I was four weeks pregnant with twins when my sister-in-law ran in the 2008 Chicago marathon. I remember that I could barely ride the train to the spectator points due to the heat and oppressive crowds. As a means of inspiration to keep me going, my husband thoughtfully pointed out a streamlined vessel of motherhood running while about six months along in her own pregnancy.
I was shocked that a woman would put herself through something so strenuous while so pregnant, but then I remembered: childbirth is often the most physically grueling undertaking most women will ever experience. Surely it could be no worse than a marathon! With the Texas Marathon in Kingwood, TX on Jan 1, 2010 it seemed like a good time to consider the issue of running while pregnant.
The American Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (ACOG) says that a woman whose body is conditioned to run should be able to maintain a running program without issue as long as she is carefully monitored by her care provider and does not have other complications.
If you are considering training or running for a marathon of any length through your pregnancy, consider the following tips and cautions:
- Be sure that your doctor or midwife is aware of your training regiment. Pay attention to your body and immediately stop any activity that doesn't feel right.
- Be careful to drink lots of water and up your carbs before and during races and training. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of pre-term labor.
- Never get to the point of panting - maintain a moderate aerobic zone.
- Remember that increased hormones during pregnancy cause your joints to be more relaxed than usual. Use supports to add stability to your joints (especially if you have a history of injury or sprains)
- After about 20 weeks, all women should taper off their activity. The baby is demanding more oxygen at this point and women are more likely to have falls. This can increase the risk of pre-term labor, damage the placenta (placental abruption) and depending on how strenuous your training, even divert nutrition from the baby.
- Do not run under extreme conditions - hot or cold - as the stress on your body can put your pregnancy at risk.
- Prepare to not finish the race if you feel like you are "running on empty" or otherwise not feeling right.
Running during pregnancy can be a wonderful way to stay in shape as long as you exercise caution and remain within your comfort zone.