When I was 34 weeks pregnant with my first child, I was visiting my tiny hometown. Every fall a church on a main road sticks 4,000 crosses in their front lawn to serve as a representation of aborted babies.
My run took me right by this church, and there was a man walking towards me. As I passed, he said, “I’d hate for you to add another cross there” while pointing at the church lawn. It took me a while to digest what he said, I just smiled and waved as I passed him.
Then it hit me in the gut. This guy just implied I was trying to kill my child because I was running!
A good friend of mine told me this story and I still can’t believe it. Pregnancy can be an anxiety-ridden time, especially for first-time mothers. Our heads are often swirling with questions: How does this work? When does this happen? Why is this happening? What should I do for this?
And everyone, from friends to strangers like the guy above, seems to have an opinion. And what’s worse, is that they are more than willing to share it, even when we don’t want their opinion or advice. That’s true for everything about pregnancy, including running.
Yes, the medical profession has evolved and it’s only recently that it has come to a consensus that running during pregnancy at the level that a woman was running at the time she conceived is safe and beneficial for both mother and baby. When I asked my doctor about running, she didn’t hesitate to tell me it was okay to run through my pregnancy, as long as I was careful to hydrate well and stay away from ice or rooty trails that put me at risk of falling. Of course, this leads me to the treadmill many days, but hey, I am completely fine with that.
What’s funny is even though our health care providers believe exercise will provide great benefits during pregnancy and delivery, other people seem to have very different opinions — and don’t hold themselves back from telling us all about them. One couple cornered me, asking me if I was sure it was okay with my doctor that I kept running. “Isn’t it unsafe for the baby?” they asked. My sarcastic self wanted to say, “Actually, you’re right, she told me not to run, but screw her, I’m doin’ it!” The insinuation that I would do intentional harm to my own kid … Ugh, the nerve!
The comments are not limited to the act of running, but also of my pregnant body. These comments remind me of Skinny Shaming, the post that Spearmint recently shared. Some people make assumptions about our body-shape and our running and freely share their predictions of what our futures hold for due to our small hips and low BMIs.
One Salty writer (who asked that we not share her name) experienced complications early in her third trimester. She said a family member blamed her running and perceived low-weight as the cause of her preterm labor. The nurses and doctors reassured her that it was not her fault and that running nor her weight were to blame, not even for a small part of it.
Similarly, Poppy ran quite a bit through both of her pregnancies and delivered small babies. Her doctors were quick to tell her that her babies were small because she, herself, is small. Duh! Running had nothing to do with it.
Catnip stated that random people told her countless times during her pregnancy that she would require a C-section because of her small frame. Turns out, in the end her small body managed to vaginally deliver a kid with a head in the 99th percentile! Does being a bigger women mean you won’t need a C-section? No. Reasons for a C-section can include problems with the placenta, twins or multiples, infection, or a problem with the position of the baby. None of these reasons, however, include running or being a small person!
I’ve been told by many friends and acquaintances that I should hang up the running shoes during my pregnancy, and just relax. “It is a very precious time, the baby is so vulnerable.” This is true, but does that mean being sedentary will result in a healthier pregnancy and baby?
In my research, the answer to that is a resounding no. In fact I found that running during pregnancy:
- Can help with the aches and pains from pregnancy
- Can decrease fatigue
- Can prevent gestational diabetes in some cases
- Relieve stress
- Build stamina
- Improve constipation issues
- Improve your overall mood (thanks, hormones!)
- Help with sleep
- Help with strength and prepare you for delivery
- Prevent excess weight gain
- Allow for less leg swelling
- A faster recovery from delivery
- Lessen your chances of preeclampsia
- Help avoid prevent prenatal depression
- Benefits your baby’s health as well as your own
I’m so glad that the vast majority of my friends, family and healthcare providers are supportive of me and trust me to do what’s right for my health and my baby’s health.
Has anyone ever given you unsolicited advice about running or pregnancy? How did you handle it?