11 September 2011

Cycling with Contractions to the Hospital

If you live in Denmark it's not unusual to have heard stories of pregnant women riding their bicycle to the hospital with contractions. We've all heard the stories. Today, however, Copenahgenize is thrilled to provide some photographic documentation. Our friend Ole of "I read Copenhagenize and sold the family car" fame hooked us up with two friends of his, John and Lina. The time came for Lina to give birth - the contractions were getting closer together - and the couple, who don't own a car (like 70.9% of Copenhageners) headed out to their bicycles. John and Lina are actually from Montreal but live in Copenhagen.

John and Lina have kindly allowed us to blog the photos that John took on the way to the hospital. It was only 1.5 km away but Lina had to stop a few times because the contractions were strong. The above photo was taken at 03:58. Head leaning on her pre-packed bag.

This photo was taken at 04:04. So the contractions were six minutes apart. I'll never know how it feels but having two kids I have a pretty good idea.

Like most bicycle stories, it all ended well. They arrived at the maternity ward of the hospital at 04:15 and baby Viggo made his entrance into the world at 07:19.

We're absolutely thrilled for John and Lina and they have our warmest congratulations on the birth of Viggo. And thanks to them all for letting us share their fantastic bicycle experience.

Ironically, there is this poster hanging around Berlin at the moment, says one of our readers, Michael. An election poster for the liberal party. It reads:

Q: "Why isn't the FDP (liberals) not sharing the dream of a car free city?"
A: "Because no woman in the world wants to ride to the delivery room by bike"

Cycling whilst pregnant is virtually prescribed here in Denmark and there is no reason not to do it. Beats walking by a long shot, easy on the back and it increases your mobility radius while giving you decent exercise. Above is a book called Pregnancy and Exercise, written by a doctor. The cover image says it all.

Regarding cycling as a transport form for the majority of cyclists, I found this text on the Netdoktor website about cycling and pregnancy. It is highly recommended by doctors in Denmark to ride while pregnant, right up to the end if you can. But this text says it all about how cycling is regarded in Denmark:

"Cykling er ikke kun en transportform, men i lige så høj grad en motionsform"

In English: "Cycling isn't only a form of transport, but also a great way to excercise."

I love that. Reminding Danes that cycling is good exercise, too. 

La famiglia *
Above is my lovely ex with our boy and 8 months pregnant with our girl. We actually lived across the street from the hospital so getting there was a walkable cinch. The midwife clinic was also across the street and there is always a long line of pregnant women popping by for a check-up. Here are some photographs of cycling pregnant in Copenhagen:

PregnantPregnant in CopenhagenPregnant With Number TwoWith ChildLa ReineWith ChildWith ChildWith ChildWith ChildPregnant and Ice coffee


Michael S said...

Wow. Thats a proof for the liberal party in Berlin to be wrong with their campaign right now :-)

election campaign poster

The poster reads:

Q: "Why isn't the FDP (liberals) not sharing the dream of a car free city?"

A: "Because no woman in the world wants to drive to the delivery room by bike"

Jean said...

Above all, I would like to read experiences directly from women who cycled to the hospital with her contractions when she was ready to deliver her baby (or babies, if any women had twins and biked over the hospital).

Giving birth is truly a woman's experience. It is best for any women cyclist wanting to cycle to hospital with contractions to read it directly.....from those mothers who actually did it. Not from a guy.

Riding a bike is a physical experience, and combined with birthing labour contractions..that is a physical experience no man will ever experience (or any woman who never gave birth.)

ian... said...

Wow - that's incredible!

Lost for words really but the 'after' pic says it all - a beautiful new family :>)

NIKDOW said...

OK, but did they ride home?

Kenneth said...

When my Australian wife and I (Danish) was having twins we rode 6 k's to the hospital in Copenhagen (Sluseholmen-Rigshospitalet). It was a planned c-section and considering she was most comfortable on a bicycle compared to anywhere else and that she had been riding everyday up until then, we thought we might as well ride on the day. We now live in Australia and are met with awestruckness and disbelief when we tell the story. I look forward to showing the video to the kids when they get old enough to understand (now 4 years old).

bikefish said...

