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Each culture has its own set of beliefs about pregnancy, including what expecting mothers can and cannot do. Some of these have been debunked by science and modern medicine and persist only as traditions, cultural practices or personal preferences. One common example is exercising during pregnancy.
Some believe pregnant women should not be doing any strenuous exercise and should not be depriving themselves of any dietary cravings. Others balk at this notion and insist that it is better if the mother remains active throughout the pregnancy, retains control over her food intake and keeps her weight gain to a minimum. The former may sound ideal to some, but the truth is closer to the latter. As with a lot of advice on pregnancy, it is hardly a “one size fits all” scenario.
Keeping a regular exercise regimen while pregnant is recommended by medical experts and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists . Exercising for at least fifteen to thirty minutes a day has numerous benefits for both the mother and the fetus. Exercise increases the blood flow and improves the mood by releasing endorphins which are good for fetal well-being.
Pregnancy hormones notoriously wreak havoc on a mother’s emotions, mood and state of mind. Exercising mitigates those effects. Working out also reduces the risk of needing a C-section delivery. Physically fit women generally have shorter and easier labors, and they also bounce back faster. Exercising also helps prevent pregnancy and labor complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
Some studies show that the babies of runners did not experience premature birth or lower birth weight. That said, it is important to take your fitness level plus any underlying health issues into consideration . Staying physically fit and active may also relieve some of the more annoying pregnancy symptoms like backaches, hip pain, bloating and constipation. However, there are always conditions and complications where exercise during pregnancy is contraindicated. Always check with an OB-GYN before undertaking an exercise or running program.
Pregnant and non-pregnant women alike can rarely go wrong with cardio or aerobic exercise. One example of this is running or jogging. It is uncomplicated and does not require equipment or expensive coaches and trainers. Running while pregnant does not cause miscarriages and will not result in shaken baby syndrome. The fetus is safely cocooned inside the uterus. For those with otherwise healthy and uncomplicated pregnancies, working out while pregnant will not have adverse effects on the growing fetus.
Pregnancy And Your Body
Running while pregnant is not for novices. Elite athletes used to intense workouts will have an easier time staying active during pregnancy. A recreational runner may be a different story. Those who were not runners before pregnancy should not attempt to start during pregnancy. It is not a good time to push a body’s limits. It is equally can also be harmful to turn sedentary. Brisk walks are an excellent alternative to running. As with any physical activity, start slow. Give the muscles and the rest of the body time to warm up.
Although running while pregnant is generally safe, pregnancy typically causes shortness of breath, especially in the third trimester. As each trimester passes, the womb housing the fetus, placenta and amniotic fluid increase in size. The growing womb can push and crowd a mother’s internal organs, including the lungs. Aside from the extra weight of the fetus and the increased blood circulating in the body, this can make running or any exercise feel uncomfortable. It poses an added strain to muscles, joints and the pelvic floor muscles.
The body produces the hormone relaxin which loosens the ligaments. This can make muscles increasingly sore after a run. More moderate or low impact forms of exercise like swimming, yoga and pilates are good alternatives. While exercise is recommended during pregnancy, there are many activities to choose from with varying degrees of difficulty. Running is just one option among many. Women can run while pregnant, but pregnant women should listen to their bodies and consult with their doctors for assurance.
Can You Run While Pregnant – Yes, With These Tips
Pregnant women have higher temperatures than usual, and they tend to overheat easily. Do not jog during the hottest time of day. Do so early in the morning. Better yet, run on a treadmill in an air conditioned room in a home or at the gym.
Remember sun protection
When jogging outdoors during the daytime, wear ample sun protection regardless of cloud cover or time of day. A pregnant woman’s skin is more photosensitive than usual, so do not skip the SPF.
Drinking enough water is always essential and even more so during an active pregnancy. Dehydration is a possible cause of premature contractions because when a pregnant woman is dehydrated, it restricts the blood flow to the uterus. Dehydration can also result in low levels of amniotic fluid which is dangerous for the fetus. The recommended amount of water intake is eight to ten glasses a day. If active, sweating and under the hot sun, consider drinking more to replenish fluids and electrolytes.
