“I know there is a lot of stigma and really, the word is ignorance, behind pregnant women and exercising […] and the truth is, it’s good for the mom and the baby.”
-Alysia Montano, after running an 800-meter at the USATF championships in Sacramento at 34 weeks pregnant.
Alysia Montano, an American middle-distance runner and five-time USA Outdoor Champion who has conquered the 800 meter distance in a sizzling 1:57.34 and competed in the 2012 Olympics, didn’t listen to critics or let stigmas keep her from toeing the track start line while 34 weeks pregnant for the U.S. Championships last Thursday. Instead, she listened to her midwife who encouraged her to race.
She also listened to herself. She ran through her entire pregnancy and felt really, really good throughout the whole process of, ya know, growing another human being.
Having just given birth to my own son on Sunday, June 22nd, Alysia’s story stirred a lot of emotion for me and directly related to some feedback (wanted or not) that I received for continuing to run (albeit very low mileage) up until the day that I went into labor. Some supported me, others did not. But, most importantly, I learned only to listen to my own body and my doctor.
While i didn’t participate in any National Championships, I was able to maintain running two to three miles six times per week up until the day I went into labor (by the end, I was jogging with walk breaks every few minutes). I felt pretty good most days, but on the days that I didn’t, I made sure to listen to my body. For the most part, I didn’t feel like people really judged me; however, I did hear a few snide comments along the way. I brushed them off and continued to focus on what felt best for me while always deferring to my OB’s advice.
And I feel like my running made labor easier on me.
I went into labor at 37.5 weeks and gave birth to a 5 pound 3 ounce, 18 inch long healthy baby boy. In the back of my mind I now question whether I should have kept running? Was it too much? Did it stunt his growth? Or cause me to go into labor too soon? I know these are irrational, but after some of the comments I received, the weird looks that I got, the concern from older generations who thought I should have been retained to the couch eating non-stop, I do have these doubts. I shouldn’t. I did the best I could to take care of myself, exercise in moderation and keep eating healthfully and mindfully.
On the Thursday before giving birth, I thought my water broke. It wasn’t a gush like you see in the movies, but it was definitely different than anything I’ve felt before, an uncontrolled trickle. I called my husband, discretely left the office a little early ( I was lucky and this actually happened while in the restroom-timing is everything!), and we headed to the hospital to be on the safe side. Turns out, when they tested for amniotic fluid, it was a false alarm. However, many times this happens to women, only to return a few days later in active labor. I was sent home and felt a bit stupid for thinking my water broke when they said it did not.
The next day, I did business as usual, followed by a Huggies and Chuggies party for my husband (guys bring diapers and host provides beer and food). We stayed out and about until about midnight. When I arrived home, I was experiencing lots of cramping. I figured it was just an upset tummy and went to bed. All night, I lied awake with stomach pains, but I tried to ignore them. After being sent home from the hospital on Thursday, I knew it couldn’t possibly be the beginnings of labor.
Saturday morning, Sam’s dad and step mom came to town, and we went to lunch. As I was eating my chicken salad, the cramping was becoming more and more intense and coming in waves. I discretely tried to tell Sam as to not alarm anyone at the table and not to get hyper about the pain. We said our good byes and Sam and I headed to Babies R Us to get some baby gates. As we were in the aisle, I hunched over in pain. Sam knew something was going on and started timing the contractions at that point.
We went home, popped on an episode of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ and I tried to relax and drink water. They say if rest and re-positioning doesn’t make the contractions go away, it might mean the baby is really on his way. I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions from about 33 weeks on, but these felt much more intense and rhythmic. I waited it out as long as I could, but eventually they were coming every 5 minutes and lasting about a minute to a minute and a half, so we (begrudgingly!) headed back to Riverside Hospital and went to the pre-labor room by 5:30 p.m.
Because I had just hit full-term a few days before this, they didn’t want to induce me or give me pitocin to move things along. I had to progress to 5 centimeters naturally before they could officially admit me. I was stuck at 4 centimeters for about 5 hours. The pain was, indeed, a new level of pain – a different type of pain than a marathon, a broken arm, etc., but the breaks between contractions and having my hubby by my side got me through it.
At that point it was about 10:00 p.m., I was officially in active labor. They helped break my water (turns out I had probably been leaking a bit of amniotic fluid slowly since Thursday) and decided to get the epidural. I progressed to 6 centimeters in about 2 hours. They did a small dose of picotin to keep things moving, and I was fully dilated by 1:45 a.m. I only had to push for one hour until Connor Feran Sexton entered the world at 2:43 a.m. on Sunday, June 22nd!
They say exercising can help ease labor and make recovery easier. Both rang true for me; then again, the little guy was early and small, which also undoubtedly helped, too. I was feeling good three days after and have been able to walk 2 miles every day since. No complications from the epidural, and feeling pretty much back to ‘myself’.
What are your thoughts on running throughout pregnancy, especially in the latter-part of the third trimester? If you ran during your pregnancy, did you experience an easy labor? Were you affected by ‘nay-sayers’ who judged you for continuing to run?