriage

Riding a bike is very fun, and is good exercise. However, it can often cause discomfort in the groin area, and a minor miscalculation can cause strong impacts on the groin region.

So, here’s an explanation of whether riding a bike is OK when you’re, and if there’s a risk of having a miscarriage if you ride a bike when pregnant:

It’s possible for a bicycle accident to cause a miscarriage. However, stationary cycling is perfectly fine and recommended by medical professionals while pregnant. Any type of cycling that has the potential to cause an injury such as road cycling and mountain biking should be avoided when pregnant.

The chances that you’ll have a bike accident resulting in an injury in any given year is 0.14%, which is very low. This is about 1 in 1000 per year. The length of pregnancy is almost a whole year.

So, it’s safe to assume about 1 in 1000 people who ride a bike while pregnant will have an accident.

There are many different ways a person will fall if they have an accident. It can be minor and you’ll have a few bumps and bruises. However, in my opinion, being pregnant is hard enough. Without the extra difficulty of nursing an injury sustained in a bike accident. 

Therefore, in my opinion, it’s best not to add additional risk to making your pregnancy harder. And to use a stationary bike or other forms of exercise that get you out into the fresh air and nature, until after you’ve had your baby.

Can I Mountain Bike While Pregnant

Mountain biking is very fun and getting outdoors in nature good for your physical and mental well-being. Mountain biking is often quite dangerous and the potential for high-impact crashes is high. 

Provided you’re reasonably experienced though it’s rare to crash, so here’s whether it’s ok to mountain bike if you’re pregnant.

It’s not recommended to mountain bike while pregnant. It is not listed as one of the exercises that is safe to do by medical professionals. However, it’s perfectly fine to ride a stationary bike while pregnant. Mountain biking is an extreme sport and the potential for injury is high.

Mountain biking overall causes more impact on the groin and hip region than other forms of riding. Due to the fact that you’ll regularly be riding on uneven ground.

This causes the bike to go up and down and bounce around in unpredictable ways. And going over jumps. 

Can Bike Riding Affect Implantation

Implantation is where the fertilized egg becomes stationary and the new baby begins to form. Cycling involves a lot of vibration and sometimes impacts the groin area, therefore it’s reasonable to assume that it can have an effect on successful implantation.

So, here’s whether riding a bike has any effect on implantation:

Cycling does not affect implantation for women. But, it has been shown to cause decreased fertility in men that cycle a lot. The decrease in fertility in men is not very significant. Only 6% more men had a low sperm count caused by cycling regularly – more than 5 hours per week.

As a general rule, if you suspect you might be pregnant, then it’s a good idea to not cycle for a few weeks to see if you are indeed pregnant.

Then you should cease all cycling, except for stationary cycling according to medical professionals. Cycling is not recommended when pregnant.

Can You Ride a Bike in Your First Trimester

In the first part of pregnancy, your baby is still very small and your belly bump is just starting to form. Your belly bump doesn’t really get in the way during that time, and mobility isn’t as big of an issue as in the later parts of your pregnancy.

However, cycling does put pressure on the pelvis, so here’s whether it’s OK to ride a bike in your first trimester:

In general, you should not ride a bike in your first trimester. But, it’s perfectly fine to ride a stationary bike. It’s not recommended by medical experts to ride a bike that isn’t a stationary bike the entire time you’re pregnant.

A stationary bike doesn’t bump into the pelvis as a regular bike will. In some cases, the bicycle seat will hit very hard into the groin area which can harm your unborn baby. For this reason, it’s not recommended at any point during your pregnancy. 

There’s also a risk of falling off your bike.

The stomach region and hips are a very big part of the body so the chances that you’ll hit yourself there during a bicycle crash is very high

Also, recovering from injuries sustained during a cycling accident can put additional stress on your body and your unborn baby.

Sources

Martin Williams

Martin has been tearing up all sorts of trails on a range of bikes ever since he was young. He once cycled across France, and once fell into a canal on a hybrid. He writes about everything to do with cycling on our site. You can find out more about him at bicycle2work.com/about-martin-williams/

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