- 5 Key Tips For Running While Pregnant
- The Benefits Of Exercising While Pregnant
- But Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
- 5 Adjustments To Make For Running While Pregnant
- Put It Into Action
- Running During Pregnancy: 10 Guidelines
- What’s Enough…But Not Too Much?
- More About Pregnancy and Exercise
- Guidelines to Get Started
- When to Stop Running
- A Runner’s Diet
- Getting Back to Running After Birth
- Running While Pregnant: Dos and Don’ts
- How much running is safe during pregnancy?
- What about racing?
- Is there anything women can do to ease discomfort?
- What about fuel?
- Are there benefits to running during pregnancy?
- Is it safe to jog during pregnancy?
- Is Running Or Jogging Safe During Pregnancy?
- What Is The Ideal Running Regime?
- What Are The Benefits Of Running When Pregnant?
- Watch Out For These Warning Signs While Running in Pregnancy
- 1. When to stop running during pregnancy?
- 2. Can baby jiggle up and down while running?
- 3. Should I maintain certain heart rate range?
- 4. Is there any need to wear support belt?
- 5. Will I need any special gear, clothing or shoes while running?
- 6. Can baby kick and move while running?
- 7. Can running make labour and delivery easy?
- What are the benefits of running during pregnancy?
- Is it safe for me to run during pregnancy?
- Running tips for the first trimester
- Running tips for the second trimester
- Running tips for the third trimester
- Signs that you’re pushing too hard
- Warning signs when exercising
- Tips for pregnant runners include:
- Running While Pregnant: The Pros and Cons and Whether You Should
- The Basics of Running While Pregnant
- The Benefits of Running While Pregnant
- Safety First When Running While Pregnant
- Trimester by Trimester
- 5 Things I Learned About Running In The First Trimester
- WHERE I AM NOW
- Running Pregnant : First Trimester
- Tired, No Exhausted!
- Hunger vs Weight gain:
- Uncomfortable, Bloating and Constipation:
- What You Need to Know About Running While Pregnant
- First Trimester
- Second Trimester
- Third Trimester
- How Running During Pregnancy Prepared Me for Giving Birth
- Why it’s OK to run when you are pregnant
5 Key Tips For Running While Pregnant
Staying active throughout your pregnancy is important to both you and your baby’s overall health and happiness. Whether you are a chronic marathoner or a casual jogger, you’re carrying a baby, so it’s important that you know how to safely keep running. If you know what adjustments to make, you can stay safe and healthy while continuing to run throughout your pregnancy. Have no fear, we’ve written a definitive guide for running while pregnant so you don’t have to give it up for the next nine months, because nobody wants to miss out on those endorphins!
The Benefits Of Exercising While Pregnant
We all know the importance of taking care of our bodies and staying physically active. It strengthens our heart and muscles, helps blood flow properly, and improves mood. These benefits all remain true when exercising while pregnant. Staying fit during your pregnancy is healthy, safe, and highly recommended!
Exercising throughout your pregnancy can lower your odds of delivery complications and reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes. Staying active can also reduce back and pelvic pain, bloating, swelling, fatigue, and constipation — all common uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy. You’ll feel healthier, sleep better, stay strong, and prevent excess weight gain if you continue to exercise during pregnancy.
But Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
Running while pregnant is safe if you’re already an experienced runner. If you weren’t running regularly before expecting, do not start now. Your body is undergoing a number of changes and you do not need to add extra stress. There are plenty of other safe and healthy exercise regimens you can follow while pregnant, like swimming, walking, or yoga. Aim to get at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise on as many days of the week you can manage.
If you were an avid runner before expecting, though, feel free to continue running while pregnant. However, you may find that your typical eight minute mile is a lot harder to do. Pregnancy is tiring and your body is doing a lot of amazing work. Maintain a pace that you’re comfortable with, even if it’s slower than your pace was before you conceived. Instead of setting mileage goals, focus on the minutes you clock running. Remember, it’s not a race! There is no finish line, and there is no competition.
If you experience pain at any point, stop. Speak to your doctor immediately if you experience dizziness, headache, chest pain, calf pain or swelling, muscle weakness, vaginal bleeding, amniotic fluid leakage, or any signs of preterm labor. Do not try to push through any discomfort. Stop running and consult your practitioner. Pregnancy is no time to test your limits and prepare for a marathon.
5 Adjustments To Make For Running While Pregnant
Your typical running routine may not be as simple or effortless as it was prior to conceiving. Your body is changing and growing another human being. That’s a lot of hard work! There are some helpful adjustments you can adopt, though, to make running while pregnant easier and more enjoyable.
1. Invest in good running shoes
It is absolutely crucial that you wear proper, well fitting, supportive footwear when running while pregnant. You need to make sure your ankles and joints are safe from sprains and strains. Your body’s shifting hormones actually causes your body’s muscles, joints, and ligaments to become more elastic, leaving you much more vulnerable to injury. This hormone, which is called relaxin, is great for when you’re in labor and need that cervix to relax and stretch, but can make you wobbly and unsteady on your feet, so take extra care when running.
The extra pregnancy weight can also put a lot of pressure on your knees, resulting in joint pain. A new, stable pair of shoes can make the biggest difference to keep you safe while running. Make sure your new pair of sneakers fit perfectly and support your ankles and arches. If you are unsure of what kind of shoe to invest in, visit a specialty running store and get fitted by an expert. Pick up a cute, new pair that makes you feel sporty and get ready to hit the track!
2. Buy a good sports bra
A big adjustment to make when running while pregnant is taking care of your growing breasts. You may find them to be uncomfortably heavy and a nuisance when working out, but a good sports bra can help. Invest in a sturdy, supportive bra that fits perfectly to help relieve some of the pain that may arise when running.
3. Know where your restrooms are along your route
You have probably already noticed more pressure on your bladder. As your uterus expands, it presses on your bladder, making you feel like you need to pee a lot more often than you did before expecting. As the weeks go along, this will only worsen, so make sure you know where you can stop to relieve yourself while running. If you have to map out a new route to accommodate more frequent bathroom breaks, do so. It’s worth it.
4. Consider buying a belly support band
As your pregnant tummy continues to grow and get heavier and more obtrusive, you may find that running becomes far more uncomfortable. The weight of your belly bouncing with every stride can leave you frustrated and tired. Luckily, they do make support bands for pregnant bellies to help ease the discomfort. Maternal support bands help alleviate pelvic pressure, as well as helping you maintain a neutral posture (which is so important) and keeping pressure off of your abdominal connective tissue.
5. Remember To Stay Hydrated
It was already important to stay hydrated when you were running before conceiving, but now it is absolutely imperative. While you should already be drinking water throughout the day, be sure to drink before, during, and after your run. Dehydration can restrict blood flow to your uterus, which can cause premature contractions.
Water also does all the hard work of transporting nutrients and vitamins to your baby, so it is extra important to stay hydrated. Monitor the color of your urine to make sure you’re drinking enough fluids. It should be the color of very light lemonade — any darker and you are already on your way to dehydration. Another bonus of drinking enough water is that it also helps to keep your skin plump and hydrated, which can aid in preventing stretch marks (add in a good cream and you’re set).
Put It Into Action
Keep the good habits you had as a runner before getting pregnant. Always stretch, warm up, and cool down after working out. Don’t skip any steps! You can keep running while pregnant, as long as you do so smartly. Wear the proper, supportive gear — sneakers, sports bras, and a belly support band if you need it. Pace yourself and don’t push your limits. Keep your water bottle filled and drink before, during, and after your run (while keeping in mind where you can stop to pee along the way!). Now lace up those new sneakers and get outside! You and your baby will be happy and healthy if you just remember these guidelines from Mustela.
Running During Pregnancy: 10 Guidelines
Were you a fan of running — whether the occasional 5K or full-blown marathon — before you found out you have a baby on the way? Good news: There’s no reason to unlace your running shoes. Exercise is wonderful for the health of you and your baby — and the best kind of workout if you’re expecting is the one you enjoy enough to stick to! So if you’re an experienced runner, you can stay on track during pregnancy as long as it feels comfortable and your practitioner approves. Here’s what you need to know to keep your body and your baby safe.
What’s Enough…But Not Too Much?
It bears noting that an upper level of safe exercise intensity has not been established, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, but if you exercised before pregnancy and have an uncomplicated pregnancy, you should be able to engage in high-intensity exercise programs, such as jogging and aerobics, with no adverse effects. If you haven’t really run before, this isn’t the time to start pushing your limits. Instead, focus on other pregnancy-safe exercises.
Up for continuing your pre-pregnancy running workouts? Your pre-baby mileage is the best way to gauge your goals as a pregnant runner. And while you might have heard that pregnant women should keep their heart rates below a certain limit, the latest fitness guidelines recommend focusing instead on your perceived rate of exertion to exercise safely. On a scale of 6 to 20, you should feel like you reach about a 12 to 14. That means you should be able to carry on a conversation as you stride and breathe into your diaphragm on every single breathe. If it’s hard to suck in deeply, you may be going too fast or putting pressure on your tummy or pelvic floor.
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Guidelines to Get Started
A few tips to stay comfortable and safe if you’re running during pregnancy:
- Invest in new running shoes. Keep in mind that certain pregnancy hormones increase the laxity of your ligaments, which can leave you more prone to sprains and strains if you do slip or stumble. And with looser joints and the extra pregnancy weight, running can be hard on your knees. That means well-fitted sneakers are extra important to ensure you get the extra support you need around your arches and ankles. If you’re not sure what’s best for you, get fitted at a specialty running store.
- Adjust to your new breasts. While shopping for super-sturdy shoes, stop in the sports bra section. With growing breasts, this isn’t the time to rely on old gear — buy a bra that fits well for utmost comfort.
- Don’t forget to strengthen. You’re more prone to injury and carrying more weight when you’re expecting — so make sure to regularly fit in pregnancy-safe abdominal exercises and lower-body strengthening moves (squats, lunges, pelvic lifts/tilts). Strong muscles help protect your joints.
