Running for Two - Page 2
Why shouldn't she, she wondered? "There's a lot of misinformation out there," says Certified Nurse Midwife Lynn Chapman-Stern. "A lot of feeling of `Put up your feet and rest, Honey,' instead of `Get out there and move!' I'm even guilty of it myself sometimes," she admits. "We all want to be careful around expectant mothers, but in fact, research says resting is useless. It does absolutely nothing to reduce the risk of miscarriage, for example. If a pregnancy is not going to stick around, it is not because you exercised."
James F. Clapp, III, M.D., former Director of Obstetrical Research at Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland, conducted a scientific study to determine whether "sustained, weight-bearing activity" (like running, for example) during pregnancy increased the risk of premature labor, and whether the "sudden foot-strike shock or bouncing" associated with running caused the membranes surrounding the baby to burst before they should. The answer was "no" on both counts. His study showed that women could actually continue running even after the cervix had begun to dilate without increasing the chances of membranes bursting before labor. And, he notes, "There is no suggestion that continuing regular exercise during pregnancy increases the incidence of delivering early enough to cause a problem related to prematurity for the baby."
The study did yield the good news that women who exercised regularly during their pregnancies delivered earlier—after the 37th week, when all was well and safe—than those who didn't. And, while there was "no increase in the incidence of low-birth-weight babies," the regular exercisers had smaller babies. The babies' length and head size were unaffected by their moms' exercise habits, but they were born with less fat.
Livingston's baby boy, Shepard, was born on August 15, 2006, at 5 pounds 5 ounces. "The doctors were a little concerned," she admits, "but I knew it was fine." The baby's Apgar scores were eight and then nine. (Apgar is a one-to-10 scale for measuring the health and condition of a newborn, at one and five minutes after birth.) High scores like Shepard's mean that his breathing, skin color, heart rate, muscle tone and other observable factors were excellent.
Jogging and Jostling
Doesn't a baby inside a trail runner get bounced around an awful lot? "Jostle away," says Chapman-Stern. "What do you think sex does? Besides, the baby is incredibly well cushioned. The uterus is a thick muscle and the baby has lots of padding." Kim Boere, a personal trainer and pre-natal specialist from Orlando, Florida, even says some of her clients say the movement seems to rock their babies to sleep.
Or is there a danger of overheating the fetus if you exercise strenuously? One of the most widespread recommendations about exercising while you're pregnant is that you should not let your heart rate get above 140 beats per minute. But—"Do you know what research that recommendation is based on?" asks Chapman-Stern. "Absolutely nothing!" The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued that 140 bpm guideline about 20 years ago, but they have since recanted. ACOG's current guidelines for exercise during pregnancy are much less specific and say things like, "In general, participation in a wide range of recreational activities appears to be safe," and "Recreational and competitive athletes with uncomplicated pregnancies can remain active during pregnancy and should modify their usual exercise routines as medically indicated."