Q&A: My doctor says I need to stop running during this pregnancy. Do I have to listen?
I'm almost at the end of my first trimester and my doctor has told me I need to stop running. Her concern is that I haven't been gaining enough weight and that if I keep running I'll burn too many calories. I'm 5' 4 1/2" and weigh 113 pounds. At my first doctor's appointment five weeks ago I weighed 108.
I've been trying to follow my doctor's advice and lay off running, but it's driving me nuts! Running is my stress relief. I'm just wondering if I'm right to question my doctor's advice. From what I have read, my understanding is that if my body is used to running, I should be able to run while pregnant. What are your thoughts?
There is plenty of peer-reviewed research and anecdotal evidence that women can run throughout their pregnancies and go on to deliver healthy babies. But I want to point out the research often generalizes. You need to decide—along with your doctor—what’s right for you. You asked for my thoughts on the subject so let me share a few insights for you to consider.
My partner, obstetrician Dr. Scott Striplin, is also a credentialed aerobics and kick-boxing instructor. He has taught exercise classes for almost 10 years and currently runs a pregnancy exercise class weekly. His disposition is that if a pregnant patient is accustomed to running, then she may continue running according to her usual stamina. Certainly you wouldn’t want to start an exercise regime during pregnancy, but an avid runner should be able to keep running. In fact, studies have shown that women who exercise regularly usually have a better delivery outcome (lower C-section rates, etc.).
I recall a patient who ran five miles a day until the day I delivered her twins! So in my practice, running hasn’t contributed to problems in women’s pregnancies.
Let me add, however, that I’ve seen what happens to an unborn baby during an ultrasound when a woman coughs or sneezes. Even a mild jolt causes the baby to get bounced all over the place. And I can tell you the idea of the baby bouncing along for miles a day makes me a little hesitant. But this is not a scientific appraisal—the literature is on your side.
Some concerns with exercise during pregnancy is that your core body temperature could rise. Some studies have shown a high body temperature can lead to the abnormal development of the baby. Also, thanks to the pregnancy hormones pumping through your body, all of your joints may loosen a little (especially the pubic bones, to make a bigger exit for the baby); this may make it easier to injure yourself orthopedically, so you need to be careful exercising when you’re expecting.
Running seems to do no harm in a NORMAL, UNCOMPLICATED pregnancy. But if you encounter any problems during your pregnancy, the rules change.