- Heed the need to pee. The extra weight of your uterus pressing on your bladder will mean you need to hit the toilets more often than usual, especially when you run and even more so in the third trimester. So plan out runs where you know there are restaurants or public bathrooms along your path.
- Change your goals. You can maintain your pre-pregnancy mileage with your practitioner’s blessing, but at a slower pace — this will likely feel just as difficult as the running workouts you hustled through before!Alternatively, shift your focus from clocking miles to logging minutes, zeroing in on perceived effort and not maximal heart rate.
- Run on track. If you feel clumsier, it’s not in your head! Remember that your center of gravity shifts as your baby belly grows. One way to avoid taking a spill is to avoid running on uneven surfaces. A track might be your best bet, as it also won’t leave you stranded out and about in the case of an emergency — plus the bouncy material is easier on your joints.
- Maintain neutral posture while running. If you’re not sure you can, ask for a second opinion from your practitioner or a personal trainer who has experience working with pregnant women.
- Watch for pelvic or abdominal discomfort. As you progress to the second and third trimester, running can be hard on the muscles in your pelvic floor, your core and your abs. And as your body adapts to a growing baby, it becomes more vulnerable to injury and other complications, like diastasis recti (a separation in your abdominal muscles during pregnancy that can weaken the core) and pelvic floor dysfunction. So if you feel pressure in your pelvic floor or core, slow down. You may even want to consider turning your regular runs into walks.
- Buy a maternity belt or belly splint. On that note, if you dobegin to feel pelvic pressure from the weight of your belly while you’re running, a maternity support belt or an abdominal splint/abdominal binder can help alleviate discomfort, prevent (or limit) the widening of diastasis recti, help keep your body in neutral alignment and take the pressure off of the abdominal connective tissue. The downside: The extra material could cause you to heat up more quickly than usual — in which case, slow down to cool down.
- Be kind to yourself. Remember, too, that you may tire more easily than you did before you started running for two. During the first trimester, fatigue, morning sickness, nausea, constipation or frequent urination could interfere with your regular running habits. And in the second and third trimesters, weight gain and physical discomforts come into play. So don’t get discouraged if you need to adjust the length of your workouts, incorporate walking intervals or scale back on long-distance runs.
When to Stop Running
Running during pregnancy is safe as long as you are mindful of your level of exertion and don’t test your limits. But if you experience any of the following, halt your workout and call your practitioner right away:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Shortness of breath before exertion
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Any signs of preterm labor
- Amniotic fluid leakage (keep in mind, you are more prone to bladder leakage during pregnancy, especially when you’re bouncing up and down on a run…so if it’s urine it will smell like ammonia, but if it’s clear and odorless there’s a slight chance it could be amniotic fluid)
A Runner’s Diet
When you’re expecting — and especially as you pack on the pregnancy pounds — you’ll need more energy than ever to fuel your workouts.
- Fuel up. Beginning with the second trimester, you’ll need about 300 extra calories per day to fuel your pregnancy — regardless of your workouts. And if you’re exercising, you may need even more! With this in mind, ask your doctor about specific caloric needs for your weight and activity level. Stick to a healthy pregnancy diet with the foods and eating schedule that worked for you before pregnancy (unless, of course, your pre- and post-run snacks are forbidden foods during pregnancy).
- Keep meals small and frequent. If food aversions plague you, try grazing on small snacks throughout the day instead of larger meals. Fruit smoothies or protein shakes can help sop up the extra calories you need without a side of nausea.
- Drink up. It’s extra important to stay hydrated during your running workouts, since severe dehydration can decrease blood flow to your uterus and cause premature contractions. So drink up before, during and after your run. When you urinate, check the stream for the color (light lemonade means you’re hydrated; anything darker and you need to drink more).
Getting Back to Running After Birth
Depending on whether you have a vaginal or cesarean birth, you should get the OK to resume your regular running within six to eight weeks postpartum. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is to keep up your Kegels and begin walking and as soon as your practitioner gives you the green light.
When you get started again, keep in mind that you likely won’t be able to keep up the intensity you’re used to, especially because it’s tricky to stay as active during those last few months of pregnancy. And that’s OK! With patience and consistency, you will get back in shape. In the meantime, be gentle on your body. After all, it just birthed a human being — possibly the most amazing personal record you’ve set yet.
3 things to read next:
- Working In Workouts
- 11 Best Foods to Eat While Pregnant
- Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines
Running While Pregnant: Dos and Don’ts
You’re pregnant! Congrats! But, what does that mean for your running goals?
The good news: running while pregnant is safe—if you go about it the right way. Mommas, let’s talk about what’s doable and what’s not.
And, as always, check with your doctor before starting or continuing any workout regimen while pregnant.
How much running is safe during pregnancy?
The amount of running you can safely do during pregnancy varies from person to person. It also depends on your activity level before you got pregnant.
“Running during pregnancy is safe if you’re already a runner and you have your doctor’s clearance. You will probably have to back it down during your third trimester,” says Candice Cunningham, Atlanta-based Aaptiv and personal trainer who specializes in women’s health and fitness, pre and post-natal corrective exercise, and fitness nutrition.
“If you weren’t a runner before, don’t start running during pregnancy.” You want to avoid unnecessary stress on the body.
Determining the intensity of your runs depends on your base fitness. “How long and hard your runs can be depends on the individual and their fitness level; you don’t want to get into max heart rate,” says Cunningham. “You don’t want to cause any type of stress, as that could stress out the baby.”
What about racing?
Running a race during pregnancy probably isn’t a wise idea. “If your heart rate is spiking, so is your baby’s. If you’re struggling to breathe, so is your baby. If you want to do a local 5K fun run, sure! Have fun, but don’t put unnecessary stress on the baby,” said Chris Heuisler, a veteran marathoner, running coach and the National Run Concierge for Westin Hotels (and a dad of two!).
Cunningham agrees: “A 5k, fun-run type would be ok, but definitely not a marathon or half marathon; that would be a lot of stress on your body.”
Don’t go for PRs; pregnancy isn’t the time for pushing your body distance or time wise. You’re creating a human in there. “Just stay away from stress, and stay conscientious of how you feel,” says Cunningham. “If you’re tired, take a day off—even if you wouldn’t normally. Don’t push yourself.”
If racing is your bread and butter, try to take a step back during your pregnancy (Don’t worry, there will be plenty of races to run after your baby is born!). Take pregnancy as an opportunity to do some fun 5k runs with your friends, family, or partner. You never know, that positive running energy could channel to the baby!
Is there anything women can do to ease discomfort?
Especially in the later stages, running can be uncomfortable. Strength exercises and proper gear can help counteract that. “Glute strengthening will take a lot of stress off of your body,” says Cunningham. “Focusing on breathing and really using your diaphragm will help strengthen your core.” Not only will the strength exercises combat the fatigue running can cause, they can also make for easier labor (bonus!).
Along with building strength, pay attention to the gear you’re using. Size appropriately, and don’t forget about your shoes. Many women experience changes in the size of their feet during pregnancy, so you’ll probably have to invest a new pair.
What about fuel?
The old saying holds true: you’re eating for two. You’ll have to be conscientious of your body’s changing needs. “Keep in mind that there’s a baby inside you. It’s very important to stay hydrated, and make sure you’re eating enough,” says Cunningham. “Pay attention to how your body feels. If you’re not always fueling correctly, getting help from a nutritionist wouldn’t hurt.”
Are there benefits to running during pregnancy?
Staying fit during your pregnancy is one of the best things you can do—for your baby and you. A healthy mom = a healthier baby.
In fact, a recent study published by the Institute of Movement Sciences and Sports Medicine at the University of Geneva, in Geneva, Switzerland, found that “regular physical activity has proven to result in marked benefits for mother and fetus.”
Even though you may have to step down your running, remaining active is far better than not during pregnancy.
Try our pregnancy workout programs on Aaptiv and get more answers to your pregnancy and fitness questions, here.
Is it safe to jog during pregnancy?
Yes, if you like to jog, there’s no need to stop during pregnancy. Walking, jogging, and swimming are all considered safe exercises during pregnancy.
You will need to be more careful during pregnancy. Certain changes, such as loosening of ligaments and changes in weight distribution, affect balance. But these changes don’t rule out exercise for most healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies.
Exercise will get harder as you get further along, so you may want to gradually scale back on how often and how long you jog. Even expert runners cut back as pregnancy progresses.
Be sure to stay hydrated and use the “talk test” to make sure you don’t overexert yourself. You should be able to carry on a conversation while jogging.
Pregnancy is not the best time to start a strenuous activity. If you’ve been largely inactive before getting pregnant, ask your healthcare provider to help you plan an exercise program that leads to at least 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week.
You should also contact your healthcare provider for specific guidance if you have certain medical conditions or pregnancy complications, such as heart disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preterm labor, placenta previa, or preeclampsia. You may be advised to avoid strenuous activity. You’ll also want to ask about the right level of activity for you if you’re carrying twins or other multiples.
If you’re a competitive athlete, work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a personalized exercise plan. Hormonal and weight distribution changes in pregnancy are likely to influence your athletic performance.
Last Updated on September 19, 2018
Exercising is very important for staying healthy and fit. However, running while pregnant is an exercise that demands caution. If you are pregnant, you need to know if it is safe to go jogging or running, and adhering to certain safety measures while running is always good.
Is Running Or Jogging Safe During Pregnancy?
Running and jogging are recommended during pregnancy but only if you are experienced. If you are already in the habit of running, take the required precautions, and have no complications in pregnancy, this can be a great exercise for you. It is, however, still recommended to consult your doctor before you resume running.
But if you have not run before and would like to start running during pregnancy, then that might be a tricky situation. Consult your doctor before you start anything at all. During pregnancy, a first-time runner may experience some discomfort that must not be ignored. If you are not an experienced runner, your doctor too may advise you against it as it gets difficult on the knees and the pelvic floor.
Can you have a miscarriage from running? Yes. A research study published in ‘New Scientist’ confirms that women who exercise or run for long periods in a day, without observing the necessary precautions, may experience a miscarriage. This is because running jostles the uterus thus increasing the risk of miscarriage.
