This evening I was watching a news story about pregnant women and jogging and was surprised to learn that one of the women featured was nine months pregnant. I couldn’t imagine jogging so close to having a baby. At nine months I was waddling and anxious to give birth. The woman on TV looked fantastic. She was in great shape. This was her ninth pregnancy. Another woman received nasty comments because of a picture of her jogging while pregnant. She was called “selfish” and one person went as far as saying that child services should be called.
Is it safe for to run during pregnancy? I read on the Baby Centre website that it depends. If you ran regularly before getting pregnant, it’s fine to continue — as long as you take some precautions and first check with your doctor or midwife.
But pregnancy isn’t the time to start a running routine, according to Julie Tupler, a registered nurse, certified personal trainer, and founder of Maternal Fitness, a fitness program for pregnant women and new moms in New York City.
Pregnancy’s also not the time to start training for a marathon, a triathlon, or any other race, cautions Tupler. “The first trimester is when the baby’s major organs are forming, and overheating’s a real issue. If a woman’s core temperature gets too high, it could cause problems with the baby, so why risk it? Instead, train for the marathon of labor by strengthening your abdominals and pelvic floor muscles,” she says.
Whether you’re pregnant or not, running can be hard on your knees. During pregnancy, your joints loosen, which makes you more prone to injury. So unless you’re an avid runner, you should probably steer clear of this form of workout at least until after your baby arrives. For now, focus on exercises that are safe for pregnancy.
What are the benefits of running during pregnancy?
According to Zara Watt, who specialises in training for pre- and postnatal fitness, “Research and statistics show that women who exercise during pregnancy avoid unnecessary health risks to themselves and their unborn babies, and experience less labour pain because exercise has strengthened their muscles. They also have lower fat content and, more importantly, achieve a faster recovery following the birth of their baby. I’ve worked with pregnant women who also believe that regular exercise during pregnancy helped them with muscular tension, aches and pains, posture and circulation.”
On the Baby Centre website, the benefits of running during pregnancy are:
- It is a quick and effective way to work your heart and body, giving you a mental and physical boost when you feel tired.
- It’s easy to fit into your schedule.
They offer the following tips for each trimester:
First trimester tips
Follow the usual precautions, such as drinking lots of water before, during, and after your run. Dehydration can decrease blood flow to the uterus and may even cause premature contractions.
Wear shoes that give your feet plenty of support, especially around the ankles and arches. Invest in a good sports bra to keep your growing breasts well supported.
Second trimester tips
Your center of gravity’s shifting as your belly grows, leaving you more vulnerable to slips and falls. For safety, stick to running on flat pavement.
If you lose your balance, do your best to fall correctly, says Tupler: Try to fall to your side or on your behind, to avoid trauma to the abdomen. Or put your hands out to break your fall before your abdomen hits the ground.
Consider running on a track as your pregnancy progresses. Not only is the track surface easier on your joints, but you may feel safer running somewhere where you won’t get stranded in case of an emergency.
Third trimester tips
Be as careful as you’ve been during the first two trimesters. And remember: If you feel too tired to go for a run, listen to your body and take a break. Being sedentary is unhealthy, but pushing yourself too hard is also harmful.
Most avid runners find that their jogging pace slows down considerably during the third trimester — a fast walk may be a better choice as your due date approaches.
Never run to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Pushing yourself to the limit forces your body to use up oxygen that should be going to your baby.
Stop running or jogging immediately and call your doctor or midwife if you have any of the following symptoms:
- vaginal bleeding
- difficulty breathing, especially when resting
- chest pain
- muscle weakness
- calf pain or swelling
- preterm labor (contractions)
- decreased fetal movement
- fluid leaking from your vagina
In the news story, a medical doctor warned that if you are panting too hard, that means that the baby is not getting enough oxygen. I suggest that you check with your doctor before jogging or doing any kind of activity. If you don’t think it’s a good idea to jog during pregnancy, that’s fine but don’t judge a woman who decides that it’s something she wants to do. It doesn’t make her selfish or unfit to be a mother. She is trying to stay in shape and would never knowingly endanger her unborn child.
If you are interested in learning more about jogging during pregnancy, check out this site for guidelines.