Running During Pregnancy and Unsolicited Advice

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:

My dog does not offer advice or judgment on our runs!

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? 

I am a full-time critical care nurse, who, in my spare time, loves to pound the pavement around the west side of Cleveland, Ohio. I am originally from Wisconsin, and ran for the University of Minnesota where I learned how to run smart, healthy, and happy. I enjoy writing about my adventures in running and what I have learned from racing. I hope to be an inspiration to other women to reach high!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

11 comments

  1. If I encountered that guy from your friend’s story, I don’t know what I would have done. I don’t even know where to start. Wow.

    It’s probably for the best, but I cannot remember a single time someone gave me shit for running while I was pregnant. More than anything I was surprised at how supportive most people were. In fact, I met a lot of older women who lamented how they wish they had been more active, had a running stroller, etc. I did get a lot of other unsolicited advice. The pregnancy stuff was whatever, but I remember when I had two toddlers and an infant, and the toddlers were fighting and it was snowy and the baby was heavy in her carrier and I was trying to go into our Y and I was flustered and frustrated and exhausted and this lady said to me, “Enjoy it! These are the best days of your life!” And I almost laid down and cried right there because if that was the best, I was D-O-N-E! hahaha.

    1. I hate that piece of advice!!! It annoys me all the time. I have a 22 year old, I know what I will and won’t miss. I just went to the gym and did elliptical. But I felt it did help with recovery. But really who cares what anyone thinks- they’re not paying your bills-lol.

    2. Bah!!!!! Too funny! I’m glad you never received any negative comments. In a way, I like the challenge it puts in front of me… in the way of how I can really voice my own opinion back (and the facts) and it really does motivate me more!

  2. Great post. I ran through my pregnancy, until a few days before I delivered. My dad constantly gave me shit about how my belly didn’t look big enough for how far along I was, and that I must be obsessed with running, because this can not be good for the baby. My uncle was worse, telling me that his sister-in-law had her twins super early (and they had severe complications) because she was too active. Other family members, neighbors, and random people on the street told me that the baby would have shaken baby syndrome, would overheat, or any other terrible thing you could think of. To make matters worse- my sister and I were pregnant at the same time, due date within days of each other, so we got compared ALL the time..and according to Dad, her belly was an appropriate size. The result? My baby was born, 38 weeks gestation at a solid 8.0lbs…and healthy as can be. And he still likes running with me.

  3. I ran throughout each of my four pregnancies (I had to stop early with my twins, around 14 weeks) and ran the longest with my fifth child. I was fortunate that I never had anyone comment negatively when I was running. With my last pregnancy I would always wear a tank top that said “Running for Two” when I would race and I got so many positive compliments. I was always conservative with my running and would stop if I felt I needed to and push myself if I felt that I could. I believe that it is empowering to see pregnant runners out there. You are maintaining a healthy lifestyle and by that you are already providing a good role model for your child. Keep it up Momma!!

  4. I too am pregnant and running and a former teammate of yours! I just found your BLOG and love it. This whole site is great for running moms!
    This is my 3rd pregnancy and I often push my 2 other kids in a BOB while running. I’m sure it looks like a circus running down the road. I’ve had neighbors concerned that I’m doing too much and one older man told me it’s better to do some “light walking instead.” I’ve had a 6 year old girl ask if it “was hard to get my running top on over my belly?”
    I just laugh it off and know that I’m boosting my baby’s immune system, helping his/her brain develop and creating a healthier placenta, to name a few
    For me my body feels better after a run and I find I have more energy for the rest of my day.
    I told myself I would stop running if: My Doctor told me to, it hurt or I peed my pants. Luckily none of that has happened.

    I run for my baby and I run for myself.

    Keep it up Bear!

    1. Timmers!!!! I love it! That’s so cool you are still running through your 3rd pregnancy! It’s true, you do have to laugh it off. It is crazy what people think they can say to you. I’ve heard once you have the kid, the comments only get more entertaining! I hope you like our blog ? Thanks for reaching out, it made my day! Go Gophers!

  5. I spent the better part of a month avoiding the gym at work because the manager made a point of asking me if I had discussed my continued workouts with my doctor and then made a comment about how it (my working out there while pregnant) made her uncomfortable. She advised that they could put my membership on hold until I returned from mat leave.

    My mother-in-law was convinced that my running would cause harm during my pregnancies, and she and her whole extended family made frequent comments while I was pregnant with my daughter about how tiny I was. Somewhat amusingly, this time around, my mother has made a point of repeatedly telling me that I’m too big already, despite my weight gain being exactly what it was with my daughter.

    I guess the thing is – no matter what you do when you’re pregnant, there’s always someone nearby who is just too happy to tell you that it’s the wrong thing. From what you’re eating to how much you’re sleeping to whether you’re exercising to where you’re planning to deliver.

  6. Do you by chance live in North Olmsted? You don’t have to answer for privacy sake of course, but your photos look like my neighborhood and I saw a very fit and impressive expectant mother running with her dog while I was out walking my dog, and I have to say you look just like her. I am a mother runner, and if this is you, or even if it’s not, I was totally impressed by the fitness level, speed, and ease of said running woman. People are dumb and say things about running enthusiasts, specifically women, even if you aren’t pregnant. I get comments all the time through the neighborhood because of mylong runs and marathon training. Apparently if you are a mother, pregnant or not, you should never leave your home to be gainfully employed or to exercise.