How can I run safely while I am pregnant? The rules for running before or after pregnancy remain almost the same:
- When running, you must warm up and cool down properly.
- You must try to stay within your physical limits and not push too hard.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes made of breathable material.
- Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.
What Is The Ideal Running Regime?
Your ideal running regime will vary at different stages of pregnancy. During the first trimester, since the weight gain is negligible, running with just basic precautions will not do your body any harm. Just stay away from overheating and stick to moderation. You must be more careful during the second and the third trimester. The stress on the knee and pelvic floor increases during this phase due to weight gain and other hormonal changes in the body.
While running in pregnancy 1st trimester, follow the tips listed below.
- Stay hydrated and drink lots of water before and after the run. Any weight loss after the run is due to fluids and must be replaced by drinking lots of water.
- Stay cool by wearing loose fitting clothes made of light material.
- To minimize skin darkening, protect your skin from the sun by using a good sunscreen.
- Wear good running shoes that give your feet good support and are cushioned well for shock absorption.
- Wear a supportive bra that can expand as and when the size of your breasts grows.
The first trimester is when your body is getting prepared for the baby to grow inside. Hence, running or jogging during early pregnancy is recommended as long as you keep the precautions in mind.
As your weight increases during the second trimester, it is important that you become careful about the change in balance while running in pregnancy 2nd trimester.
- Take a safe path for running to avoid falls and injuries.
- Do not run in secluded paths where medical assistance may be hindered, if required.
- Support your belly with a belly support band.
- Look out for any signs of discomfort and be ready to stop if necessary.
When running in pregnancy 3rd trimester, please keep these precautions in mind:
- It is advisable to be extremely sensitive to the needs of the body at this stage. Stress and fatigue can be harmful to both mother and baby.
- If you feel too tired to continue running at this stage, ensure you listen to your body and take a break
- It is recommended that you go walking instead of running during this phase of pregnancy.
What Are The Benefits Of Running When Pregnant?
Running is a good exercise for working up the heart and body. It gives you a physical and mental boost. Running or jogging can be a great way to stay fit if done in moderation and with a certain amount of precaution. Running or jogging also prevents gestational diabetes, alleviates back pain and postural pain caused by pregnancy, and, as a result, helps you sleep better.
Watch Out For These Warning Signs While Running in Pregnancy
It is important not to exhaust yourself during pregnancy to the extent of breathlessness. If you get breathless, you will end up using all the oxygen in your body and as a result, your baby will be deprived of oxygen. There are also some other warning signs that you must watch out for if you are running during pregnancy. Relax and take a break from running if you observe any of these signs:
- Pain in the joints or ligaments during or after running
- A feeling of exhaustion taking over after the run.
- Muscles beginning to feel sore, weak, and shaky.
- If your resting heart beat (ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute in adults) goes up by 10 beats from normal
- Feeling of dizziness.
- Experiencing chest pain, contractions, or vaginal bleeding
1. When to stop running during pregnancy?
You should stop running during pregnancy whenever you think that your body has stopped benefitting from the run. If you start feeling exhausted and experience breathlessness, it is time for you to stop running and take a break.
2. Can baby jiggle up and down while running?
Your baby is well encased in amniotic fluid that does not let the baby jiggle as you go about your daily activities, including running.
3. Should I maintain certain heart rate range?
No. As per recent research, pregnant women should only do workouts or running to the point that they don’t feel exhausted, not to achieve a target heart rate range.
4. Is there any need to wear support belt?
It differs from person to person. If you think that your growing belly needs extra support, then a support belt is recommended. Try one and see if it works for you.
5. Will I need any special gear, clothing or shoes while running?
You don’t necessarily need to change your shoes if they are comfortable and don’t hurt. It also depends on how much weight you have gained. If your shoes can balance your weight, then there is no need to change your running shoes. But if it is otherwise, then you may have to buy yourself a new pair.
Running clothes, on the other hand, must be lighter even during cold weather to avoid overheating. A flip-belt around the waist to carry water is fine during the first trimester, but after that it gets uncomfortable.
A sports bra is highly recommended for all who wish to run during pregnancy. It will continue to expand with the increasing size of your breasts.
6. Can baby kick and move while running?
It depends from person to person and from baby to baby. In some cases, the baby does occasionally kick and move while the mom-to-be is running, while sometimes they don’t.
7. Can running make labour and delivery easy?
There is no confirmation on this. As per studies, the only conclusive finding is that if you stay fit and healthy throughout the pregnancy, then it will be beneficial in recovering from child birth.
You can give in to your love of running even while you are pregnant, keeping in mind that you must listen to your body and stop when it becomes uncomfortable. Keeping these few simple tips in mind is sure to make your pregnancy a healthy and happy one.
Also Read: Walking during Pregnancy
What are the benefits of running during pregnancy?
Going for a run is a quick and effective way to work your heart and body, giving you a mental and physical boost when you feel tired. Plus, like walking, you can do it almost anywhere, so it’s easier to fit into your schedule.
Is it safe for me to run during pregnancy?
If you’re in good health and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, the answer is usually . Some women, however, have medical conditions or pregnancy complications that mean they should not exercise at all. Check with your healthcare provider before starting to run – or do any kind of exercise – during pregnancy.
If your provider gives you the green light, the key is to listen to your body – don’t push yourself beyond your limits. Women who ran regularly before getting pregnant can usually continue running at their normal pace for as long as it feels comfortable.
If you’re new to running, however, start slowly: Warm up for five to 10 minutes by stretching and walking, then jog at a slow and easy pace for about five minutes, and cool down by walking for another five to 10 minutes.
If your joints don’t hurt and if you feel ready for more, you can gradually pick up the pace or increase your distance by a small amount each week. The recommended goal for pregnant women is at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at moderate intensity on all or most days of the week. (Learn about other great ways to exercise during pregnancy.)
Keep in mind that it’s important to stay cool while exercising. Avoid jogging in hot or humid weather because pregnant women tend to overheat more easily. Also, whether you’re a new runner or a veteran, you’ll probably need to modify your running routine later in pregnancy to accommodate your growing belly.
Read on for tips to help you safely incorporate jogging into your pregnancy exercise routine.
Running tips for the first trimester
- Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water before, during, and after your run. One way to monitor your hydration is to weigh yourself before and after a run. Any weight loss is fluid and should be replaced by drinking enough water afterward to bring your weight back up to the original number by your next workout.
Another way to monitor your hydration is to check the color of your urine – if it’s dark yellow, you need to drink more. Urine should be pale yellow to nearly clear.
Tip: Plain water is best, but if you use an electrolyte replacement sports drink, dilute it to cut the sugar content – two parts water to one part sports drink.
- Stay cool. Wear loose-fitting clothing made of light, breathable material to help you stay cool.
- Protect your skin. Wear a hat with a brim to prevent or minimize melasma (pregnancy-related skin darkening). Always use a broad spectrum sunblock with SPF 30 or higher on all exposed skin.
- Wear proper shoes. Your shoes should give your feet plenty of support, especially around the ankles and arches. Look for running shoes that are cushioned for shock absorption and are flexible at the ball of the foot. Make sure you get shoes that fit well – pregnancy can increase your shoe size. You may also want to swap out the liner with a gel liner for better shock absorption.
- Wear a supportive bra. Invest in an adjustable, supportive sports bra that can expand with your growing breasts.
Running tips for the second trimester
- Be careful about changes in balance. Your center of gravity is shifting as your belly grows, leaving you more vulnerable to slips and falls. Avoid running on trails with debris, rocks, tree roots, and other natural obstacles that could cause a fall. Run on pavement to play it safe.
- Consider your running path. Some pregnant women prefer the straight lines of a long running path because running straight without having to make any turns feels more comfortable on the joints. Other women don’t mind turns and prefer to run on a track because the surface can be easier on the knees. Regardless of the type of trail you choose, make sure you’re in a safe area, not a remote spot where you could become stranded in an emergency. Always carry your phone.
- Support your growing belly. If the bouncing motion of running is becoming uncomfortable, try wearing a belly support band.
Running tips for the third trimester
Continue to be as careful as you were 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. Pushing yourself too hard can be harmful.
Most runners find that their pace slows down considerably during the third trimester – a fast walk may be a better choice as your due date approaches.
Signs that you’re pushing too hard
Never run to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Pushing yourself to the limit forces your body to divert oxygen that should be going to your baby. Ease up if you notice any of the following signs:
- You feel pain in your joints and ligaments during or after a workout.
- You feel exhausted instead of energized after a workout.
- Your muscles feel extremely sore, weak, or shaky for a long period after exercising.
- Your resting heart rate in the morning is more than 10 beats higher than normal – a sign that your body is overworked and needs more rest.
Warning signs when exercising
It’s important to remain aware of any signs of trouble with your health or pregnancy. Stop running immediately and call your provider if:
- You feel dizzy or faint.
- You have chest pain, contractions, or vaginal bleeding.
- You develop any of the symptoms described in our article on warning signs to slow down or stop.
The rules of safe pregnancy exercise
The best kinds of exercise for pregnancy
Great pregnancy exercise: Walking
Great pregnancy exercise: Prenatal yoga
Tommy’s news, 04/04/2018
- Running during pregnancy did not affect the number of weeks babies were born, or the birthweight of the baby.
- The results were shown in the largest ever study of running in pregnancy which has been published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.
- The international retrospective study looked at 1,293 women who take part in parkrun.
- More than a third of women said they are unsure about the safety of running so this research should be communicated widely to the running community.
The largest ever international study of pregnant runners has found no evidence of negative effects of running on the baby.
Nearly 1,300 women were recruited from parkrun, which organises weekly five kilometre runs across the world. Women were categorised according to whether they continued to run during pregnancy or not. Information was collected on how many weeks into her pregnancy a woman ran, and how many kilometres she ran each week.
A poll of 1,116 women on the Tommy’s pregnancy website, showed that more than a third were unsure if it was safe for regular runners to continue to run whilst pregnant, so the study is good news for runners.
