HAVE YOU ASKED YOUR OBSTETRICIAN FOR ADVICE when it comes to exercise during pregnancy? Runners, walkers, and fitness buffs of all types should be aware of guidelines to follow during each stage of pregnancy. Because gestating an infant leads to a progressive series of bodily changes that present unique challenges, it makes good sense that women CHECK WITH THEIR DOCTORS before continuing with or starting an exercise program like RUNNING. Some of you might wish to know which guidelines doctors follow when it comes to discussing the topic with patients.
Below are links to two patient-oriented sets of advice and one that seeks to help obstetricians offer guidance to patients.
WebMD has an online piece that covers easy-to-understand helpful information, “Exercising in Pregnancy” that was updated in September 2016. It explains who should not exercise, discusses types of exercise that are safe and those which should be avoided in pregnancy, the general components of an exercise session, and signs that should be a warning to stop.
The Mayo Clinic provides similar advice but with a bit different perspective, including principles behind many of the recommendations for and against certain moves and activities.
What advice do obstetricians follow? A much more clinical piece that is NOT directed at non-doctors comes from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It issued a Committee Opinion on Obstetric Practice guidelines, “Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period” in December 2015, replacing one from 2002.
The article begins with a few ‘fine print’ qualifiers, stating that this “document reflects emerging clinical and scientific advances as of the date issued.“ Because medical knowledge evolves as new information is gained, there is the caution that what’s advised in this piece “is subject to change” and that it should not be seen “dictating an exclusive course of treatment or procedure to be followed.”
Remember, this opinion was written FOR DOCTORS to help them counsel women during this special time of their lives. THE GOOD NEWS: it goes out of its way to promote regular physical activity, both for women who exercised prior to becoming pregnant and those who wish to make new lifestyle changes to improve their own health and that of their infants. It indicates, “Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be ENCOURAGED to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during, and after pregnancy.”
Most importantly to the non-doctors reading it, the article contains four ‘back box’ warnings: 1) absolute contraindications and 2) relative contraindications to aerobic exercise in pregnancy. Women who have ANY questions about the possibility of having one of the contraindicated conditions should ask their obstetrician! 3) A third box provides helpful examples of ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ physical activities during pregnancy. 4) This fourth box clearly informs women of warning signs to STOP exercising!
Of interest to competitive runners and other athletes is that their obstetricians are advised to pay much closer attention to patients when it comes to strenuous activity. Some may find it useful to find a OB that specializes in this area.
If you have questions about the level of effort required by your job and its effect on your pregnancy, there is considerable discussion about occupational activity risks in this paper.
There are plenty of fun and safe activities that can enhance your physical and mental health during this wonderful time of life. Although it may not be safe to continue with your favorite mode of getting physical exercise, like running, all throughout this time period, especially at strenuous levels, consider trying others that will allow you to involve a partner, meet other moms-to-be in a class setting, or broaden your sport experience and ability.
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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