I didn't bike to the delivery room because my baby was born at home - but I did ride my bike to work until the baby was due. This was 29 years ago, not exactly a trend back then.

shuichi said...

Congratulations the new baby!

Urm there are little pregnant women riding their bicycle in Japan although there are many Mama Bicycles for moms.

Mikael said...

Thanks Michael! I added the poster to the blogpost. Brilliant coincedence.

Jean... your comment is so alien to me living in a society that has achieved a high level of gender equality that I don't know how to respond.

Nikdow: I would not blame them for getting a lift home. :-)

Kenneth: feel free to send the link to this post to the non-believers! :-)

125cc Scooter said...

Hey is it true? I am shocked. I don't sea anywhere in this type of delivery.

Just a Girl said...

@Nikdow They walked home ;)

Kenneth said...

@michael: touché. Will do

Lina said...

First, thanks Mikael for showing interest and posting our story on your blog!

To answer some questions, we didn't bike back, but walked home instead. I'm not sure I would have been able to sit on the saddle and for the safety reason that I couldn't bike with only one hand on my precious cargo Viggo ;)

To Jean: My experience was great! For me, the idea of being in a taxi and unable to stand and lean against something during my contractions didn't appeal to me. I also thought that it might just help to be active until the end to possibly increase the speed of labor. And it helped that it was in the middle of the night so no one was in the streets and it felt simply just right to do it this way.

amoeba said...

I suspect that women who cycle regularly will statistically be likely to have fewer complications, because they are less likely to be over-weight and because they will be in better physical condition. As opposed to those women with a sedentary lifestyle.

wienerradlchic said...

Hej Mikael,

A very good danish friend of our's cycled to the hospital on her nihola when expecting her baby. she always told us she paddled through the contractions. well you danes are the viking people after all :-)

Jean said...

"To Jean: My experience was great! For me, the idea of being in a taxi and unable to stand and lean against something during my contractions didn't appeal to me. I also thought that it might just help to be active until the end to possibly increase the speed of labor. And it helped that it was in the middle of the night so no one was in the streets and it felt simply just right to do it this way."

Thanks for your personal experience! I know some of my sisters wouldn't have actually agreed with you. Hopefully you weren't in a marathon labour like some mothers I know, with lst baby.

Mikael, I don't believe I said anything inappropriate nor did I make an inappropriate request. Thank you. (Even my partner, also a cyclist-advocate has 2 adult children from his ex, would totally agree with me.)

Jean said...

And great for you, Lina that you could walk back. Some women can't walk far for a few weeks after delivery.

From the ever faithful aunt of 8 nieces and nephews from 3 sisters.

MatfordDavid said...

This story has been picked up by the UK newspaper "The Independent" in
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/harriet-walker-beware-the-scorn-of-the-twitterati-2353610.html under the headline: Forget the stork – this baby arrived on a bike

kiwehtin said...

Great story! Something that people don't often think about.

I posted it to the Yahoo! Carfree Cities group ("True Believers").

Christine said...


Respectfully, I think you misunderstand Jean's comment. Gender equality aside, the physical act of childbirth - contractions, birth - is still a female experience, and while I think it is fantastic for men to be impressed with, and report on, the practice of biking pregnant, I believe she was simply saying that she would appreciate hearing directly from those women were she to consider actually doing this herself. Nothing could be better than hearing women who have done this share their own experiences, as Lina has so kindly done in the comments. (Congrats!)

I hope that clarifies. No disrespect to the Dads. :)

Jane H. said...

I rode to my OBs office on the day that I gave birth to my youngest. I was starting to get contractions and wanted to get checked out by my doctor before I made plans to go to the hospital (sometimes you get false labor before the real deal happens).

I would have ridden to the hospital as well, but by then my contractions were coming about every 2 minutes and I didn't think I could make it the 7 miles without having her on the street! As it was, I had to do the return ride of about 3 miles to get home to pick up my bag and get my husband.

I rode during my entire pregnancy, most of the time towing my two older children in a trailer (about 100 lbs of kid). I ferried them to and from preschool each day (two 8 mile round trips) and also did my daily errands. The only trouble I had was that my balance got all wonky toward the end of the pregnancy. I had a really stupid fall that came about from me trying to maneover around the bike at a stop without stepping off the frame. This happened at a dead stop, not while moving. I was fine, as were baby and trailer-kids. My dignity was offended more than anything...