Women from around the world responded to parkrun’s newsletter, making the study truly global. Details of previous pregnancies were collated, including gestation of delivery, birthweight and pregnancy complications. These were related to expected baby size by taking into account the mothers’ ethnicity, height, weight, and her baby’s gender, allowing an accurate assessment of running impact on pregnancy.
The results found that there were no ill effects related to the intensity or frequency of running during pregnancy and that continuing to run into the third trimester was safe. One woman ran a marathon the day before she delivered at term, while others ran regular half marathons throughout pregnancy. Even women pregnant with triplets enjoyed parkrun regularly.
Women are advised to exercise during pregnancy as it can lead to many health benefits and help women prepare for labour.
“There are over 2.8 million park runners across the globe, many of whom are of reproductive age. With parkrun’s assistance, in the biggest ever study of its kind, we have determined that running in pregnancy is safe. Women can continue accustomed exercise during pregnancy and we would encourage this to ensure a healthy outcome for both her and her baby.” Professor Andrew Shennan, lead author of the study and Professor of Obstetrics and Tommy’s Clinical Director at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital
Katy Kuhrt, study co-author and Research Fellow, Women’s Health Academic Group, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, comments, “The beneficial effects of running, including cardiovascular conditioning, reduced heart rate and blood pressure at rest, improved lung function, and a reduction in fat levels, have long been recognised. But the effect of regular, strenuous running on pregnancy health has been debated, and there is theoretical concern about adverse effects on pregnancy outcomes. We investigated whether the duration and intensity of running in pregnancy affects the number of weeks at which a baby is born and/or the birthweight of the baby.”
“We recommend that all women take part in regular exercise during pregnancy as it can help to reduce fatigue, lower back pain, varicose veins, swelling of the ankles, and feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. This new study shows that, in the majority of cases, it is safe for both the mother and the baby if a woman who runs regularly continues to do so during her pregnancy.” Professor Janice Rymer, Vice President for Education at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)
Abi Gooch is a 40-year-old police firearms officer from Milton Keynes. She’s been running for over 20 years, regularly takes part in triathlons and marathons, and needs to pass an annual fitness test for her job.
“I ran through both of my pregnancies and was fit and healthy throughout. I did a marathon when my first daughter was 7 months old and got a PB. With my second daughter I did parkrun on Saturday, a spin class on the Monday and gave birth to my daughter with a 4-hour labour on the Wednesday. Two weeks later I took part in a local 1-mile relay race.
“It doesn’t surprise me that running has been deemed safe during pregnancy. If you’re used to doing it and you still feel comfortable then why stop. It’s great for mental health, keeping the body strong for labour and I also found I got back to fitness quickly afterwards. I also found it helped me keep my identity and not just ‘a pregnant lady’ or ‘Mum’, I was still ‘me’. I have since completed over 50 marathons including some Ultra marathons and the Marathon Des Sables.”
“If you ran or jogged regularly before your pregnancy, you can carry on for as long as you feel comfortable. It’s a great aerobic exercise and can help women have a healthy pregnancy.” Sophie King, Tommy’s midwife
Tips for pregnant runners include:
- wearing supportive running shoes and a proper bra that has been designed for runners
- focus on good technique rather than a fast pace
- look where you’re going so you avoid falling or colliding with anything
- don’t run yourself to exhaustion
- if you experience any unusual symptoms, stop exercising and contact your doctor or midwife.
Running While Pregnant: The Pros and Cons and Whether You Should
Jan 22, 2020 Author: Alexa Sooter
Pregnancy is life-changing and you might think running while pregnant isn’t such a great idea. But you’d be surprised.
When pregnant, a woman’s diet, surroundings, and habits come under scrutiny. Bookstores have whole sections dedicated to the ins and outs, ups and downs of pregnancy. Websites offer more information than anyone could read in the 9-odd months of their pregnancy. Because of all this information, it becomes hard to separate myth from fact.
And things become further complicated by the fact that no two pregnancies are exactly alike. This is especially true when a runner becomes pregnant. Most resources are not written for pregnant athletes. When it comes to the question of “to run or not to run“, the pregnant athlete really has to make the choice on her own.
So let’s explore everything you need to know about running while pregnant.
The Basics of Running While Pregnant
Pregnancy is a time of intense research for most people. Pregnant athletes have a bit more research to do than other expectant parents. The number of resources available might make the research seem daunting. But there some basic points that expectant parents can use to create a foundation for their decisions
Pregnant Women are Tough
Many people mistake pregnant women for helpless women. Yes, pregnancy throws off a person’s balance and is generally uncomfortable. But pregnant women are tough. The pregnant body changes in a way that keeps the baby well-protected so things like jogging and running aren’t going to do any harm. So long as the expectant mom listens to her body and her doctor, runs may actually do both her and the baby some good.
First Things First: Consult a Doctor
Pregnant athletes should make a point of discussing exercise plans with a doctor as early in their pregnancy as possible. Frequent check-ins are also recommended to ensure the safety of mother and baby. Athletes diagnosed with preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure) or a few other pregnancy-related conditions should be especially careful. Likewise, if a woman begins to see spotting (light vaginal bleeding), feels short of breath or dizzy, or generally feels warning bells going off, she should stop running and consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Experienced Runners Only
Pregnancy is not a good time for someone to start their running experience. Expectant mothers must know their body’s signals for fatigue, injury, and balance. All of these signals change with exercise as well as with pregnancy. Trying to begin a running regimen during pregnancy increases a person’s risk for injury and accidents. If a doctor has prescribed physical activity, there are better options. Light weight-training, swimming, stationary bicycles, and elliptical machines are all better options.
All pregnant runners are going to need new equipment at some point. Pregnancy changes most of the body. And even though most changes are temporary, they are noticeable. Many women suffer from swollen feet during pregnancy. This may require runners to get wider or larger shoes. Pregnancy increases the size of both a woman’s abdomen and her breasts. This will require larger sports bras and running shirts. If a runner’s pants go up to their waist, they may also need new pants as the pregnancy progresses.
Some runners also choose to use belly bands as they begin to “show”. This supports the belly and may reduce pain in the lower back and abdomen.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Yes, pregnant women are tough. They still have to show themselves compassion. If their hearts are racing or they’re struggling to breathe, so are their babies. Pregnant women should aim for a good sweat without struggling to breathe. Pregnancy will also slow a runner down and they have to be okay with that. Running while pregnant may mean changing their goals as well. Instead of running to win, they are running to maintain their health and promote the health of their future child.
Spot the Myth: Early Labor
There are a million myths about pregnancy. One persistent myth is that exercising while pregnant will cause early labor. This myth is largely rooted in old – and provably dangerous – beliefs that pregnant women should stay off their feet or risk the health of their fetus. Previous generations even went so far as to tie women to hospital beds or lock them in their rooms to “protect” them.
We now know that exercise is important for the health of both the mother and the baby-to-be. Full-contact exercise such as grappling, football, and soccer are discouraged. But general exercise is fine and even, in many cases, recommended. There are a few cases, such as twins or multiples, where exercise in later pregnancy does increase the risk of early labor. But these cases are uncommon compared to general birth rates. Exercise inducing labor is a myth and one that should quickly be thrown away.
Check out some more such myths below.
The Benefits of Running While Pregnant
Despite the stereotype of pregnant women “taking it easy”, doctors often suggest that pregnant women develop an exercise regimen. Maintaining – and even increasing – her fitness during pregnancy offers many benefits for expectant mothers. This holds true for experienced athletes as well as fitness newcomers. Running and its benefits, however, is recommended only for those who have prior experience.
Recent studies suggest that running helps reduce the symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms include constant worry, a looming sense of dread, and tightness of breath. Any pregnant woman will tell you that these symptoms only get worse during pregnancy. Running might not remove the sensations altogether, but even a little reduction offers relief.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends pregnant women aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise per day on “most or all days”. Frequent and consistent exercise during pregnancy reduces the risk of preterm birth, gestational diabetes, high baby birth weights, and C-section. Recent studies also suggest that exercising while pregnant has a positive effect on fetal brain development.
The ACOG’s recommendation does not apply to women with preeclampsia and other high-risk conditions.
Labor and Recovery
Many experts now believe that physically fit women, on average, have shorter labor periods and marginally easier deliveries. Active women also seem to recover faster after having their babies. This is likely due to their muscle tone and their bodies’ experience with injury recovery. Giving birth affects the body in much the same way as major surgery does. So women whose bodies are trained to recover from strain and stress are likely to get back on their feet sooner.
Safety First When Running While Pregnant
Experienced runners know how to stay safe. Things change a bit with pregnancy, however. Whether the concern is nutrition, hydration, balance, or comfort, pregnant runners have to be on the lookout for warning signs.
While pregnant women are not really “eating for two”, they do require several hundred more calories per day than before they conceived. Their requirements also go up for specific nutrients such as iron, calcium, and folic acid. Many doctors also suggest that pregnant women consume more carbs than they did prior to their pregnancy since pregnant bodies use more energy for everyday processes. Pregnant women need to keep an eye on cravings, their blood sugar levels, and their hunger levels to ensure that they’re eating enough and eating the right things to meet their needs.
Staying hydrated while pregnant is hard. Staying hydrated while pregnant and active is even harder. There are countless guidelines on the internet to help women find the right amount of water. Most experts now agree, however, that as long as a pregnant woman’s urine is pale yellow – not clear and not dark – then she is getting enough water. Maintaining this balance might require bringing a larger water bottle on runs or stopping more often for hydration breaks throughout a workout. Pregnant women should also be aware that they’re going to start sweating sooner and will likely sweat more than they used to, which will change their hydration needs.
Running isn’t likely to spike a woman’s body temperature to unsafe levels, but it’s an important consideration all the same. This is especially true in the first trimester when a body temp of 102 degrees can lead to neural tube defects in the fetus. These defects can be life-threatening and are the reason why baths, hot yoga, saunas, and hot tubs are off-limits for pregnant women. As stated above, running isn’t likely to cause a prolonged temperature of 102 degrees. But outside conditions like hot days increase that risk. Pregnant runners might want to consider moving indoors on very hot days and keeping their water bottles or cooling towels close at hand.
