Mothers In Motion
by Lisa Unger
Is it OK to run while pregnant?
Most people that run, either for competition or general fitness purposes, find that they experience a degree of “addiction” to the activity. There have been many books and articles published about this phenomenon, and it is certainly not a foreign concept to anyone who participates in the sport. There is also much information available about what to do when a runner simply cannot continue to run due to injury or illness. It may be very difficult for a long time runner to stop running for a few weeks or months even if it is in their best interest. Is pregnancy a condition that should cause one to cease running? According to doctors, midwives, newspaper and magazine publications, books and others who have been there, the answer is a resounding no.
All of the GWTC women surveyed who ran or exercised throughout their pregnancies agreed that running/exercise made them feel better about themselves and that it seemed to ease some of the common pregnancy “ailments”. One GWTC mother said, “Running made me feel better. I’d return home feeling a little less bloated and emotionally much happier about my new curvaceous self.” Another mom remembered that each time she put on her shoes to go for her run she had to tie the laces loosely. By the time she covered about a mile she would notice her feet reduced in size as some of the swelling dissipated and she would have to stop to re-tie the laces. Sometimes, she said, she would have to adjust the laces three or four times during her run as her feet returned to “normal” size. GWTC member Lisa Whitworth believes that running through her pregnancy “made a major difference” and that she had “an easy one and a half hour labor” and “felt great”. An easy labor? Is there really such a thing? (Well, maybe that’s like her “easy 20 minute 5k”, something most of us can only wish for!) But Lisa describes her pregnancy in a very positive manner and emphatically attributes running to her experience. Similarly, Stephanie Liles recalls that, “Running was wonderful for my pregnancy. I didn’t feel fat and bloated and had a lot of energy. I had very little pain during labor and delivery and I’m sure it was from keeping in great shape.” Not all exercise came in the form of running for some GWTC moms. Some women walked, swam and rode stationary bikes. However, the results were all the same. Healthier moms produced healthier babies.
The writers at Runners’ World agree that running and exercising through pregnancy provides positive results for both mom and baby. Runners’ World advises that if you were a regular runner before you became pregnant, you might have a bigger baby–that’s good news since larger infants tend to be stronger and weather physical adversity better. The researchers at Columbia University found that women who burned up to 1,000 calories a week through exercise gave birth to infants weighing 5% more than the offspring of inactive moms. Those who burned 2,000 calories per week delivered babies weighing 10% more. Some women may be concerned about the effect that running has on their bodies as they change throughout pregnancy. Runners’ World advises that running does not make your breasts sag or make your uterus collapse. In fact, running tightens and firms all the muscles it uses, so it will help prevent sagging rather than cause it. There are no recorded cases of running resulting in a fallen uterus (or any other organ for that matter).
Just like every woman is different, every pregnancy varies. Just because one mom is able to run right up to the day before delivery does not mean that all moms will be able to, or even want to. The evidence is clear, though, that running and exercising during pregnancy is definitely OK and should be encouraged for those who exercised regularly before pregnancy.