Extreme pregnancy: maternal physical activity at Everest Base Camp

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Aug 1;125(2):580-585. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00146.2018. Epub 2018 May 10.


High-altitude natives employ numerous physiological strategies to survive and reproduce. However, the concomitant influence of altitude and physical activity during pregnancy has not been studied above 3,700 m. We report a case of physical activity, sleep behavior, and physiological measurements on a 28-yr-old third-trimester pregnant native highlander (Sherpa) during ascent from 3,440 m to Everest Base Camp (~5,300 m) over 8 days in the Nepal Himalaya and again ~10 mo postpartum during a similar ascent profile. The participant engaged in 250-300 min of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day during ascent to altitude while pregnant, with similar volumes of moderate to vigorous physical activity while postpartum. There were no apparent maternal, fetal, or neonatal complications related to the superimposition of the large volumes of physical activity at altitude. This report demonstrates a rare description of physical activity and ascent to high altitude during pregnancy and points to novel questions regarding the superimposition of pregnancy, altitude, and physical activity in high-altitude natives.

Keywords: Sherpa; high-altitude ascent; physical activity guidelines; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adult
  • Altitude
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Expeditions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mountaineering / physiology
  • Nepal
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third / physiology*