Running during pregnancy – is it safe?
Pregnant women are often told to slow down, not exert too much effort, and take it easy for the baby. To everyone who possesses common sense, this seems a piece of sound advice.
After all, pregnancy does not only involve the life of the mother but her unborn child as well.
But what if you are told that exercising, and even running, regularly is perfectly okay for pregnant mothers to do?
Running During Pregnancy
Female athletes are quintessential examples. They still train for their sport even when pregnant. And as a result, their chances of encountering difficulties in pregnancy are lowered.
Not only that, their children have a lower risk of having birth defects.
In a BBC report, Prof Kari Bo from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences says:
“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. It doesn’t seem to harm either the foetus or the mother.”
Because athletic women have excellent circulation, the professor says, good blood distribution from frequent exercise contributes to a healthier placenta and foetus.
Benefits of Having Regular Exercise During Pregnancy
- It helps ease pregnancy symptoms. Exercise can help reduce backaches, swelling, and constipation during pregnancy.
- It helps you maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of getting cardiovascular disease.
- It improves mental well-being. The hormones produced while exercising can help boost energy levels as well as your mood. Women who exercise regularly are less at risk for depression.
- It prepares you for labour. Pregnant women who exercise regularly found that they tend to have faster labours as well as a quicker recovery from the trauma of giving birth. It also reduces the likelihood of needing a caesarean section delivery.
- It helps lower the risk of complications. Regular exercise also decreases the risk of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
- It can boost your baby’s brain development. Researchers found that newborns whose mothers exercised regularly during pregnancy had more developed brains than those babies born with mothers who had a sedentary lifestyle.
Is Running during Pregnancy Safe
Even the National Health Service in England encourages mothers to continue exercising when they’re pregnant, but also to make sure that the routines are not high in intensity.
Meanwhile, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourage pregnant mothers to participate in aerobic exercises as well as strength training because they lower the risk of diabetes and improve mental health.
According to Web MD, women who were already running regularly before they got pregnant should continue running during pregnancy.
However, there are some conditions where doctors do not advise engaging in strenuous exercises during pregnancy.
If your OB-gynaecologist tells you that you are at risk for preeclampsia, severe anaemia, heart and lung disease or placenta problems, some forms of exercise should be discouraged. The same goes if you are carrying multiples and are at risk of preterm labour.
It’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about your condition before you start any exercise program during pregnancy.
Risks of Running while Pregnant
Does running during pregnancy pose any risks to the mum and her unborn baby?
While engaging in light exercises is encouraged, doctors do not recommend you to start running as a form of exercise if you were not really doing it before your pregnancy. It is because like other strenuous activities, running during pregnancy may put you at risk for accidents and injury if you’re not careful.
Because of the extra weight that you’re carrying, your centre of gravity changes when you get pregnant and you are more prone to becoming off balance. Moreover, if you’re running on uneven or steep surfaces or rough terrain, you can also get an injury because your joints are looser at this stage.
Most pregnant women also feel more aches and pains when exercising. There’s pain around the pelvis or abdomen, because the round ligament is the one supporting the uterus, and the pain is more pronounced during vigorous exercise.
So if you weren’t running before, it’s not a good idea to start now. Instead, you can try more low-impact exercises like walking or yoga.
Tips for Running Safely While Pregnant
Image source: iStock
But if you’ve been running even before pregnancy, you’re confident that you can still do it and you have the go signal from your doctor, here are a few precautions to make sure you avoid accidents and injuries while running during pregnancy:
- Wear good running shoes. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and supportive, to prevent the risk of injuries. If your old running shoes seem too snug, you might need to get a size up, but not too loose that you can end up tripping.
- Wear supportive clothes. Check that your sports bra fits to accommodate your growing breasts. Some pregnant women also wear a pregnancy support band or a belly band to help avoid back pain.
- Drink lots of water to prevent getting dehydrated while you run.
- Don’t forget to stretch and warm up before you run. This will help prevent muscle pains and aches. Start slow and when you are already working up a sweat, try to keep a steady pace.
- Listen to your body. Pregnancy is not the time to try for a personal best or to beat your record. Even without running, your body is already working harder than ever. In addition, fatigue is a common symptom in early pregnancy. So don’t hesitate to stop and take a break if you need to. Also prepare to recover for a longer period of time than before.
Listen to Your Body
Professor Kari Bo says that pregnant women should listen to what they’re body is telling them. If an exercise routine doesn’t feel right or proves to be something so difficult you can’t follow it, it’s best to stop and take stock of yourself.
Moreover, a foetus moving in the mother’s womb may feel uncomfortable, and exercising may only exacerbate the discomfort.
She also says that women in their first trimester should stay away from having a high body temperature. So for these women exercising in an air-conditioned room, wearing light workout clothes is best.
When to Stop Running During Pregnancy
Most women stop running by their third trimester because their bellies have become so heavy and it’s starting to get uncomfortable.
It’s also important to look out for some warning signs when you’re running during pregnancy. Stop running or whatever exercise routine you’re doing and consult your doctor if you experience the following:
- Bleeding, fluid leaking from the vagina
- Regular and painful uterus contractions
- Chest pain
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Calf pain or swelling
- Muscle weakness that affects your balance
- Shortness of breath before beginning any exercise
Your body, your rules. But in parenting, you’ll soon find out that taking it slow is also important. While regular exercise is encouraged, remember to be in tune with what your body needs and always put your and your baby’s safety first.
Image source: Stock
Updates by Camille Eusebio
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