Fit or Fiction: Is It Safe to Run During Pregnancy?Posted on Apr 27th 2010 1:00PM by Liz Neporent
I've heard you shouldn't run during pregnancy. Is that true? -- Suzanne, Calif.
Although I had a long pregnancy, full of throwing up at the mere mention of chicken and one especially hormonal day when I cried for over two hours over a car commercial, running was my saving grace. Despite my big belly, I felt free and easy jogging along, even in the heat of summer.
My cousin Margie doesn't like when I tell this story, but one time when I was about seven months pregnant we went running together and I left her in the dust on the hills; it was a good moment for me, but for her, not so much.
Then, the day I entered my ninth month I was finishing up a run when I stepped off a curb and realized my knees and ankles were pinging louder than my heart. For the rest of my pregnancy I slowed down to a walk or stuck with the elliptical.
And that's the point.
Short of sky diving, horseback riding and other inherently dangerous activities, most workouts, including running, are inherently safe to continue during pregnancy.
In generations past, the last place you'd find a pregnant woman was in a gym or out for a jog, but now there's definitive science to show that most expectant moms can work out safely, as long as they use common sense and don't try to set a world record in the 100-meter dash.
In fact, we now know exercise is beneficial for both mom and baby. For mothers, it means fewer aches and pains, less weight gain, more stamina, a lower risk of developing gestational diabetes and an easier labor, just to name a few of the positives. For baby it means, among other things, a slightly lower birth weight, which can give a jumpstart to lasting vitality.
Does that mean running is good idea for every woman with a baby bump? No. You must be sure to get your doctor's permission before embarking on a prenatal exercise program; some high-risk conditions do rule out exercise altogether during pregnancy. Assuming you have clearance and even if you've never listened to your body at any other time in your life: You need to listen to it now -- and do what it says. You already know you're eating for two; now you must respect the fact that you are also exercising for two.
This means that you must report to your doctor any unusual aches and pains, excessive swelling in your legs, shortness of breath, dizziness or unexplained weakness. If you find yourself feeling overly fatigued throughout the day -- and not just when you're exercising -- take a day off and relay this information to your healthcare provider at your next appointment.
If you find yourself sweating a great deal, getting excessively hot, feeling faint, getting nauseated while working out, and/or becoming lightheaded, stop exercising, drink plenty of fluids, rest and call your doctor. If you have vaginal bleeding, fluid leakage, contractions or the baby isn't up to her usual acrobatics, discontinue exercise and notify your doctor immediately. If it feels bad, wrong or weird, don't ignore it. Again, call your doc! (See the ACOG guidelines for exercise during pregnancy and AOL Health's' guide to how much, how often.)
Many women can run safely and happily for at least part of their pregnancy -- but some women cannot. It doesn't make you superior if you can, or a weakling if you can't. Your baby actually has a lot to say about how your body operates during the time she rents out your womb. If you can't, don't simply toss your sneakers in the closet and put up your feet for the rest of your pregnancy. Find an exercise program you and your doctor can agree upon that keeps you moving until you deliver your bundle of joy.
And since we are talking about running this week, I wanted to recommend two terrific books on the topic. First, every mom-to-be and mom-at-present must pick up a copy of "Run Like a Mother" by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell. This book helped me get over the guilt I sometimes experience for taking "me time" for my run -- plus, the section entitled "This is Your Brain on a Run" was so funny it made me shoot water through my nose.
The second, "Born to Run" by Chris McDougall, is the most inspiring, entertaining book about running I've ever read (and one of the best books I've ever read, period). If this part instruction manual, part history lesson, part true-life adventure doesn't want to make you burst out the door in a full trot, it will at least make you want to live a healthier life.
Now it's your turn -- give me your stories about running before, during and after pregnancy. Leave your comments here or tweet them to me @lizzyfit.