Focus on Balance
Pregnancy changes a person’s center of gravity. This will change how they run. Pregnant runners should pay close attention to their form and balance. Running itself isn’t going to jostle the baby too much. But getting off-balance can lead to a fall and those are best avoided, no matter what trimester the pregnancy has progressed to.
Account for Relaxin
Relaxin is a chemical released by a woman’s body during pregnancy. It loosens her ligaments so that her body can change to accommodate the growth and delivery of her baby. While this is good news in the delivery room, it can cause some problems for pregnant runners. Looser ligaments can increase post-run soreness and lead to back pain. They also increase the risk of muscle strain and common runner’s injuries such as Runner’s Knee.
Trimester by Trimester
Pregnancy presents different challenges to runners as the months go on. Each pregnancy is different, so the information below is a general guideline based on common experiences reported by women who ran through their pregnancy.
The first trimester is often the worst, whether or not the woman is a runner. Morning sickness, sore muscles, and the rapid changes in their bodies leave most women exhausted. Runners should go easy on themselves in these early days. They shouldn’t run if they can’t keep food down. Their pace is going to slow down and they’ll need more breaks, and that’s okay. And if the discomfort is so great that they can’t run at all, they shouldn’t despair. They can always pick up running again when they feel better. Weight training and light work on a stationary bike will suffice until then. The goal at that point should be to maintain fitness. Most experts agree that even half of a woman’s pre-pregnancy fitness routine is enough to maintain her physical fitness during pregnancy due to the extra work the body is already putting in.
Most women are “showing” by their second trimester, if only a little. Despite the pregnancy being more obvious, it is easier for many women. Their bodies are used to the hormone changes and morning sickness often gets more manageable or disappears altogether. A few new symptoms do crop up, however. Sacroiliac pain – lower back pain that can spread up and down one side – becomes more likely. Round ligament pain – an ache in the lower abdomen, whether sharp or dull – also becomes more common. Many runners reduce their sacroiliac pain by strengthening their back and core muscles while belly bands help reduce round ligament discomfort.
Few women run through their third trimester. Many of the first trimester symptoms return as well as the discomfort of pre-labor body changes. The baby will start to settle lower in the abdomen, making running and walking generally uncomfortable. If a runner wants to keep a streak going, they can reduce their runs to light jogs or power walks over shorter distances. It is also recommended that they take a running buddy to help them if the discomfort becomes too great.
Doctors often recommend that women wait six weeks after delivery before they work out again. Delivery affects the body like a major surgery does, as mentioned above. The body needs time to heal. If six weeks feels too long, however, some doctors will allow very light weight training, gentle core toning exercises, and light cardio on a stationary machine such as a bike or treadmill. Athletes should be careful, however, as their ligaments are still soft and their balance has changed yet again. These factors increase their risk of injury. Small 5-10 minute goals are a good way to get back into exercise without pushing too hard.
It should be noted that many runners report a new edge after they give birth. They report feeling faster and stronger, able to take on more with more confidence. More than one runner has said that going through labor showed her how tough she really was.
Intense exercise will affect milk production. Many women report that their old running habits made it harder to breastfeed. This is due to a combination of hormones, fat availability, and nutrition. Lactation consultants can help runners strike the right balance of activity, food, and nursing or pumping to ensure that the milk flow is maintained if that is what the runner wants.
- Runner’s World
- Fitness Magazine
- What to Expect
5 Things I Learned About Running In The First Trimester
While I knew that running would change during pregnancy, I was in no way prepared for how quickly it happened after receiving a positive pregnancy test. Running in the first trimester was an experience in learning how to not only listen to my body but also trust it.
While I’m well into my second trimester now, I’ve had this post bouncing around in my head for months and I just feel like I have to get it out. The first trimester is such a weird time where very few people know you’re expecting and you’re experiencing all sorts of physical and emotional symptoms. This can be especially overwhelming if you’re a first time mom and questioning everything.
(running in Florida at 7 weeks)
1. I had to stop…a lot!
It seemed like I couldn’t even get through an easy 3-4 mile run without stopping fewer than five times. I would mentally tell myself I’d get to a certain time or mileage and then stop on the side of the trail/road and stand there for a minute trying to get it together. Granted I did get my positive pregnancy test in the middle of August when it was crazy hot in North Carolina but I typically don’t mind summer running. This was a whole new ballgame!
2. ALLLLLL the peeing. So much peeing.
Hands-down THE most challenging part of running while pregnant has been the need to pee. I couldn’t believe how early it started. I met a friend for a run at 5 weeks and had to dash off in a park to a bathroom to pee. I thought that was weird that it was happening so early but that was just the start of it.
There was one time I peed twice before I left for a run and was still desperate enough to use this Sani-Can in the front yard of someone’s house in a neighborhood I was running through.
There was another time that I peed THREE TIMES before leaving for a run and then had to stop not even a half a mile in to pee again at Krispy Kreme.
There has been some relief in the second trimester as baby has moved up a bit but I swear this has been the most challenging part of pregnant running for me. And no other workout makes me have to pee like running does. It’s crazy!
(6.5 miles at a 9:13 pace at 8 weeks)
3. My pace varied greatly and so did the intensity of my runs.
For the most part, my pace seemed to instantly drop by anywhere from 30-60 seconds from my normal mile times. I’d feel like I was putting in so much effort and moving pretty fast and then look down at my watch and see that I was running a 9:30. This was definitely humbling and I kept most of my runs easy/casual for this reason. I had to really give myself a big pass on pace and run by feel instead. Sometimes my body would surprise me and I’d knock out a strong, fast run or I’d feel like doing some speed work.
(a long run at 6 weeks)
4. It was okay to continue long runs.
I was casually training for the Charlotte Half Marathon when I found out I was pregnant. One of the first questions I asked my doctor was if it was okay for me to continue to do longer runs (like 8-9 miles) and he said yes.
I can’t even describe to you adequately how those first few long runs felt knowing that I was growing a tiny baby inside of me. I was so in awe of my body and I felt so connected to it. I spent a lot of time on those early runs listening to tons of podcasts about pregnancy and learning about the first trimester.
(6 miles at 5 weeks pregnant)
5. Just like always, it was “run therapy” in every sense of the word.
I have written so many times before about how much running benefits me emotionally and pregnancy has been no exception. I struggled with a LOT of anxiety in the first trimester and running was one of the things that helped me process my emotions and stay connected to my body.
First, I went in for a pregnancy check appointment right at 6 weeks and while my doctor could see the sac, he couldn’t detect a heartbeat and asked me to come back in 10 days for a viability scan. He told me honestly that the chance of miscarriage was 25% but that he was “cautiously optimistic.” I remember coming home and spending hours googling everything under the sun before finally going out for a run. I just needed some sort of release for all the anxiety I was feeling and to feel “in” my body.
Second, I was diagnosed with a small subchorionic hemorrhage at my 8 week viability ultrasound. I was so happy to see that heartbeat but then learning that I had that complication sent me into another spiral of over-googling and over-worrying. I asked my doctor if I should stop running or scale back on my workouts to which he replied that there was no concrete evidence one way or the other that activity restriction would prevent miscarriage with SCH. He advised me to keep doing what I was doing unless it would just make me feel better to cut back until my next scan.
I drove myself crazy researching miscarriage stats and information and read so many forums about girls who quit running and exercising in early pregnancy in hopes of preventing miscarriage. Ultimately, I decided to keep running and I’m so glad that I did. I think the positive impact it had on my ability to better deal with the fear and uncertainty I was feeling was a greater benefit to the baby than my ceasing to run and workout would have been.
And on a happier note, as I mentioned in #3 above, running in my first trimester really connected me to my body and to the baby. It may sound crazy but I would put my hand on my belly and talk to the baby a lot when I was running. I would tell it how much it was wanted, encourage it to please stay with me and tell it how much I loved it.
WHERE I AM NOW
I’m currently just shy of 24 weeks and still running and still feeling good! I have been sick for the last month so I haven’t able to run as much as I’d like but I hope to run for as long as possible during this pregnancy. It’s been such a gift…minus all the peeing! 🙂
What was running like for you in the first trimester? How soon/early did you feel the effects of pregnancy on your running?
For anyone who comes across this in your first trimester, please feel free to ask me any questions you might have. I’m an open book!
Web Editor Kristan Dietz shares some things she learned while trying to run through her first trimester.
12 weeks pregnant on the left with a speedy aunt-to-be on the right. No, of course I didn’t partake in the post-race beer.
I could feel something was different around the last week of January. I was completely exhausted after every run. I could barely stay awake past 10 p.m., which was a new experience for this life-long insomniac. And every night, I woke up at 3 a.m. with an urge to sprint to the bathroom. A simple test confirmed just what I had been suspecting—I was pregnant with my first child!
When it came to next steps, I knew the basics. Celebrate the wonderful news with my husband, make an appointment with my OB-GYN, take prenatal vitamins, and cut out certain types of foods and drinks. However, when it came to how to proceed with running, I was clueless. Was it okay to continue? Would I feel different? How quickly would I slow down? When your first positive pregnancy test is weeks away from your first doctor’s appointment, there are often not easy answers to these questions.
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I knew this much—because I had been consistently running before my pregnancy, continuing to run was perfectly fine for a newly pregnant woman. Other than that, the first trimester was an education in what my body could and couldn’t handle. Here is what I learned about running and exercise during the first 12 weeks of being pregnant.
You will slow down. Every woman is different, but at some point in the first trimester, running will begin to take a bit—or a lot—more effort. For some, the slow-down will hit in the later weeks, but for others, the effects of pregnancy happen quickly. One day during week five, I ran 6 speedy, yet effortless, miles. The next day, I could barely cover 2 miles before crawling off the treadmill. As a result, I freaked out and assumed something was wrong with me. There was nothing amiss— I just had to adjust my expectations and my pace.
Keep a conversational pace. When speaking about exercise with my doctor (who is a runner herself), her advice was to always make sure I could hold a conversation and work out at 70% effort max. Don’t be afraid to take walk breaks on a run or stay in the saddle when tired during a spin class. You are still being completely healthy (and smart!) even if the effort level is slightly lower.
