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Baby Gate: Running During Pregnancy

Photo by Erik Isakson

Is it safe to lace up your running shoes with a bun in the oven? What some people call irresponsible, others believe is bene cial. Maternal health expert Sheeva Talebian, M.D., sheds light on this hotly contested issue.

IS IT SAFE TO RUN WHILE PREGNANT?

Dr. Sheeva Talebian: Yes! That’s the one-word answer. Running is safe anytime—during the  rst, second and third trimester—if you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy. You should not run if you have complications like elevated blood pressure or, in some cases, multiple gestation, that would cause an obstetrician to advise no high-impact exercise.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

ST: Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t stay in shape. All of the same reasons you normally exercise— heart health, stress reduction, weight maintenance, lower blood pressure—are reasons to run during pregnancy. Additionally, women who exercise while pregnant have lower rates of diabetes and preeclampsia, and they are less likely to gain an unhealthy (and potentially dangerous) amount of weight. There’s even some data that suggests babies born to women who worked out while expecting have stronger cardiovascular systems.

RELATED ARTICLE: EXERCISE DOS AND DON’TS FOR EXPECTANT MOTHERS

WHEN IS RUNNING DANGEROUS?

ST: In the early ’90s, the thinking was that women should maintain a heart rate lower than 140 beats per minute during pregnancy—but there was no real data to support this claim and it’s since been revoked. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology now gives no specific heart rate women must stay below. I tell my patients to listen to their bodies. If your heart is racing out of control, slow down. If you can talk while running, you should be fine. Your heart aside, there are two things pregnant women need to be wary of: overheating (specifically in the first trimester) and falling (in the second and third trimesters).

ARE THERE SPECIFIC WORKOUTS WOMEN SHOULD AVOID?

ST: Again, it’s best to stay away from workouts that will lead to overheating or falling. It’s important to maintain a core temperature that is as close to normal (98.6 degrees) as possible. Maternal temperatures above 102 are related to an increased risk of spina bi da. To prevent overheating, stay inside on hot or humid days. It’s completely okay to sweat—perspiration actually helps keep your body cool—just don’t overdo it. Later in your pregnancy your center of gravity is changing, so there is a risk of falling and having direct trauma to the abdomen. Don’t run on icy paths or uneven trails. Also, make sure to hydrate properly as dehydration can lead to premature contractions.

WHY IS THERE A STIGMA SURROUNDING PREGNANT RUNNERS?

ST: Sometimes people view pregnancy as a “disability” and there is an expectation that the pregnant woman should be sedentary. But as long as a mom is smart, there’s much more good than harm that comes from exercising during pregnancy—both for her and her baby. I hope that stigma will eventually go away.

WHEN IS IT SAFE TO RUN FOLLOWING CHILDBIRTH?

ST: The general guideline is six weeks, which is when you usually go for a post-partum checkup. If you had a straightforward vaginal delivery, you may be able to run sooner than that. If you had a C-section or other complications, you definitely want to wait. ■

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Sheeva Talebian, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., is on staff at The Valley Hospital Fertility Center in Ridgewood, N.J. A marathoner and mom of two, Dr. Talebian is board certi ed in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology, and is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.