What you Should Know about Running While Pregnant
When I got pregnant with my first baby four years ago, one of the first questions I asked my OBGYN was if I could keep running while pregnant. Running was so much a part of who I was. It was how I got rid of stress. It was what I looked forward to after a long day of work. It was what kept me feeling like me. Quite honestly, thinking about giving it up for the next 9 months made me anxious.
My doctor’s response said, “Of COURSE you can keep running. Women run MARATHONS while being pregnant!”
I had no plans of running a marathon, but hearing that I could continue with my exercise routine put me at ease. He said the most important thing was to listen to my body. I could keep running as long as it was comfortable.
Regular Exercise during Pregnancy
It turns out that there’s been a lot of data that has emerged within the past few years that has established the safety of regular exercise in pregnancy. Unlike mothers years back were told, exercise has not been shown to increase the risk of pre-term labor or poor fetal growth. In fact, the regular exercise during pregnancy actually has many benefits!
I ended up running through week 36 of my first pregnancy. Some days felt better than others, but on average I was running 4 – 5 miles about 5 days a week and felt great. I also did lots of squats with free weights which helped keep my lower body under control. While my body was changing, exercising helped me maintain a sense of normalcy. Although I had no idea what I was about to get myself into with the whole parenting gig, I always felt at home when I had my running shoes on.
When it didn’t feel comfortable to run anymore, I switched to low impact exercise like the elliptical, arc trainer, and power walking. I exercised up until the day I delivered, and I’m pretty sure it was the yard work I did one late October night that put be into labor!
According to Dr. Cresta Jones, OBGYN and Assistant Professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, there are four major benefits from regularly running while pregnant (or other forms of exercise).
- Decreased risk of developing medical complications such as gestational diabetes and pre-clampsia.
- Better control of pregnancy weight gain.
- Improved general well-being throughout pregnancy.
- Faster recovery after delivery.
I personally reaped ALL of those benefits. All three of my pregnancies (including a twin pregnancy) were free of medical complications. I stayed on the lower end of the recommended weight gain, and besides the morning sickness and general fatigue that comes with most pregnancies, I felt fantastic.
My deliveries were all smooth as well. Don’t get me wrong, it was tough work, but because I had kept my body strong, I felt prepared to endure the marathon that is child birth.
If you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, I highly recommend keeping fitness a priority. I now have four kids under four, and exercising as an outlet keeps me sane on a daily basis!
If you’re curious about running during pregnancy, follow these tip from Dr. Cresta Jones.
How intense should your training be?
If you stopped in early pregnancy due to bad morning sickness, or haven’t been exercising regularly prior to pregnancy, consider starting out with three short sessions (sometimes as little as 5-10 minutes a day) of low impact exercise and slowly increasing from here. If you have been running, it is generally recommended that you maintain or decrease your weekly mileage, and slow your pace as well.
She also notes that,
…women who are overweight/obese or have high blood pressure or diabetes, regular exercise can be done safely and provide additional health benefits.”
How can you be sure it’s okay to exercise while pregnant?
“There are some pregnancy complications in which exercise should be avoided, and all runners should consult with their doctor or midwife before starting or continuing an exercise program in pregnancy. In addition, if you experience bleeding, abdomen or back pain, decreased fetal movement or any other concerns, stop exercising and contact your doctor or midwife immediately.”
Are there activities that all pregnant women should avoid?
Avoid activities with a high risk of trauma, falls, or collision – not only things like downhill skiing or horseback riding; this does often include running outside in the winter in Minnesota or Wisconsin on snowy slippery days! A fall on your abdomen can cause danger to your pregnancy. It is better to choose running on a treadmill or well plowed/sanded trail. With the increasing weight front and central, your center of gravity will also change and this affects both balance and coordination on wet and slippery surfaces.
She emphasizes nutrition and hydration as even more important if you are running while pregnant.
You also need to be very aware of hydration status and make sure you are increasing your calories to compensate for your long runs and your pregnancy. Pregnancy alone requires approximately 340 extra calories a day in the second trimester, and 450 during the third trimester (as well as an extra 500 calories a day after you deliver if you are breastfeeding).
Running After Delivery
After each of my deliveries, I was cleared to work out again at six weeks postpartum. It didn’t take long after that to get back into running and shed the remaining baby weight. I was so thankful that I kept running while pregnant because it really helped getting back into it, feel attainable.
I’m currently six months postpartum after baby number four, and I’m making a conscious effort to be in my best shape possible. I’m finished having kids and excited to be my healthiest version of myself so I can be the best mom I can be! Put the time in now and you’ll be so glad you did!
Did you run while you were pregnant? What other advice might you give?