We interviewed climbing moms across the country (US only) and read everything we could find on the internet about climbing while pregnant to create this post. As you’ve probably heard: every pregnancy is different. And, since we don’t know you and you’re specific situation and since we are not doctors or birthing health professionals, we don’t offer anything as a directive other than: Everything in this post should be discussed with your healthcare professional before making any decisions about how you climb.

This post is to create a space for expecting mothers and parents to find insight about climbing harness use during their pregnancy based on previous experiences. We don’t intend to set expectations as much as showcase possible scenarios.

Harnesses for Pregnant Bodies

At this moment (in 2023) there are currently 0 harnesses that are specifically made for, or marketed to pregnant bodies (a new version of the Mad Rock Mountain Mama is on the horizon). One of difficulties in designing a harness for pregnant use is that there is such a wide range of shapes and conditions possible throughout the course of a pregnancy. Along with the already wide variation in human size and shape, bellies and breasts vary in size over several weeks as babies grow, and where the baby is carried can also differ over time and from person to person, making it tough to make a harness that can fit every situation.

Essentially, we found through our interviews that choosing a harness for your body through the course of pregnancy happens a few times as your body changes and grows.

When we hear most people talk about climbing in a harness while pregnant, or using a ‘pregnancy harness’ they are usually referring to a full body harness. But depending on your body size and shape and where you are in your pregnancy journey, it is very likely a regular sit-style harness will adequately support you and keep you comfortable for a while until you outgrow it and move to a full body harness.

Smaller Waists, Smaller Bellies, and Early Pregnancy

Early on in pregnancy most of the parents we talked to had little issue continuing to climb in their regular harness with a waist belt and leg loops. The limitations to climbing in their normal harness seemed to be mostly in fitting comfortably around their belly for the first several weeks.

Some of the folks we talked were able to climb as long as 18-27 weeks until their harness simply no longer fit, or became uncomfortable across the baby bump under the belly button. Most talked about upgrading to a full body harness at this time, rather than spending money on a harness with a larger waist that they would likely also grow out of.

Another option that worked for one mama was borrowing a harness from a larger friend or partner and using gym rental gear that let them push off wearing a full body harness a bit longer.

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Krista showing off the baby bump and sit harness combo at 19 weeks.

If you’re in the earlier stages of pregnancy, looking for a sit harness that will give a lot of expandability is a great move, so look for one with a waist belt with the most range. Look for harnesses that come in sizes like 1 & 2 rather than S/M/L/XL as they tend to cover a wider range of sizes and can adjust up and fit you for longer.

Another thing to look for is a harness with a waist belt that has two adjustment buckles. This can help keep your belay loop and tie-in points centered on your belly, allowing the padding on the hip belt to stay in it’s most comfortable position. The Corax from Petzl (not to be confused with the Corax LT, which is lighter and less adjustable!) is a widely available harness with two adjustment buckles on the waist belt. The Size 2 waist belt goes from 29″ up to 42″(76-107cm) and the legs expand from 21″ to 26.4″(54-67cm).

Again, it’s important to talk to your pregnancy healthcare advisor about your individual situation and make sure they are aware of how you plan to climb and where your harness will fit and put pressure on your specific body.

Some healthcare professionals recommend against pressure on the abdomen in general or for certain medical conditions that arise through pregnancy. These recommendations seem to vary greatly depending on the person, so listen to your body and your pregnancy pro.

Middle Sizes and Middle Trimesters

Getting into the middle of the second trimester seems to be a pretty typical time to move into a full body harness that wraps around the legs and over the shoulders. As we mentioned above, this is largely to do with fit and discomfort around the waist and belly. Full body harnesses typically have much more room for that growing baby bump thanks to higher tie-in points and no weight-bearing webbing across the waist.  This style of harness also helps with supporting your upper body, taking stress and strain away from those abdominal muscles that are changing position and strength in preparation for baby.

When choosing a full body harness, it can be difficult to know exactly how they will fit without trying them on, and unfortunately they aren’t typically something that is highly available in a shop. A good place to start is at your local climbing gym, who often has commercially available full body harnesses for rentals. Starting off your research with even 1 data point like this can be very helpful when you start to compare models, and is super informative for helping avoid a feature you dislike or specifically searching for one you need.

One good/bad thing is that currently there are only a handful of full body options out there to choose from. We have a specific filter on WeighMyRack to help you just look at adult full body harnesses that can make the process a little easier. The differences between these models when used by pregnant folks are a bit nuanced, and again dependent on your body shape.