You will be exhausted, and you may feel sick. I never felt more tired in my life than I have over the past two months. When I wasn’t thinking about my next nap, I was trying my best not to vomit. The good news? Running and exercise does help fight off morning sickness. It also gives expectant moms a little more energy; even going for a short walk can help. The bad news? Some days you just won’t be able to get off the couch. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day (or two, or four) of exercise. Some days rest and trying to eat will be the priorities over working out.
Stay in your comfort zone. At around seven weeks, I tried a new workout class. Maybe not the best idea, but the instructor knew I was pregnant. I kept my effort under control, and trying something new didn’t negatively affect anything. Well, except for the subsequent worrying. For two days after the class, I stressed that I had over-exerted myself and somehow harmed my baby. Mentally and physically, it may be better to stick with an exercise routine that you are familiar with. For me, running, walking and spin make me feel great. For others, it may be a different range of activities. There are so many things that you may worry about in the early weeks of your pregnancy. Exercise shouldn’t be one of those things.
Talk to other moms. What I really craved during the first few weeks of pregnancy was information on experiences of other mothers, especially when it came to running. I reached out to a few friends who are either pregnant or mothers of young children, as well as a few of our amazing bloggers. Just hearing about their pregnancies made me feel more relaxed. Everyone had different types of progress with running, but talking with others was a great way to feel better about what I could and couldn’t accomplish.
RELATED: Hungry Runner Girl: Why I Loved Running During Pregnancy
On days when you feel really overwhelmed or sick, remember two things: Don’t beat yourself up, and your body is not fragile. I’m growing a person. How cool is that? It’s amazing actually!
Our bodies are strong. While it’s okay to be cautious, running is safe and healthy for most of us. Don’t beat yourself up over a missed run or feel bad about slowing down. Instead feel strong knowing you are making the best possible choices for a healthy pregnancy.
What is your advice for running during your first trimester? Tweet @womensrunning and @kristandietz to share your thoughts!
Running Pregnant : First Trimester
After I found out I was determined to still continue with my running. After all I am the girl always telling my friends and other people that it’s completely ridiculous to think that now that you are pregnant you can’t or should stop exercising. But what I found out was not that I don’t need to, but that it’s all just so much harder.
I’m in my second trimester now, so I’m starting to feel better. Below you can have a read how I would describe my first trimester whilst running.
Tired, No Exhausted!
So I was tired all the time, like I’ve never felt this exhausted in my life. It was the strangest feeling for me and although it gets a little better, I have a feeling the tiredness is gonna stick. Thinking about it now, it does make sense – I mean you are making another HUMAN!
I tried really hard to get up early in the mornings for my run, but I was just too tired, and involuntarily ended up oversleeping, like I had no control over my routine!
After work I was also just tired, I hate to admit this, but I could barely keep my eyes open as I was driving home in traffic! And at night I just wanted to eat and then sleep. I had no energy for running. Over the weekends I would go to bed really early Friday and Saturday night just so I could be fresh for my much anticipated run in the morning, hahaha, after my run I would have breakfast and then take a nap! It was very relaxing I might add!
I stopped feeling guilty about not running now, I rather started to concentrate on getting good quality sleep and then a good quality run, and if I only managed two runs a week then that was ok. You have to give yourself a break, the exercise won’t be worth it if you’re not well rested, and you’ll just be a cranky-tired hormonal B and your poor partner will suffer for it!
But when I did run I found that I felt completely unfit, and out of breath. It was like I had to put in double the effort to move that I previously had to. I kept trying to stay to my normal pace but it was too hard. The doctor recommended that I run at an “conversational pace” , as long as I could run and talk comfortably then I was doing good. The other 2 important things are to not overheat and to not get dehydrated. as long as I sicked to that it worked.
So when I could run, here was my trick – I cut down on my pace, got slower music on my I-pod to help me run slower. I made the decision to run shorter distances and slower pace. My pace actually went from an average of 5:00min/km to 7:00min/km. In the beginning I felt a little like a failure, but I made peace with it and accepted my situation, and after two weeks my body adjusted and I can now almost run at my old normal pace.
So don’t worry, you’re not broken! You’ll get back into things soon enough!
How I counter Exhaustion:
- Do 2-3 good runs a week, and rest well inbetween
- Eat well. Make sure your nutrition is up to scratch, eat high in Iron foods.
- Adjust your training – and learn to accept that things are changing. the sooner you do this, the sooner you can get back to quality running.
So from what I have heard from other mothers, this feeling will never ever go away again!
Your constantly scared, “am I running to fast?”, “Is everything ok in there?!”, “am I being selfish?”
I literally ran some days just praying to God as I ran – “Please, please, please don’t take my present away, please” , repeating it the whole distance. I think I even like zoned out of listening to music, I was so afraid. But after our first doctors visit I actually started running more.
I actually fell at 9 weeks pregnant at a trail race, about 13Km into the race. I wasn’t running too fast, but I was very tired, and I lost concentration bumped my foot and fell really fast face and upper body first. I couldn’t push my hands out fast enough so I basically fell on my chest and tummy. Two Ladies helped me up fast and dusted of my face and everything, I was in complete shock. Actually terrified because I had no way of knowing if anything was wrong. Unfortunately until the little feet are here, I’ll be sticking to the road from now on.
I’m very happy to say that nothing happened, but it did put a few things in perspective for me, I would have to slow down and be more careful. So all you can do is take care and pray, and hold onto the next appointment date to see if everything is ok. Most of the time it will be ok, but it’s just such a big unknown!
How I counter the Fear:
- This is hard, like I said it never really goes away. Know that you are doing the best you can, and ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to keep your body in an optimum condition to take care of baby.
- Pray, allot, and have faith. God made our Bodies much stronger than we realize, you have all the tools to take care even if your a little unsure in the beginning.
- If there is ever a doubt – stop and reassess the Situation, and decide if what you want to do is necessary, how it will help you and if it is good for you both.
Hunger vs Weight gain:
Now you’ve heard of the saying “eating for two” it’s actually a saying I hate! Such a lie, but what I have found is that although you might not have to eat for two, it feels like you have to!!
OH MY GOODNESS, I’m hungry all the time!
In actual fact you shouldn’t up you calorie intake too much below is what they say on What to Expect:
First trimester: You actually won’t likely need any additional calories during your first trimester. Instead, you should focus on choosing nutritious foods that keep your energy up while supporting your baby’s development.
Second trimester: Up your daily calorie intake by 300 to 350 calories per day — that’s the equivalent of, say, two glasses of skim milk and a bowl of oatmeal (not the all-you-can-eat sundae bar you were envisioning).
Third trimester: You’ll need about an extra 500 calories per day.
If you’re carrying multiples: Add an additional 300 calories per day for each baby.
But you have to work according to your body and see what works for you, in the first trimester I upped my calorie intake by 500 calories, like you don’t understand how hungry I am. I picked up about 3.6km at 11weeks, and this will probably continue and it should, in the end its good for Baby.
Also remember if you’re running you also burning calories so it’s important to ensure that you’re both getting what you need. If you sugar drops then you will feel tired, light headed and just awful and you won’t be able to function normally, never mind run at least 5km!
I also found that if did not keep hunger pangs at bay I would get nauseous! My number one rule now for keeping morning sickness (or anytime of the day sickness for that matter) away is keeping my tummy full.
This is what I would eat on a normal work day:
4:00 am – Apple – then I would go Run either in the morning or just after 17:00pm
5:00-6:00 am – 400ml of Full cream milk with 100g serving of Future Life
8:00 am – 100g full cream Yogurt
10:00 am – 5 cups of slated popcorn (NOT MICROWAVE POPCORN)
11:00-12:00 pm – Lunch
13:00-14:00 pm – 3 Fruits
15:00 pm – 2nd lunch
18:00-19:30 pm – Dinner (I was usually so bloated that I had to divide my dinner in two)
20:30-21:00 pm – I’d eat the Rest of my dinner, 100g Yogurt + Tea before bed.
I also found that if I ate just before bed then I would not feel sick the next morning. On weekends when I get up much later than in the week, I found my morning sickness is quite bad. I truly believe it is because my body waits longer for food, for example I would eat breakfast maybe only at 8:00am-9:00am on a weekend where as in the week I would already start eating at 4:00am
So work out your meal plan per day and stick to it. It’s also important to be prepared to prevent yourself from getting so hungry that you just end up eating take-always and other crap, this will cause you to spend unnecessary amounts of money and it will cause you to gain weight that is unnecessary.
Think about every unplanned meal and money spent on take-always as money taken from cute baby clothes! (Hahaha, works for me!)
How I counter the Hunger:
- Always be in control. Always plan your meals and be ready for anything, I stash oranges in my handbag along with peanuts and non perishables. Just be prepared for anything.
- Think of what your eating is not only for you, its for Baby too, and its unfair feeding baby crap when they are at the mercy of your choices.
- Make peace with weight gain, Embrace it, but don’t over do it, make good choices.
Uncomfortable, Bloating and Constipation:
Unfortunately these are the three things that have been really bad for me so far.
I’m sure all woman carry differently and will feel differently in their pregnancies, but this is how I feel so far.
At about 12 weeks I’m uncomfortable, and really bloated, I cannot believe that his baby is already pushing out like this.
Week 4-5 belly measured: 70-75cm, pretty flat
Week 7-9 belly measured: 80-85cm, looked like I just had a little pooch
Week 9-12 belly Measured: 87-90cm, I feel like I look 5 Months pregnant
I get very bloated and uncomfortable after I have eaten, this is a bit of an adjustment for me. It reminds me of how uncomfortable I felt when I was overweight, but at least this is not a food baby – Yay! It’s a real one! So that is a bit of a consolation prize I guess.
This has at least not affected my running – but this does make you feel like you just want to sit or lay down but this won’t make you feel better. I found that going for a run,walk or for a swim really helped me to just get comfortable and to get things working so that I could deal with the constipation.
