Newborn Health

Mamas on Bedrest: Running While Pregnant

June 4th, 2012

Jenny Wright jogged throughout her pregnancy. As a blogger for the British online newspaper The Daily Mail, Wright shares her experience, even being called “a Selfish Cow”, of jogging while pregnant. Following the flurry of comments, Wright wrote a follow up blog post addressing the naysayers entitled, My Perfect Baby Proves that Jogging is Safe.

I am a huge proponent of exercise during pregnancy. I am even a proponent of women running in the early stages of pregnancy. However, as pregnancy progresses, I am less of a fan. The increased levels of the hormone Relaxin, softening the ligaments and tendons, puts a pregnant mama at increased risk of injury. Additionally, pregnancy completely changes a woman’s center of gravity putting her again at increased risk of falls and injury. But my friend and colleague Kaisa Tuominen, a world class fitness instructor with extensive expertise in exercise science, public health and perinatal fitness provided an even more detailed explanation of the potential “cost” of Wright’s jogging while pregnant. Her entire blog post can be read here, and below is a summary.

Pelvic floor stress

As a general rule I (Kaisa Tuominen) discourage running during pregnancy. Not because pregnant women are fragile or because running is detrimental for the baby. The main reason for this rule is the pelvic floor. The hormonal status of a pregnant woman changes how her joints and tissues react to exertion. The pelvic floor is 80% connective tissue which becomes lax during pregnancy due to these hormones. Pregnancy ALONE is tough on the pelvic floor, weakening it little by little as the baby grows and exerts constant pressure on the perineal structures. When you add the impact and pressure caused by running the damage to the perineum is greater….In Jenny’s birth story I couldn’t help but notice that her baby did not rotate properly and she needed ventose to be turned manually. This is a typical situation of a pelvic floor that is weak.

Risk vs. Benefit

Physical activity and exercise are very beneficial, and truly essential, for pregnant women and unborn babies. There are numerous studies that show how fit women have healthier pregnancies, easier births, and recover faster. Babies are also positively effected by growing inside active women. Jenny is right when she says that being fit helped her get through hours of labor and birth without anesthesia. These benefits can be found by doing other types of exercise that are not detrimental to the pelvic floor. This is why I discourage running.

Ease Back into Exercise

 I would suggest that all moms take it easy in the beginning and only do postural and corrective exercises for the first month or so. It’s essential not to go too fast! I really hope Jenny does not return to jogging without rehabbing her pelvic floor first. In general women’s bodies are not ready for the intense impact from jogging for a few months postpartum. Generally it takes quite a bit longer. Again, risk vs. benefit. (See our posts on pre and post partum exercise here)

Thanks so much to Kaisa for providing these very salient points about jogging perinatally. Kaisa is an expert in perinatal fitness and has developed a program called The Postnatal Body Fix for mamas wanting a safe, effective post natal program that will help them regain their prenatal strength and fitness.