Is It Wise To Run A Marathon While Pregnant?

How much is too much?

We’ve all heard the story of the woman who gave birth hours after running the Chicago marathon, right?  Basically, as Emily Malone reported a few days ago, 27-year-old Amber Miller was 39 weeks pregnant when she hit the ground running in one of America’s biggest road races.

In an interview Miller says she registered for the race before she knew was pregnant. Two days later, she found out she was expecting her second child.  Her doctor cleared her to run half the race (13 miles) and walk the rest, so she did, with a time of 6:25:50.  Miller crossed the finish line already feeling slight contractions, and gave birth to a healthy baby girl at 10:29pm that evening.

My first reaction: Can that be good for mom and baby? My second reaction: Well, now you know another contraction-inducing method – just run a damn marathon.

Seriously though, was it a wise decision on Miller’s part to run a marathon while full-term?

Bonnie Rochman, who always writes excellent articles for TIME magazine asked the question, Is It A Bad Idea To Run A Marathon While Pregnant? She reports that several people took issue with Miller’s decision to run the marathon with one person, who identified themselves as a pediatrician leaving the following comment:

Are you people familiar with the concept of a stillborn? Babies not infrequently die in utero right at the end of pregnancy, presumably at times from lack of adequate blood flow to the placenta. I think it is highly irresponsible for any physician to recommend such a long and strenuous course of action at 39 weeks, where blood clearly must be diverted from the placenta to her muscles. No one, I repeat, no one could assure her that this was a safe choice.

Others came to Miller’s defense.  So Bonnie Rochman spoke with Jim Pivarnik, a professor of epidemiology and kinesiology at Michigan State University who has studied exercise in pregnancy for 25 years.  She asked him if Miller running the marathon was an irresponsible choice.  His answer?

This was O.K. for her. She was training that kind of mileage all the way to 38 weeks. She only ran half of it, and her doctor gave her permission. She had no dizziness, bleeding or cramping. It was standard operating procedure for her.

So how can you know how much exercise is appropriate for you?  Well, let’s face it – odds are you’re no Amber Miller.  As Professor Pivarnik tells Rochman “You have to talk to your physician, and she did. You can’t give blanket recommendations for highly trained athletes”

Bottom line:  Do what feels comfortable and talk to your doctor. For some women, running while pregnant – even 9 months pregnant – is a piece of cake. For others, like Emily Malone, accepting that you are not a pregnant runner can be a tough pill to swallow.

What do you think?  Was Amber Miller taking an unnecessary risk running a marathon while 39 weeks pregnant or would you do the same thing if you were in her (running) shoes?

Image: maternityrunningskirts.com

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