Monday, October 17, 2011

Mama marathoner

I know I’m a little late to the game with this post, but I’m sure by now everyone’s heard of the 39 week pregnant marathoner who ran the Chicago marathon last week – ALL 26.2 miles – and then went into labor and gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Given that I’ve been very open about the fact that I’ve spent my entire pregnancy so far continuing to run, a lot of folks at work asked me if I’d heard about the story and what did I think. I’d first heard about it through a Running Mamas message board that I frequent, and the feedback that I’ve seen ranges from everything saying the child should be taken away from the mom because of child abuse and shaken baby syndrome to full on HECK YEAH, YOU GO GIRL!

I’m sure you can guess what type of people make the former comments (those that don’t know anything about exercise and pregnancy, let alone running) and what type of folks make the latter (runners). Depending on what story you read, you may or may not have found out that Marathon Mom had already run another marathon at 17 weeks pregnant, only ran 13 miles and walked the last 13, and listen, this lady is in incredible marathoning shape, regardless of whether or not she’s carrying a baby.

Of course I tend to side more with runners, but that’s not to say that I would go out and run a marathon while pregnant. I decided against running the half at 30 weeks, mostly because I didn’t feel my body could handle it. I’m confident that my baby would fair just fine, but my knees and joints these days are much more interested in loosening up in preparation for birthing a human in two months. 6 miles really hurts my knees and hips the rest of the day. 13 miles? I’d probably take a day off from work just to crawl around the house in pathetic pain. While I’m totally cool with putting my body through torture, at some point when I’m carrying an extra 17 pounds, it is soooo not worth it!

My future postpartum personal trainer at the gym, who also ran the Denver RnR Half, said she was glad I didn’t because it certainly can’t be good for the baby. The truth is, babies are largely unaffected in a negative way by exercise, and that goes for intense exercise. Babies in utero are extremely efficient, and so is your own body when you’re carrying the baby. What’s so fascinating about pregnancy is that our bodies are designed to put mom second and baby first when you become pregnant. All those nutrients you’re eating? Baby gets first crack at them. Leftovers are for mom. Same goes for oxygen, blood, and all that important stuff that’s vital for survival. Studies have shown that women who exercise intensely in the first trimester have larger than average placentas. Why is this good? Because oxygen, nutrient exchange, and blood flow is increased with a larger placenta. What is already designed by nature to to be efficient in meeting baby’s needs first becomes even more effective at doing its job. It really is incredible and there’s so much I could write about why it’s really good to exercise during pregnancy. There are no hard and fast rules with pregnant exercising these days with the exception of the following:

  1. Don’t get to the point of exhaustion
  2. Stay hydrated

I have had people tell me that I don’t care about my baby because I run, that I might be suffocating my baby from the lack of oxygen, that I’m being selfish by exercising, and so on. The fact of the matter is, there is NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE to suggest that at all. In fact, all evidence and research points to the opposite. And I will say this: exercising moms tend to gain less weight and have smaller (but still normal weight) babies. And that is not a bad thing!

But back to Marathon Mom. Bottom line is, to each their own. I’m not in marathon shape while not pregnant so I definitely wouldn’t chose to do so while pregnant. There’s also some consideration with gestational age. At 30 weeks pregnant, I would be more concerned about pre-term labor. 30 week old babies can certainly survive, but I prefer mine to cook a bit longer. :) At 39 weeks, you’re not looking at any complication from delivering early, so if your body’s up to it, then I think the risk of going into labor is not as big of a deal. Keep in mind that with huge marathons like the Chicago marathon, medical personnel are at practically every corner, so fortunately, help wouldn’t be but a short distance away if your water broke at mile 18.

More power to Marathon Mom… if anything, it gets folks talking and hopefully, the benefits of exercising while pregnant will get some great publicity.


beerab said...

As a scientist I'll say you are right, babies do get first come first serve! Their hemoglobin alone is 4x more stronger than ours, which makes it super easy for them to take the oxygen they need from us!

I think you are finding a good balance between running and not over-exerting yourself. Though I think running a marathon at 39 weeks is a tad much. I wouldn't want to run a marathon AND then give birth!

Post a Comment