I am absolutely confident in saying that daily biking allowed me to have a better birth experience. I was in good shape, my baby was huge and healthy, and my recovery was no time at all. In fact, the resident M.D. who worked with my Obstetrician (a D.O.) couldn't believe how easy the birth went (completely unmedicated) or how large the placenta was. Both my doctor and I are convinced it was because of my daily biking.

Honestly, I felt better on a bike toward the end of pregnancy. At least I felt free and graceful at some point during the day!

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Alicia R. Ambler said...

While I've enjoyed riding pregnant, I recently stopped around 35 weeks. I live in a college town and I'm just too scared of the inexperienced drivers. It's a shame, but cars have kept me from riding more this pregnancy. It had been one of the best forms of exercise for me personally because it was low impact and fit easily into my regular schedule. It was also great for my expanding hips. I sure miss it and can't wait to get back on when the baby girl gets here :)
I can imagine that biking is very much preferable to riding in the car, which I understand to be the least ideal place to go through contractions. At least with a bicycle you're in control. Nice story!

Joyce aka Miss CycleStyle said...

I am Australian and I cycled throughout my pregnancy despite my obsterician advising me to stop at 20 weeks. We don't own a car and I found the bike ride good for my physical health and mental well-being. I was back on the bike a week after giving birth.

I credit my good health throughout my pregnancy and post-pregnancy with my daily, gentle bike ride - just riding to the shops, the post office.

Here's a picture of my cycling to my last doctor's appointment at 40 weeks + 4 days (yes she was overdue) and I cycled on the day I gave birth...but not to the hospital :) It was 10pm on a Saturday night and we live in a nightlife area.


Oh, and we walked home...and then have had our daughter on a Taga bike since she was 6 weeks old. She loves it!


Crystal - Prenatal Coach said...

Oh my gosh, I love this! Thanks for sharing the photos :)

Enci said...

So inspiring! Thank you so much for posting! I'm due in December and I bike every day in Los Angeles and I hope to be able to ride to the hospital as well. The hospital that I'd like to deliver in is 6-7 miles away. I have 3 more months to train for that ride. :-)

Anonymous said...

I live in London, and also cycled up to the very end of my pregnancy - it was much easier on my aching sacro-iliac joints. I cycled to most of my prenatal appointments too, but was driven to my planned c-section appointment. My son is 8 months old now, but I've not been back on my bike since giving birth. As a cyclist I have been hit by asshole drivers enough times that I am too afraid to take him on the bike with me. So now I have learned all the local bus routes!

Colin said...

My partner cycled all through her pregnancy, including a 6km round trip into the city on her due date to do some shopping. I remember as we climbed the hill on the way home she said that she felt that this would be her last ride until the baby was born - she looked a bit puffed. The baby wasn't born for another 10 days - a late arrival.

She found cycling while pregnant far easier and more comfortable than walking. The big problem for her was how to get around town after the baby was born, but before it was big enough to travel by bike. We ended up buying a cargo bike - coincidentally the Danish one that sponsors this site :)

alpharat said...

Here in Amsterdam, it's also the norm. My wife is still riding at eight months - although I think we'll take a taxi to the hospital!

Wolfgang said...

The Berlin FDP may now have to reconsider their policies. They spectacularily failed in the elections and now drop out of the town parlament completely.
The newly founded surprise winner (9%) is the pirate party demanding free public transport.
Which actually is a cheaper subsidy than current Germany car taxation vs. cars' public costs.

Even in a carfree city you could call emergency services if you don't feel like cycling to the labour room.
No excuse for cars there!

Anonymous said...

Hahaha - the FDP in Berlin had their worst election results ever (1.8%). So the slogan on the election campaign poster was one of their big wrongs in their whole campaign

Gwin said...

That's great. Now, how about getting some bike helmets? One accident resulting in traumatic brain injury = not good news for Mommy or Baby.

amoeba said...

Gwin said...

'….Now, how about getting some bike helmets?....'

