Can You Run While You Are Pregnant?
Posted on 17 Jun, 2015
These days doctors routinely advise expectant mothers to stay active, and going for a run is a quick and effective way to work your heart and body. Of the numerous benefits running holds for both mother and child, these are the most prominent:
- Promotes optimal weight gain.
- Increases energy and improves mood and sleep quality.
- Reduces delivery complications and time spent in labor.
- Improves posture as center of gravity shifts.
- Lessens back pain and promotes muscle tone, strength and endurance.
- Improves circulation and blood flow which in turn reduces bloat, swelling and risk of blood clots.
But is it safe for every woman to run during pregnancy? It depends.
If you ran regularly before getting pregnant, it's fine to continue as long as you take the necessary precautions. But if you’ve never run before, pregnancy probably isn't the time to start a running routine.
Always get clearance from your doctor before you embark on a running routine during your pregnancy. It is critical that your physician determines the competency of the cervix and that your baby is in normal position. The cervix helps hold the baby inside, and if it is deemed weak, it is best that you not run.
Running while you’re pregnant holds a different set of challenges. This set of guidelines will get you through them in a way that is safe for you and your baby.
The physiological changes your body goes through during pregnancy makes any physical activity more difficult. Cardiac strain increases as does breathing rate. And because there is an increase in total body mass, additional oxygen is needed to perform any given activity.
With that in mind, your training plan during pregnancy should be open, flexible, and focused on staying fit rather than building endurance or speed. Run with an awareness of all the stresses on the body. Stop paying attention to your pace, but on the amount of effort you are giving.
The key is finding a reasonable level, and that depends largely on how much you were doing before.
If you regularly ran five miles a day, you can keep logging those miles, but at a gradually slowing pace.
Never run to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Pushing yourself to the limit forces your body to use up oxygen that should be going to your baby. It is best to always stay below your lactate threshold, and to be able to still conduct a conversation while running.
A study of elite athletes showed how fetal well being was compromised when exercise intensity went above 90% of their maximal heart rate. Going at that intensity changed blood flow to the baby, which caused fetal heart rate to drop, and that is a tipping point that isn’t worth crossing.
When And Where To Run
If your core temperature gets too high, it could cause problems that are dangerous to both you and your child. So avoid exercise in hot, humid conditions.
And remember, your center of gravity shifts as your belly grows. This leaves you more vulnerable to slips and falls. If outdoor conditions are not ideal, take your workouts inside to better control your environment. This is important during cold, wintery days where the risk of falling is greater.
For safety, stick to running on flat pavement. Consider running on a rubberized track as your pregnancy progresses. Not only is the track surface easier on your joints, but you may feel safer running somewhere where you won't get stranded in case of an emergency.
Whether you're pregnant or not, running can be hard on your knees. During pregnancy, your joints loosen to prepare you for childbirth, and this makes you more prone to injury.
Wear shoes that give your feet plenty of support, especially around the ankles and arches. Also, invest in a good sports bra to keep your growing breasts well supported.
Lastly, leave your GPS at home. You’re not tracking your pace anyway. It frees you up to enjoy the run without worrying about your dwindling performance.
During pregnancy, there is a transfer of just about every major vitamin and mineral you can think of from you to your baby. This ongoing transfer explains why you may feel run down and exhausted.
In order to meet both your needs, a healthy diet is absolutely critical. Here is a good general guideline to follow.
- Drink sufficient water before, during, and after your run. Dehydration can decrease blood flow to the uterus and may even cause premature contractions.
- Your diet should be augmented with iron and calcium supplementation as the developing fetus begins to demand these elements in increasing amounts. Coupling your iron rich food with vitamin C will help your body better absorb the iron. The extra calcium will also help you fend off stress fractures.
- Protein needs are high during pregnancy, even higher if you’re logging mileage. So aim for some protein at every meal.
- Take in more nutrients overall by eating a colorful diet. Natural color equates to critical nutrients like vitamins A and C, and carotenoids like lutein and beta-carotene.
- Aim for light and early dinners. Big dinners tend to prolong digestion, which can disrupt sleep patterns.
Include lower impact activities like swimming, stationary cycling, or yoga into your workout. Compared to running, these total-body strength exercises put less stress on your body, and allow you to maintain lean muscle tissue, core strength and posture.
If you feel too tired to go for a run, listen to your body and take a break. Being sedentary is unhealthy, but pushing yourself too hard is also harmful. Before your baby’s arrival, stock up on the precious commodity of sleep. You won’t get much of it once he or she arrives.
Always be mindful of the signs to stop exercising.
- Shortness of breath.
- Headache, dizziness, or feeling faint.
- Chest pain, calf pain, or swelling.
- Muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling.
- Vaginal bleeding
- Preterm labor (contractions)
- Decreased fetal movement
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