My take on running in a marathon while pregnant
October 13, 2011 By: Lynne Brick
Baltimore’s Running festival is just days away. There has been a lot of media attention devoted to the woman who ran in Chicago’s marathon this past Sunday, 38 weeks pregnant, who delivered a healthy baby girl just 7 hours after she completed the marathon. Was this a wise choice for this 27 year old mother of two?
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that staying active throughout your pregnancy is essential. When I delivered both of my children, many moons ago, I too was very active.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I worked as a nurse at Shock Trauma, played tennis and rode my bike well into my 9th month. Vicki was born 16 days past her due date. My cervix was tight as a drum and had not started to dilate or efface until a few hours before I delivered. My OB doc simply told me to continue the activities I was used to doing prior to my pregnancy.
The year after Vicki was born, I wanted to get back into shape. That’s when we started our “aerobics” business, renting space in racquetball courts. Since I was the only instructor at the time, I taught 22 classes a week. My percent body fat was so low I became amenorrheic. My OB doc asked me if I was turning into a man! Then miraculously, I became pregnant with baby #2.
I continued to teach classes reducing to 12-14 classes per week. This time my OB doc told me to listen to my body. I would get so caught up in the moment, I could not really “listen to my body” during my class. After each class, my body spoke loud and clear. Often times, I would have to sit down, because I felt as if I was going to pass out. Thank goodness, Jon, born 10 days past his due date, was healthy.
Fast forward 10 years later. I started bleeding so heavily during my periods as well as in between I became critically anemic. My new OB/ GYN doc asked me if I had ever experienced chest pains while I was teaching classes. I told her not that I was aware. She replied, “That’s the problem.” I was at risk of heart issues due to anemia. Two weeks later, I had to have an emergency hysterectomy to remove an intra-uterine fibroid tumor. My option to have a third child was stripped away.
Did my zest and quest for exercise during my pregnancies affect my GYN health later?
My recommendations for any woman who chooses to exercise to extremes, especially while pregnant:
- Be keenly aware of your body. The challenge is that during exercise, your body secretes endorphins, which provides a euphoric feeling and masks any symptoms of pain or distress. Why take that risk to exercising to extremes? There are plenty of low impact-low intensity options such as aquatics, low impact, pilates, etc.
- Talk to your doctor. Be honest when you describe your activity. It’s great that the ACOG guidelines recommends regular exercise. However, do docs really know long term effects for intense and strenuous exercise beyond how you “feel” during your pregnancy?
- How you treat your body at age 20 and 30, can determine how you transition through the aging process. There are plenty of 40+ women I know who exercised through out their pregnancies and now experience urinary stress incontinence or other GYN issues due to a weak pelvic floor. The weight of the baby, uterus, urethra, placenta, and amniotic fluid presses onto your bladder, rectum, ovaries, etc that are supported by your pelvic floor muscle. When you run or do any high impact activity over a long period of time, what are the long-term affects ten to thirty years later?
If you are pregnant and you are planning to run in the Baltimore marathon, don’t just live for the day. Think of your future.