So constipation: When you’re pregnant your body increases the hormone progesterone, which relaxes smooth muscles, including your digestive tract. This means that food passes through your intestines more slowly. Iron supplements, especially in high doses, can make constipation worse.
I found that drinking lots of water and moving around regularly helped with the constipation. You can also drink high fibre fruit juices to help get things going.
Otherwise, I think it’s just something you must work out a routine around and figure out what works for you, because from what I’ve read so far it’s just going to continue!
Constipation rarely is a sign of something that is wrong but occasionally constipation during pregnancy can be a symptom of another problem. If you have severe constipation that’s accompanied by abdominal pain, alternates with diarrhea, or you pass mucus or blood, call your doctor or midwife immediately.
How I counter the C+B+U:
- Drink lots of water
- Do not stop excersising
- Figure out what food helps and make it worse – Like i love eating carrots and beet, only to find out that my body now doesn’t like it…
- Don’t sit for long periods of time, move around at least once an hour
- Don’t wear tight fitting clothes
- Don’t get discouraged, some days are good and others bad, but they get better again.
Otherwise than the above I’m very happy to be in the second Trimester, My energy is going up and my head is becoming clearer again, so hopefully I get to run more!
Follow me here and on JBRobinblog.com on what the Second trimester is like!
What You Need to Know About Running While Pregnant
Running while pregnant is a hot topic. Should you? Shouldn’t you? Over the years, the guidelines have changed, but now the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says staying active is of the utmost importance for a healthy pregnancy if there are no contraindications. Gone are the recommendations of keeping your heart rate below 140 bpm, although some physicians still follow that guideline. Be sure you have an open discussion with your doctor about exercise and running throughout your pregnancy.
The first thing to think about when considering running during pregnancy is your pre-pregnancy fitness level. If you’ve been a runner for a while and would like to continue training during your pregnancy, it’s OK to do so. If you participated in vigorous exercise pre-pregnancy, the current guidelines say to continue your normal routines..
Each pregnancy is unique. Just because your favorite Instagrammer ran through her pregnancy, does not mean that you should keep up with her. You may also find that running with baby number one felt great, but running with baby number two feels awkward and uncomfortable. Don’t force running if it doesn’t feel right for you and the baby.
Your training will look different with each trimester. As you progress in the pregnancy, your running speed will naturally slow down and running will become more challenging. Your heart must beat harder to deliver oxygen to you and your baby.
That means running at a certain pace will now feel harder because your heart rate is higher. Your running form will change as your center of gravity shifts with the growth of the baby. It is important to focus more on running by feel than to go by your watch.
A training plan during pregnancy needs to be flexible and done at a level that is safe for mom and baby. Pushing at too hard of an effort increases the risk for injuries, especially in your hips and lower back.
During the first trimester, you may be able to continue to run at your usual level of mileage and intensity. Your gait has not changed, and weight gain is minimal during this time. The biggest obstacles are probably fatigue and morning sickness. When you have the energy and are able, you may continue to run as usual. Try to also include total body strength exercises during this time to maintain lean muscle in addition to building up your core strength and posture.
The second trimester usually brings relief from morning sickness (sorry if you are not one of the lucky ones!), although your energy levels may still be lower than they were pre-pregnancy. Your running gait will start to change as your belly grows. With this change, you may experience low back and SI Joint pain due to ligament laxity and hyper mobility. A good stability belt can help ease back pain as the band gently lifts your belly, taking some of the belly load off your back.
During this time, you may need to introduce more cross training into your weekly workouts instead of running. It may no longer feel comfortable or too awkward to run . Lower impact activities like swimming, stationary bike, walking or elliptical provide a workout with less stress to the body and lowers injury risk. Continue to strength train your whole body, including planks (if you’re not experiencing shoulder issues), hip strengthening exercises and stability ball exercises for balance and posture. You may also find a prenatal yoga class is beneficial for preparing your body for birth in addition to stress relief.
As long as running still feels comfortable, keep at it! However, you may find that running is really uncomfortable with your ever-growing belly. If so, a run/walk method or just walking may feel best Pool running is another great alternative during the third trimester, as some of the weight is taken off your joints by your natural buoyancy. The intensity of your workouts should still be based on effort. Continue with total body strengthening exercises that include core and hip moves.
Remember to always go by feel no matter what stage of pregnancy you are in. And as always, consult your own personal physician about running and exercise guidelines for your pregnancy since each one is unique.
READ THIS NEXT: The Benefits of Running While Pregnant
How Running During Pregnancy Prepared Me for Giving Birth
“Karla, you run every day, right?” My obstetrician sounded like a coach giving a pep talk. Except the “sport” was labor and delivery.
“Not every day,” I whimpered between breaths.
“You run marathons!” my doctor said. “Now push!”
In the throes of delivery, I was suddenly very glad I’d run throughout my pregnancy.
Running while growing another human being was a lot like giving birth. There were good moments, bad moments, and downright ugly moments. But it proved to be a beautiful experience worth every-ahem-bump in the road.
The Benefits of Running During My Pregnancy
Running helped normalize a period of my life that was anything but. I felt like an alien parasite had taken over my body, wreaking havoc on my energy, sleep, appetite, immune system, performance, mood, sense of humor, productivity, you name it. (Pregnancy comes with some weird side effects.) Simply, my body didn’t feel like mine. Instead of the reliable machine I’d come to know and love, my body was transformed into someone else’s home. I made each decision about every single detail of my life with that other person in mind. I was a “mom,” and it took awhile to fully wrap my brain around that new identity. It left me feeling out-of-sync with myself at times.
But running was different. Running helped me feel like me. I needed that more than ever when everything else was topsy-turvy: round-the-clock nausea, frequent illnesses, debilitating fatigue, and that gnawing holy-crap-I’m-going-to-be-a-mom feeling. After all, running has always been my “me” time, when I shut out the world and sweat out the stress. Stroller shopping at the colossal buybuy BABY store nearly gave me palpitations. But going for a run afterward helped me find some zen. I’m more tuned in to my body, mind, and soul than at any other time. Simply, I always feel better after a run. Science agrees. A single sweat sesh can improve your mood during pregnancy, according to a study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.
So I laced up every chance I got. At four months, I completed an open-water swim as part of a triathlon relay, winning first in the team competition. At five months, I ran the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon with my husband. And at the six-month mark, I enjoyed a hard-but-conversational 5K.
When the going got tough, I knew that I was doing something good for my baby and myself. “Pregnancy is now considered an ideal time not only for continuing but also for initiating an active lifestyle,” according to a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Prenatal exercise decreases serious pregnancy risks like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery, eases common pregnancy symptoms like back pain, constipation, and fatigue, encourages healthy weight gain, and strengthens your heart and blood vessels. That’s why the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourages women with uncomplicated pregnancies to get at least 20 minutes of moderately intense exercise just about every day. Sweating during pregnancy may also shorten labor times and lower the risk of delivery complications and fetal stress, according to a study at the University of Vermont. (Just make sure you know how to modify exercises appropriately.)
Babies benefit too; your prenatal workouts might actually give your child a healthier heart, says research published in Early Human Development. They’re better equipped to handle fetal stress, mature behaviorally and neurologically more quickly, and have lower fat mass, according to a review out of Switzerland. They’re also less likely to have breathing problems.
Of course, these benefits weren’t always so obvious. “Ten years ago, when I was pregnant with my daughter, my gynecologist made me go in for all these tests,” mom and marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe told me at the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon. Radcliffe said her doctor was skeptical about running during pregnancy. “At the end, she actually said, ‘I really want to apologize for scaring you so much. The baby is really healthy. I’m going to tell all my moms who do exercise to carry on.'”
That Doesn’t Make It Easy
Sometimes running during pregnancy was downright difficult. I ran my second-fastest half marathon during my first week of pregnancy (and dry-heaved eight times in the process). Just five weeks later I could barely eke out 3 miles. (Major respect to Alysia Montaño who competed in the USA track and field nationals while pregnant.)
“I literally felt like I fell off a cliff,” elite New Balance athlete Sarah Brown says about those early weeks in the documentary series Run, Mama, Run.
Surges in hormones can cause whammy levels of fatigue, breathlessness, nausea, and a suite of other symptoms. Sometimes I was demoralized, feeling like I’d lost all my fitness, strength, and endurance at once. My weekly mileage dropped by half and some weeks I couldn’t run at all thanks to the flu (scary!), bronchitis, colds, round-the-clock nausea, and energy-depleting exhaustion that lingered during my first four months. But I often felt worse sitting on my sofa than I did while running, so I slogged along-vomiting, dry-heaving, and sucking wind much of the way.
Thankfully, I got my breath and energy back in the second trimester. Running became my friend again, but it brought along a new buddy-the ever-present urge to pee. Just when I felt strong enough to go longer than 3 miles, pressure on my bladder made that impossible without bathroom breaks. I mapped out pit stops along my routes and turned to the treadmill, where I could pop into the bathroom easily. If nothing else, running during pregnancy forced me to get creative. (Related: This Woman Completed Her 60th Ironman Triathlon While Pregnant)
Did I mention the vomit? Well, it’s worth mentioning again. I walked down the street retching and gagging at the wafting smells of garbage and dog urine. During runs, I had to pull to the side of road when a wave of queasiness washed over me-most often during the first trimester, but even into the months beyond.
If hurling mid-run isn’t awful enough, imagine someone heckling while you do it. Yep, naysayers still exist. Thankfully, they were rare. And when someone I actually knew spoke up (“Are you sure you should still be running?”) I rattled off the health benefits, mentioned that my doctor told me to keep running, and explained that the notion of pregnant frailty is an antiquated idea at best, a dangerously unhealthy one at worst. Yeah, we had that conversation. (The idea that exercising while pregnant is bad for you is a myth.)
But that wasn’t the worst of it. I strained a muscle in my chest when my sports bras could no longer handle the force of my rapidly expanding breasts. That was painful. I got a new wardrobe of maximum support bras.