Unfortunately, you have been deceived.

a) Cycling is an inherently SAFE activity. Any danger is primarily the consequences of external causes i.e. motor-traffic.
b) The science regarding the beneficial effects of cycle helmets is equivocal.
c) The constant and often mindless mention of helmets wherever cycling is mentioned, falsely suggests that cycling is dangerous, and this discourages people from cycling. In industrialised countries, people rarely get sufficient exercise and the health risks of NOT cycling are greater than the risk of cycling. In countries where good facilities exist and cycling is widespread, such as the Netherlands and Denmark, the risks are very low. In the UK, where cycling levels are low, the rates of obesity and the rate of increase are the highest in Europe. Obesity is a gateway condition to numerous chronic, life-threatening and life-long illnesses.
d) Motorised traffic threatens the safety of more than road casualties. Traffic-related pollution kills tens of thousands of people in the UK through air pollution too. By the same logic, people should wear respirators too.
e) Much of the 'noise' about cycle helmets originates from the car industry, as a smokescreen to blame the victim and draw attention away from the role of the motor-car.
f) There is some evidence that drivers pass cyclists wearing a helmet closer than those nor wearing one. It seems that wearing a helmet could make a collision more likely.
g) Since Cycling is less hazardous than walking, by the same logic, shouldn't pedestrians wear helmets too?

I could go on, but the widely believed 'facts' about cycle helmets, turn-out to be not quite what what most people believe.

Mikael did a video about cycle helmets.

amoeba said...

While not wanting to derail this thread from its original subject, regarding cycle helmets the following links may be of interest:





That's about it for now ;-)

Jean said...

It's nice to have articles ameoba.

I doubt I could ever convince one of my sisters, a emergency services doctor, that she advise her patients not wear a helmet.

Even less so, now that she is mother of 2 young children. How could I?: their hospital gets the accident victims from a nearby fast highway.

I can't ameoba, because my partner, a well-known cycling advocate in Vancouver (and formerly, in Toronto) was knocked unconscious for over 40 min...by an errant cyclist who did not stop in time. His bike helmet was cracked.

This was on a bike route in a quiet road area in Vancouver 2010...only 2 km. away from home. For a cyclist who has done alot of long distance bike touring, including across Canada....it just shows you that anything/unexpected can happen.

This is not to breed in fear factor towards cycling. But if a person wants to wear a helmet, let them. And don't razz them.

I trust drivers even less now, since some use cellphone, text while driving when it's illegal in British Columbia, Ontario, now Alberta. But the police are not enforcing this very well and they should since there have been injuries and deaths to others.

I will wear a helmet and I don't think that is discouraging others from cycling. I think by cycling regularily for past 18 yrs. and being car-free for last 30 yrs., sends a far stronger message/example to my immediate friends and others than not wearing a bike helmet.

Erik Sandblom said...

Jean and Christine,
Jean didn't have a problem with Mikael's story. S/he had a problem with the story teller's sex. That's sexist, by definition. I cite the comment below. Start quote:

"It is best for any women cyclist wanting to cycle to hospital with contractions to read it directly.....from those mothers who actually did it. Not from a guy." End quote.

I'm sorry if you don't see my comment and so don't get a chance to reply to it (this post is 4 months old). But I think it's a serious issue so I'm commenting on it now anyway.

Robin said...

I just wanted to thank you for this post. While I'm planning a home birth and won't be biking anywhere on our birthing day, I was inspired to continue biking while pregnant and am still (due in the next couple weeks). We are something of an anomaly in our area because we bike most places and I get some interesting reactions from people who have never seen a pregnant woman on a bicycle!

Fernando Sandoval said...

I think I will go with a taxi:)

Rebecca Albrecht said...

I am a few years late to this conversation, (2014) but here goes. I rode throughout my pregnancy in 1985 in Boston Massachusetts. I was planing a homebirth and so rode my bicycle four miles away to meet with the doctor who would come to our house for a new baby exam. That evening I went into labor and after four hours our baby girl was born. I don't recall people commenting on my riding my bike during my pregnancy. Back then no one yet wore helmets. I did put one on a few years later and wore it religiously for twenty years.