Choose a sports bra carefully
One of the earliest telltale signs of pregnancy is sore and tender breasts. For some women, it is worse than the normal tenderness they feel during their periods. This soreness typically does not last the entire nine months of pregnancy. However, the breasts undergo a lot of changes for milk production including growing at least one or two cup sizes. Normal pregnancy fatigue and the changes in the breasts may cause discomfort throughout pregnancy which can discourage active pursuits. For those that power through and keep working out, a good sports bra is very important. Chances are, pre-pregnancy sports bras no longer fit. Pregnant women do not necessarily need maternity sports bras, but be extra discerning about the fit and construction. Go for a style that offers ample support, thicker straps, sufficient padding and a snug but comfy under bust elastic.
Use a good pair of running shoes
Running while pregnant burns a massive amount of calories and is excellent for overall cardiovascular health. It is also a high impact activity that takes its toll on the body every time the foot hits the pavement. For pregnant runners, the impact is jarring for the bones, joints and the pelvic floor. These muscles are responsible for supporting the uterus, colon and bladder area. Choosing the appropriate running shoes will soften the impact and provide sufficient shock absorption. Opt for a brand that experts and professionals recommend, and make sure to get a pair designed specifically for running. This will help lessen the discomfort and pain some feel.
Support the belly
Belly bands or maternity support belts are to the baby bump what sports bras are to the breasts. They are must-haves when it comes to maternity wear, especially after the first trimester. Maternity supports are usually constructed with an elastic material that provides soft compression when wrapped around the belly. Their purpose is to support the uterus, provide relief from backaches and lessen the discomfort of moving around with the extra weight of a baby bump. For those who run while pregnant, belly bands are very helpful. They come in different sizes or are fully adjustable. This is crucial as too much compression causes heartburn and indigestion for the mother, and it restricts the flow of blood to the fetus causing adverse effects.
Choose smooth running paths and trails
A body’s center of gravity shifts when pregnant both physically and emotionally. One of the effects of these sudden and drastic changes on a mother’s body is a poorer sense of balance, especially through the last trimester. Pregnant women may become clumsy and bump into things. When running, stay on the beaten path. This will decrease the chances of tripping and falling which could have serious consequences. Save the uphill forest trails for after birth, and opt for paved jogging paths or a treadmill in a gym. As much as possible, do not run alone or go somewhere remote where isolated and difficult to access in case of emergencies.Know when to stop. This last one should be a no brainer, but if you are an elite athlete who practices intense runs or exercise workouts which push endurance, strength and will to the limits, it might be a hard habit to break. Pregnancy and all the precautions may feel like confinements, but remember it is for a limited time period. Running while pregnant should be within reason as long as your doctor approves. Learn to take cues from your body, and stop before you get tired. One important way to protect the fetus is to get enough rest and avoid overexertion, especially in the last trimester. Exertion means different things to different people. Do not compare workouts with pregnant fitness models on social media.
Conclusion: Can You Run While Pregnant?
Wanting to stay healthy and physically fit during pregnancy is best for both the fetus and the mother. However, every pregnancy is unique, just like every woman and her body is unique. Exercise that is good for one woman is not necessarily good for another.
Expect an exercise regimen to transform as the months of pregnancy progress. For instance, strength training after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is not recommended. Expecting mothers should consult with their OBs to design a safe exercise program whether it be low impact or moderate exercise. Ask your doctor if it is ok to run while pregnant. Follow your doctor’s directives for exercising.
After birth, running has been found to be beneficial for conditions such as postpartum depression . Check with your health care provider before embarking on a running routine or strenuous exercise during the postpartum period.
The lucky ones will have little to zero restrictions for exercise, while other women whose pregnancies are considered high-risk will be told to rest more often. After being nine months pregnant, a woman can feel very limited, especially an expectant mom who is used to a certain level of physicality. The nine months will eventually end, and after a reasonable recovery time, you can go back to running marathons!
Can You Run While Pregnant Resources: The American College Of Obstetricians And Gynecologist; Exercise During Pregnancy, FAQQ 119, July 2017.
 NHS; Running in pregnancy ‘doesn’t raise risk’ of premature birth , Analysis by Bazian Edited by NHS Website, April 09 2018.
 Pubmed; The Role Of Exercise In Treating Postpartum Depression: A Review Of The Literature,Daley AJ, Macarthur C, Winter H, Jan-Feb 2007 52(1):56-52.