The ugliest moment? When I decided to stop running altogether. By 38 weeks, my sausages-for-feet felt like they were going to explode. I let out the laces in all my sneakers and some wouldn’t tie at all. Concurrently, my daughter “dropped” into position. The added pressure in my pelvis made running too uncomfortable. Cue the ugly cry. I felt like I’d lost an old friend, someone who had, quite literally, been with me through thick and thin. Running was a constant in my rapidly changing existence. When my doctor yelled, “Push!” for the last time, life started anew.
Running As a New Mom
I started running again, with my doc’s blessing, five and a half weeks after giving birth to a healthy baby girl. In the meantime, I walked every day, pushing my daughter in her stroller. No palpitations this time. All those months of prenatal running had helped ready me for my new role as a mom.
Now 9 months old, my daughter has already cheered me on at four races and loves zooming around on her hands and knees. Little does she know she’s prepping for her first diaper dash at the Disney Princess Half Marathon, where I’ll run my first postpartum 13.1-miler. I hope my running will inspire her to make fitness a priority throughout her life, just as it was during her earliest days.
- By By Karla Bruning
Why it’s OK to run when you are pregnant
Image copyright AP
Many top sportswomen continue training – and even competing – after they get pregnant. A new report commissioned by the International Olympic Committee confirms there are fewer risks than you might think.
On 20 March 1983, the Norwegian long-distance runner Ingrid Kristiansen took her place at the starting line of the World Cross Country Championship in Gateshead, England.
For the past couple of weeks she had been feeling a little tired, which she put down to jet lag from two recent trips to the US. She was still one of the favourites to win though, having come first in the Houston marathon a couple of months earlier.
But to her surprise, that isn’t what happened.
“The first lap I was the last of the Norwegians, and my coach didn’t understand anything,” she recalls. She managed to overtake her compatriots but still finished a disappointing 35th.
“My coach’s wife was sitting, looking at the television. And she called her husband afterwards, and she asked him, ‘Is Ingrid pregnant?’
“I think it was the way I was running. Maybe I was a little bit heavier in the upper body, I’m not sure. But she saw it.”
Kristiansen soon confirmed that she was pregnant – by almost five months. That meant she’d won the Houston marathon pregnant, with a time of two hours 33 minutes.
Female athletes often have irregular menstrual cycles, so it’s not uncommon for them to become pregnant without knowing. Over the years, at least 17 women have competed at the Olympics pregnant.
Some of them certainly knew it at the time – a memorable image from the London Games in 2012 is of the Malaysian sports shooter Nur Suryani Taini holding her air rifle over an eight-month baby bump.
Image copyright AP Image caption Nur Suryani Taini gained a lot of attention at the London Olympics (though sadly no medals)
The cross-country skier Marit Bjorgen, a six-time Olympic champion, attracted attention in Scandinavia last year when she attended team training camps while pregnant.
In June 2014, US news outlets ran remarkable pictures of Alysia Montano competing in the 800m quarterfinals of the US track and field championships (see the picture at the top of this article). In the UK, the media also regularly feature stories about heavily pregnant women taking part in races.
So how safe is it to train and compete while pregnant? As part of its commitment to women’s sport, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently called a group of experts to a meeting in Lausanne and asked them to write a report.
Their huge review is being published in five parts in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Despite the complexity of the material, the lead author’s message is simple.
“There are only a few high-quality studies into pregnancy among elite athletes or those who exercise a great deal, but it seems that many do continue to exercise during pregnancy, and it does not affect them in a negative way,” says Prof Kari Bo from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences. “It doesn’t seem to harm either the foetus or the mother.”
These athletes are no more at risk of problematic pregnancies or birth defects, though Bo says that when such things do occur people often mistakenly make a link to physical activity during pregnancy. At the same time, there is no evidence that athletes have an easier time during pregnancy or childbirth.
Historically, advice given to pregnant women relating to exercise has been muddled and speculative. For a long time exercise was simply thought to conflict with a woman’s reproductive ability. The roots of this feeling were unscientific, and more to do with gender roles than with the health of mother or baby.
Image copyright iStock Image caption Elite athletes often feel they have to figure out what exercise they should and shouldn’t do for themselves
But in the 1980s some researchers began to reason that the demands exercise placed on a woman’s body – in terms of oxygen, blood flow, nutrients and temperature – were similar to those made by a foetus. So if pregnant women exercised, these doctors suggested, the foetus might lose out in a battle for resources.
“In a way it’s correct,” says Bo. “But women who are athletic also have very good blood distribution, so it doesn’t seem to do any harm to the foetus, and at the same time it’s obvious that the placenta is also better nourished when you are exercising, so there’s a sort of compensation going on.”
Pregnant women have improved temperature regulation (which is why they may sweat more) and greater cardiovascular capacity. Hormonal changes may mean they feel more flexible in their joints, and an increase in the concentration of red blood cells means they can carry more oxygen around their bodies.
Studies indicate that elite athletes who train during and after pregnancy may see a 5-10% increase in their maximal oxygen consumption in the months after giving birth, though this was not observed in recreational athletes.
Rather than dispensing a list of technical dos and don’ts, Bo has a simple message for pregnant women athletes: listen to your body. If you do something that feels wrong, it’s probably best to stop.
“The few studies that we have, they show that pregnant athletes are reducing the intensity and the frequency of training by themselves,” says Bo. “This happens when your tummy is growing and you can feel the child jumping up and down with you – it doesn’t feel very good.”
Image copyright iStock
Pregnancy and training: Four tips
Prof Kari Bo believes women athletes are their own best judges when it comes to training during pregnancy – but she has a few tips:
- For the first trimester (12-week period) it’s best to avoid getting too hot, so consider wearing light clothing, exercising in air-conditioned environments, and refraining from strenuous exercise on the hottest days
- Female weight-lifters should probably reduce the weight they lift, since it may increase blood pressure, stop blood flow to the foetus and strain the pelvic floor
- Scuba diving is not advisable during pregnancy, and women in their final trimester may also wish to avoid participating in sports such as football or hockey where they may have a fall or collision
- A small study of Olympic athletes showed that blood flow to the foetus was reduced when the mother exercised above 90% of maximal oxygen consumption – in practice this means that moderate exercise in training is fine, but pregnant women should refrain from maximal efforts during endurance training
The new research fits with current advice for the general public. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women participate in aerobic and strength exercises, which may reduce the risk of diabetes and improve mental well-being. However, before women embark on an exercise programme, they should seek medical advice.
In the UK, the NHS also advises women to continue exercising through pregnancy, though it says they shouldn’t work out so strenuously that they can’t hold a conversation at the same time.
What counts as “strenuous exercise” clearly depends on how fit you are and how much sport you already do.
Seven or eight weeks into her first pregnancy, the Swedish athlete Eva Nystrom won the Swedish national duathlon – a 10km run, followed by 40km cycle race and another 5km run.
Two days later, Nystrom – who knew she was pregnant – went out for a run and was sick.
“It was like a signal to me that I had to listen to my body, and I had to cool down a bit,” she says. “At the beginning I trained and raced too much.”
But she continued to run regularly. Nystrom didn’t seek medical advice before undertaking her fitness regime – in fact, she didn’t even mention it to her midwife, fearing disapproval.
As her pregnancy continued and she put on weight, Nystrom began to have problems with back pain. But luckily there was a particularly heavy snowfall that year in southern Sweden, so, with the encouragement of a physio, she switched her exercise to cross-country skiing, working out for about an hour every other day.
Image copyright Eva Nystrom Image caption Eva Nystrom skiing a few days before giving birth to her son
She couldn’t help noticing, as she approached her due date, that more and more heads were turning to watch her glide by on her skate skis. Nystrom took to training early in the morning, when there were fewer people to cast questioning looks in her direction.
“I did it the last time 24 hours before he was born,” she says. “I was a little bit tired, but it was OK.”
After the birth of her son Simon (which, contrary to the words of many a midwife, was “not like running a marathon,” she says), the baby quickly put on weight. Nystrom says this was just as well.
“I think if he had been a little baby, maybe people would have asked me if it had been a good decision to train. But people didn’t say anything.”
Find out more
- Listen to Prof Kari Bo and Eva Nystrom speaking to Health Check on the BBC World Service
- Listen to marathon runner Mary Keitany talking to Sportshour about motherhood and elite sport
After childbirth, women are traditionally told to take it easy for the full postpartum period of six weeks, but Kari Bo says this is something of an arbitrary time period. In reality, athletes who have experienced a straightforward pregnancy and birth often start exercising after one or two weeks.
Back in 1983, Ingrid Kristiansen gave herself just four days of rest following the birth of her son Gaute before she began training once again. A month later she was taking part in cross-country competitions, and before too long came the Houston marathon, which she won with a time five-and-a-half minutes faster than the year before – 2:27:51.
In fact, Gaute’s birth signalled the start of the best part of Kristiansen’s career, in which she set world records for the Marathon, 10,000 metres and 5,000 metres.
Image copyright AP Image caption One of the great endurance athletes of her generation, Kristiansen showed that mums could set records
For her part, Eva Nystrom became the long distance duathlon world champion in 2012, the year after giving birth to her son. She is one of a growing list of women athletes – including Brits Paula Radcliffe, Jo Pavey and Jessica Ennis Hill – who demonstrate that, with the right support network, it is possible to organise training and competition around breastfeeding and playtime.
But although the recent IOC-commissioned review is encouraging to athletes who wish to train through pregnancy, Kari Bo admits she often finds herself urging elite sportswomen to take it easier during pregnancy.
“I think women athletes are very, very afraid that they will lose their fitness,” she says.
“Most women should be told to be more active, that exercising is safe, it’s not dangerous at all, they could start a new lifestyle because they are pregnant.
“Then you have a small group who are addicted to exercise, and they feel that they have to give 100% every time they exercise.
“And to those women I say: ‘You do not lose a lot by moderately exercising for the last two months of your pregnancy. This is only a few months in your life, you know? So take care, because you have a passenger.'”
Image copyright Eva Nystrom Image caption Eva Nystrom feeding her son Simon before competing in a triathlon event about six months after his birth
Listen to Prof Kari Bo and Eva Nystrom speaking to Health Check on the BBC World Service.
Follow William Kremer on Twitter @williamkremer
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