During my first pregnancy, my doctor said I could run as long as I was comfortable. So I would run, and if I got uncomfortable I would walk for a bit until I was okay, and then I would run again. If an entire run was “uncomfortable” I would say, “Well, I’ll try it one more time and if I don’t feel any better on the next run, I’ll stop.” And, invariably, I felt fine on the next run.
I’ve kept that rule until now, but decided it was worth finding out more specifically what pregnant women need to look out for and when they truly should stop exercising — assuming there is not any medically indicated reason for her not exercise, like placenta previa (which I was diagnosed with for 5 weeks of Squish’s pregnancy). “Uncomfortable” seemed entirely too vague to be of any use to me any more since most runs — pregnant or not — are uncomfortable in some way. But they are controlled discomfort that leads to greater comfort in the rest of my life.
Not only that, but even with my past experience — two healthy babies born after 9 months of consistent exercise — I still get nervous that I have or will ruin the baby in some way by logging more miles around the park. Every run begins with a prayer for the baby and includes many internal apologies to her in case this is bad idea. There is also a great deal of relief on my part when I feel her squirming around again after I get home.
And so I ask, Should I be running to far this late into the pregnancy? or Is this particular “discomfort” a red flag that I should not ignore? or How do I know if I should stop?
It’s totally fine to exercise while pregnant. It’s totally fine to try maintain the fitness level you had going into the pregnancy (assuming you were active and fit — if you weren’t it’s not a bad idea to take up some sort of activity, like yoga or walking). It’s totally fine to exercise on your back for short periods (like you might in yoga or pilates). It’s totally fine to let your heart rate get above 140 beats per minute. It’s totally fine to do whatever you were doing before you got pregnant — unless you were participating in contact sports where your belly could get hit, horseback riding, or SCUBA diving.
It’s good to be cautious about running on uneven ground late in pregnancy when your sense of balance may be compromised and your joints loosen. It’s good to be cautious about lifting heavy weights later in pregnancy when your joints loosen (but you can still do more reps with smaller amounts of weight). It’s good to try some strengthening exercises if you experience back pain even if you’ve been sedentary until then.
And now for the red flags: Stop whatever you are doing if you have vaginal bleeding, excessive nausea, extreme headaches, feel lightheaded, have abdominal cramping. Those are serious reasons to stop whatever you are doing and take it easy and possibly talk to your doctor/midwife.
Other than that, knock yourself out. Run, swim, bike, yoga, whatever to your heart’s content.
(I apologize for the fairly awful picture. It just didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.)