Running for Two - Page 4
Beyond such real concerns, "[Running while pregnant] is fear of the unknown," says Boere. In the absence of more scientific research, women are susceptible to their mothers-in-law's warnings and well-meaning neighbors' fears. Even ACOG, in its official opinion on the subject concludes, "The information on strenuous exercise is scarce." Their recommendation? "Women who engage in such activities require close medical supervision." Never a bad idea. To that, the experienced and the experts add: Know your body, use common sense ... and stay close to the bushes.
Heather C. Liston is a San Francisco-based writer and trail runner.
How to begin running post partum
"It's not like you have the baby and BOOM!—everything is back to normal again," says Maryanne McDonnell, a Connecticut OB/GYN who counts several runners among her patients. "The first six weeks after the birth are almost considered part of pregnancy. You are recovering from a major physical and emotional event."
First, your body needs to recover from any traumas during delivery. A Caesarian section, for example, is considered major abdominal surgery, and you should not be doing any heavy lifting or high-impact exercise for at least six weeks. Sutures need to heal and the incision needs to close. And, Dr. McDonnell warns, you should not assume you're 100 percent healed just because the incision on the skin surface has closed. Internal incisions don't necessarily finish healing quite as fast.
In addition, hormone levels remain at their elevated pregnancy level for about six weeks after delivery. Relaxin softens the cervix and ligaments to make delivery possible, but that extra looseness can make injuries more likely, so be extra careful not to twist anything the wrong way. McDonnell advises staging your comeback "like it's the first time you've ever done this. Start off slowly and build gradually."
Colleen Personett, an optometrist in Fairbanks, Alaska, had her first baby last December. She started walking and cross-country skiing about two weeks after the birth and got back into running within two months. Personett takes her daughter Sage with her on about 90 percent of her runs now, thanks to the Chariot, an adaptable baby stroller she loves, which actually works for jogging, biking and skiing (See www.chariotcarriers.com).
For the last seven years, Personett has been a regular contender in Alaska's Equinox Marathon. Her pre-pregnancy times hovered around 3:45, earning her four spots in the top five. When she was six months pregnant, she finished in 5:15, and the last time, nine months after the birth of her daughter, she brought that back up to 4:30. "I could have done it faster if I wanted to put the time in," says Colleen. "But my priorities changed. I'm working part-time and taking care of the family. And when you look back in 20 years, do you want to feel good about your marathon times or about raising well-adjusted kids?"
Should I Go or Should I Stay Home?
Absolute Contraindications to Aerobic Exercise During Pregnancy
- Hemodynamically significant heart disease
- Restrictive lung disease
- Incompetent cervix/cerclage
- Multiple gestation at risk for premature labor
- Persistent second- or third-trimester bleeding
- Placenta previa after 26 weeks of gestation
- Premature labor during the current pregnancy
- Ruptured membranes
- Preeclampsia/pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Relative Contraindications to Aerobic Exercise During Pregnancy
- Severe anemia
- Unevaluated maternal cardiac arrhythmia
- Chronic bronchitis
- Poorly controlled type 1 diabetes
- Extreme morbid obesity
- Extreme underweight (BMI less than 12)
- History of extremely sedentary lifestyle
- Intrauterine growth restriction in current pregnancy
- Poorly controlled hypertension
- Orthopedic limitations
- Poorly controlled seizure disorder
- Poorly controlled hyperthyroidism
- Heavy smoker
- Warning Signs to Terminate Exercise While Pregnant
- Vaginal bleeding
- Dyspnea prior to exertion
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling (need to rule out thrombophlebitis)
- Preterm labor
- Decreased fetal movement
- Amniotic fluid leakage
(excerpted from ACOG Committee Opinion Number 267: "Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period," January 2002)