Can you run when pregnant??

Women's Running
Thursday, 05 November 2015 832 Views 0 Comments
Can you run when pregnant??

By Shailja Kaushik

Yes, say the experts, while listing the necessary precautions

Alysia Montano, a five-time national champion and US representative at the 2012 Olympics, ran the 800 meters in the US Track and Field Championship in 2014, when she was 34-weeks pregnant (nearly eight months into her term). She finished the race in 2 minutes, 32.13 seconds (35 seconds slower than her personal best of 1:57:34 in 2010). This is what she had to say, “What I found out mostly was that exercising during pregnancy is actually much better for the mom and the baby…”[i]

She is right. The belief that pregnant women should not run or exercise is an outdated viewpoint. The new-age thinking, as put forth by medical practitioners, is that expectant mothers must stay active for a healthy baby and for their own well being.

Dispel your fears of running during pregnancy

You would have heard a lot of people telling you that running during pregnancy might cause overheating, foetal deprivation of blood glucose or oxygen, or even premature delivery. Are you letting such notions interfere with your running or exercise? Do you fear that you are doing something harmful to your baby? If your answer is yes, then it’s important for you to know that experts now believe that running is not just safe but also healthy for both the mother-to-be and the baby-bump.

In The Complete Book of Running For Women by Claire Kowalchik, the most common doubts around running and pregnancy are clarified. It is explained how a pregnant woman’s body actually responds when she runs.

  • Fear#1 Running will deprive the foetus of oxygen or glucose: It was earlier believed that running will put an increased pressure on the cardiovascular, respiratory and thermoregulatory systems; the misconception was that since muscles consume more oxygen and glucose, during running, it leaves less of the same for the growing foetus. However, it is now understood that the body of the pregnant woman makes adjustments so as to meet the extra demands. There is a 30-50 per cent increase in cardiac output as well as 35-45 per cent increase in blood volume, which means that the blood can carry greater amounts of oxygen and glucose, providing all the required nourishment to the foetus. Another research study indicated that running throughout pregnancy increases transfer of oxygen, blood flow and diffusible substrate through the placenta, thus improving foeto-placental growth.[ii]
  • Fear#2 Running may overheat the body: Yes, it is true that overheating is not good in pregnancy, especially in the first trimester because it may cause neural tube defects in the foetus. The truth is that pregnancy heightens the body’s ability to regulate the heat by lowering the sweating threshold. Therefore, you would have noticed that since the time you’ve conceived, you’ve been sweating a lot. Sweating or perspiration is a natural cooling mechanism to decrease the body heat.
  • Fear#3 Running may cause premature delivery or pre-term uterine contractions: No greater incidence of early delivery is found among women who exercise as compared to those who don’t.
  • Fear#4 Running may lead to lower birth weight of babies: Although babies born to runner moms weigh lesser than those born to non-exercising women, this is attributed to lower body fat.

Benefits of running during pregnancy

Results of two research studies (published in the Canadian Journal of Applied Sports Science) to investigate the effects of running during pregnancy, involving 33 runners and 11 non-runner control subjects, indicated that[iii];

  • There was no significant difference between the two groups in terms of maternal weight gain and neonatal weight gain
  • A lower incidence of labour and delivery complications for the runners
  • Foetal bradycardia during a treadmill testing experience was observed but foetal heart rate returned to normal during the period of exercise.

There are tremendous benefits of running during pregnancy. It adds to the well-being of both the expectant mother as well as the baby as listed below:

  • Lesser complaints of nausea, fatigue, leg cramps and backache
  • Enhanced feelings of positivity and enthusiasm
  • Better self-image
  • Better prepared for labour
  • Improved sleep and appetite
  • No unnecessary weight gain
  • Easier delivery and lesser chances of a C-section
  • Less likelihood of preeclampsia
  • Getting back into shape is much easier and faster post-delivery

When should you refrain from running during pregnancy?

There are certain conditions under which a pregnant woman must NOT run. A pregnant runner suffering from any of the following should stop running immediately[iv]:

  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Pre-term rupture of membranes
  • Pre-term labour during the prior or current pregnancy
  • A cervix that dilates prematurely
  • Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
  • Inadequate foetal growth
  • History of miscarriages, multiple-births or premature labour

Mild to moderate running with reduced intensity and duration is advisable for pregnant women but you must first check with your doctor. Don’t start any new exercise or running program. Stay alert and heed any warning signals sent out by your body.

References 

[i] http://espn.go.com/olympics/trackandfield/story/_/id/11142115/pregnant-runner-alysia-montano-runs-800-meters-us-track-field-championships
[ii] A. Bergmann; M. Zygmunt; J.F. Clapp. Running throughout pregnancy; effect on placental villous vascular volume and cell proliferation. Placenta Journal, 2004.
[iii] E. Dale; KM. Mullinax; DH. Bryan. Exercise during pregnancy: effects on the fetus. Canadian Journal of Applied Sports Science. 1982 Jun;7(2):98-103
[iv] Dagny Scott Barrios. Runner’s World Complete Book of Women’s Running: The Best Advice to Get Started, Stay Motvated, Lose Weight, Run Injury-Free, Be Safe and Train for Any Distance. Rodale, 2007.

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