So you ‘re holding that little magic stick with a + on it that confirms you are indeed pregnant. A new family member is on the way and suddenly you start thinking about your lifestyle. Maybe you weren’t trying, maybe you were. Your mind flashes back to that long run you did on Sunday and a wave of guilt overcomes you. Am I harming my baby by running? Can I continue running?
Thankfully the answer is a resounding No, you aren’t harming your baby. In fact, there are benefits to running while pregnant. Yessiree, there are! First off mommy is healthier, and we all know that healthy moms mean healthy babies, right? But did you also know that:
- Exercise reduces the risk of preterm delivery Source: HealthDay News
- Running during pregnancy reduces fatigue, nausea, constipation and lower back pain Source: Act Now BC
- Maternity exercise may help prevent gestational diabetes Source: Science Daily
- Maternity fitness contributes to shorter labor & less delivery complications, including fewer C-sections Source: BabyZone
- Moms to be who exercise also have less swelling of extremities Source: runningskirts.com
Running also has benefits to the baby:
- A regular pregnancy fitness regimen better prepares baby for transition from womb
- Pregnancy running increases blood circulation & placental efficiency
- Running while pregnant also increases newborn baby ‘s capacity to self calm & self quiet
- Regular exercise decreases baby fat without decreasing normal growth
- Cardio fitness leads to increased blood flow from placenta which supplies nutrition & oxygen to the fetus
- Mommies who run have increased fetal movements, which studies have shown leads to quicker development of oral language skills
Source: *Clapp III, James F. Exercising Through your Pregnancy. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1998.
That said, a study published in a British medical journal showed that there is a link between heavy exercise and miscarriage. Now if you ‘re a regular runner, then running isn ‘t considered a heavy exercise and can be done safely while pregnant. It is not recommended that you begin a running program during pregnancy if you are a non-runner. You can help to ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby you if follow these guidelines:
- If you ‘re a regular runner, the experts say you should be able to follow your usual program to a certain extent. Your program will need modifying as your pregnancy develops and depending on how you feel yourself. Listen to your body. If it says rest, then rest.
- Exercising to breathlessness can signal that not enough oxygen is getting to the baby. Remember to take it easy.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Even though you ‘ll be running to the washroom even more than normal, it ‘s important that you don ‘t dehydrate.
- Wear comfortable running shoes with strong ankle support and keep to flat ground. This will help reduce injuries and ankle sprains.
Here are some stop signs:
- Shortness of breath
- Uterine contractions
- Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking
- Heart palpitations
I ran throughout both of my pregnancies. It can be done. Just look at Paula Radcliffe. She ran through her pregnancy with baby Isla. She even ran up until the day before she delivered Isla. In my case, I found that the bigger the baby got, the harder it was for me to run. My bladder could no longer handle the abuse it took from the baby and I had to quit running when I was around 24-26 weeks pregnant. After that, I switched to the elliptical cross trainer as the impact to my bladder was less. Both of my labours were quick (4 hours). I strongly believe that my fitness level also contributed to my high pain tolerance which allowed me to deliver naturally without the use of any medical interventions. Yep, not even an epidural.
Running and exercising through pregnancy is possible, and also has many benefits to both mommy and baby. As with any exercise program, you will need to check with your doctor first as there are circumstances where exercise during pregnancy is contraindicated (ie: placenta previa, pre-term labour). You will need to tweak your program, even Paula reduced her training intensity. Given all of the benefits, I guess the real question is, can you afford not to continue running? Run on, my pregnant friends!
Photo credit: Clare & Dave