Running and Pregnancy: When Is the Right Moment to Take a Break?
The general conception of medicine and society towards pregnant women has shifted in an amazing way during the last hundred years or so, from keeping expectant women locked inside the house, to seeing fashionable and competent women at work, in top managerial positions, well into the third trimester of pregnancy. Doctors have more in-depth knowledge about what happens within the body of a pregnant woman and, with a few specific exceptions, have lifted the veto on physical exercise.
One of the most popular forms of exercise is running and whenever we go in a park on a spring or summer day, we can see lots of amateur runners, including pregnant women. Looking at the last century’s ban on all kinds of physical effort, we can see that they were detrimental to the woman herself, who was prevented from getting her body ready for labour. Running is a great way to keep one’s muscles in prime condition, ready for the extra effort required during the delivery of a baby.
However, there is a moment when future mothers should stop running and focus on their comfort and wellbeing. One thing worth remembering is that as the pregnancy advances, your centre of gravity shifts. This leads to a less firm balance even while walking, and any future mum has it in her instinct to fear falling at all costs.
So, when is the moment to take a break? There is no definite week or month in a pregnancy calendar to share with you. Some women stop at the beginning of the second trimester, while others keep running until well into their third trimester. The general rule of thumb is: listen to your body. However, we can offer a few helpful recommendations to keep you safe during pregnancy running and show you when you should pay attention to warning signs:
- Avoid Heat and Dehydration
Even if you are not pregnant, a heat-stroke can cause a lot of harm and keep you away from the running track (and on medication) for over a week. The dangers of running during a hot day and inadequate hydration are increased hundredfold when you are pregnant, especially during the first trimester. Body heat above the normal levels has been linked with miscarriages and birth defects.
So, if you want to continue running, do it especially early in the morning during spring and summer. Running in the evening is not recommended because, as it gets darker, there are higher chances of stumbling and falling. When it comes to hydration, discuss with the doctor monitoring your pregnancy regarding the type of liquids you should take (sports drinks, vitamin water or plain water).
- Warm Up and Cool Down Properly
The changes in your body due to pregnancy will alter your level of fitness starting with the first trimester. If you want to avoid running injuries, you must pay more attention to your warming up and cooling down techniques. Take more time getting into the running mood – starting with a regular walk, progressing to a power walk and then running. Likewise, when you have finished your run, do not stop altogether but rather slow down to a regular walking pace. What you must avoid at all costs are muscle cramps, which may occur during or after running and cause you to fall down.
- Learn How to Fall
As the saying goes, better safe than sorry: prepare for the situation when you stumble and fall. It takes some training to get into your mindset and reflexes to direct your fall to one of your sides, or to put your hands forward and break the fall. You must avoid at all costs falling directly on your tummy, even if you are in the early days of pregnancy. And no matter what kind of fall you took, always go to your doctor right afterwards to check on your baby.
- Change Your Running Shoes
It is advisable to have a professional sales assistant evaluate your posture every time you buy a new pair of shoes. When you are pregnant, you should make this change from trimester to trimester. As we specified before, as your centre of gravity shifts, the whole posture of your body, even your pronation, will be modified as well. Wearing comfortable shoes which offer your feet optimal support is critical to avoid accidents in this special period of your life.
As a final thought, remember that you do not have to prove anything to anyone. It is your body, your baby, and both you need to be healthy, safe and comfortable. Whenever you feel too uncomfortable or too tired to run, simply stop doing it and resume it when you feel confident enough that you can do it safely, even if it means months and months after you’ve given birth.