For example some harnesses like the Petzl 8003 tie in very high across the belly, which can be helpful if you carry your baby lower or have a taller torso, but might be in the way or pinching if you have a larger chest or are shorter.

In contrast the Edelrid Solid Full Body harness ties in quite low compared to other models, which can be great if your baby carries high.

Because no current full body harnesses certified for climbing has padding on the leg loops, it is important that the sizing is correct. This of course can be difficult to know just how much your size will change during your pregnancy, but you can do best by making sure you’re well within the height measurement for the harness.

Thankfully the range of most models is quite broad, so by simply making sure you fit in the bottom range for legs and waist when you start wearing a body harness is usually adequate. None of the pregnant climbers we’ve talked to have found much issue with fit based on the brand’s recommendation.

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A harness with a higher tie-in like the Petzl 8003 can help stay above your baby bump rather than across it. Amanda enjoyed her time in the 8003 all the way into week 36!

Most of the climbers we talked with who used full body harnesses found them to perform adequately with many finding them more comfortable to climb in than they expected (so set your expectations low!). The general lack of waist belt gives that baby bump room to breathe and twist side to side, something that climbing with a belly very much requires. Because body weight is distributed more evenly across the back, shoulders, and legs of the harness, most found the lack of padding in current models was not a primary concern.

The major difference mamas mentioned to look out for on full body harnesses was the weight distribution when resting or lowering. Because the tie in points are often so high and far forward your center of gravity is moved much higher, making it difficult to impossible to keep your feet on the wall the way you would in a regular harness, especially if you’re carrying a sizable bump. This means resting is often not very comfy and was compared to feeling like “hanging like a sack of potatoes.”

Lowering Tips: Ask your belayer for a much slower lower. Be vigilant at spotting protruding holds and volumes on the way down – and prep ahead of time to avoid bumping into them.

Belaying from a full body harness also takes practice, again because of the high tie-in points, so when you add in the belly things can get a little complicated.

Belaying Tip: Climb in a trio (or larger group) of climbers to avoid belay duty in a full body harness.

Everyone we talked to mentioned using a brake assisted belay device as a must, and a couple specifically called out the importance of safety checks and making sure to use both tie-in loops.

The Final Trimester

Towards the end of pregnancy is where we found the widest range of variability in our interviews. Some found themselves still climbing as often as 2-3 times a week in a full body harness, while others said it was simply not possible due to medical reasons, nausea, swollen feet, or simply because their baby had gotten too big and pushed them too far from the wall. No one we talked to was able to use a traditional sit harness at this stage and had all either moved into a full body harness, or had stopped rope climbing completely.

A couple have mentioned increasing discomfort in a body harness as their bellies grew sideways, which created pressure points on their sides and abdomens. Another consideration that was mentioned is increased breast size lead to at least one person needing to tie-in with a super big loop to keep the harness from squeezing and pinching the sides of their breasts.

Overall, the home-stretch guidance from our interviewees was to expect the fit of a full body harness to change in the final 10 or so weeks of pregnancy and be open to the idea that it might be time to put roped climbing away until after your kiddos arrive.

Depending on your body and level of fitness, climbing right up to your due date (and even past it with one mama) is very possible, though you should expect to modify how often, how hard, and for how long you expect to be up on a wall. Many we talked to expressed a new found enjoyment of low-level bouldering and wall traversing as a means to keep their hands strong and increase their footwork.

We’ll say it again: keep in constant communication with your doc about what you’re up to and how it changes and feels.

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Krista was able to climb a few days past her due date (here she is at week 35 absolutely crushing it) using the now discontinued Mountain Mama harness from Mad Rock

Embracing Change

When it comes to choosing a climbing harness for a pregnant body, it is helpful to keep in mind that as your body changes, your harness often must change as well. Like a lot of things during pregnancy, knowing when these transitions will happen is unpredictable. The general consensus we’ve found is very much a ‘listen to your body’ approach and wearing what feels comfortable and good, and listening to the pains and discomfort as a sign to change harnesses, to transition away from roped climbing, or to stop climbing completely.

Further Resources

We also wanted to share some of the non-interview sources that we found insightful. These folks have either been through, are going through, or actively seeking to help pregnant climbers in their journey to stay happy and healthy up off the ground while they carry their babies.






As always, we also welcome you to share any thoughts, questions, or additional resources in the comments. Together we can help other expecting parents navigate climbing on their pregnancy journey.