If you haven't seen or heard the media coverage of Jenny Wright - the so called irresponsible mother who continued to jog throughout her pregnancy - up until 39 weeks no less you may have been living under a rock. I have read the original article found in the UK's Daily Mail (you can read it here ) and yes I find many of the insults hurled at her to be astonishing (especially coming out of the mouth of a smoker). I do, however, think that like many things to do with the health nutrition and the fitness industry that the majority of these comments come from a lack of education.
I work with pregnant and postnatal women in an exercise environment every single day, I have exercised (lifting what many would say were heavy weights) through two pregnancies and given birth to two healthy children - I also now feel I am the strongest I have ever been and am in the best shape of my (post teen) life. The main thing for people to remember is that we are all individuals, what is right for me may not be right for you. What I advise one pregnant client may be different to the next. We have general guidelines for exercising during pregnancy and they definitely don't say to stop (assuming there are no contraindications or guidelines given by medical professionals and care givers).
I like to focus on what you can do during pregnancy rather than what you can't and a general guideline for 'most' women is to live by the 'seven' out of 'ten' rule in regards to perceived rate of exertion ('one' being sitting on the couch doing nothing, 'ten' being can't possibly do anymore). It is not however a time to take up something that you have never done before - if Jenny has been running, is fit and healthy should she stop running if she doesn't have any aches and pains?
My main concern about running for anyone during pregnancy in terms of the mother's health and wellbeing would be loading of the pelvic floor - visualise your pelvic floor as a trampoline stretched beneath you and supporting your organs - then throw an increasingly heavy medicine ball on that trampoline repeatedly and that is what your pelvic floor is dealing with under the additional load of carrying a baby. Should you stop running if you have always been a runner? If you feel uncomfortable at all my advice would be to stop and resume post pregnancy when you are feeling ready.
Let's look at it from the flip side and what many may say this dispute is actually about - the wellbeing of the unborn child. Can running during pregnancy harm the child in anyway? Does exercise during pregnancy harm the baby? Most of us know that moderate exercise during pregnancy is recommended both for the wellbeing of the mother and child but what effects can your exercise have on the growing baby?
Over heating - during the first trimester the fetus cannot regulate its own body temperature so you should be aware of exercising in hot conditions for a long period of time. Care should be taken to stay cool and hydrated. Sports injuries - at any stage during pregnancy a blow to or fall on the abdomen can cause damage to the placenta and potentially (though rarely) the fetus - with this in mind it is advisable to stay clear of contact sports during pregnancy. Oxygen Deficit - as well as effecting the mothers heart rate the intensity, duration and type of exercise also effects the heart rate of the unborn baby. The more consistent a woman is with her exercise the more able the fetus is to deal with the effects of exercise. The main issues here arise when women perform extreme levels of exercise on an inconsistent basis, putting stress on both the mother and baby. Fortunately this is rarely the case when the mother has previously kept fit, exercised regularly and continues to do so throughout her pregnancy.
So in the case of Jenny, she was a runner prior to her pregnancy and she continued to run throughout her pregnancy. She didn't suddenly decide to take up running because she was pregnant, therefore not adding any additional stress to herself or her baby.
It is important though that mothers of all fitness levels are in tune with themselves, their bodies and their growing baby and get great advice from the health and medical professionals around them.
In general those of us in the part of Sydney, Australia we are in, are lucky to be in an environment where more people tend to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle and make exercise a regular part of their daily routine. We don't see pregnancy as a 'condition' but as a reason to maintain our active lifestyles for the benefit of ourselves and our family. People in this part of the world may be a little more open minded and from the feedback on the Body Beyond Baby Facebook page a lot more supportive of a woman who is exercising and feels good.
But what about the baby? How is the baby affected when mum is exercising? Firstly, lets remember that the unborn baby is floating in fluid which is designed to protect it from movement and moderate impact (obviously contact sports and exercise that carries the risk of falling should be taken out of your routine at this time). The metabolic rate increase during both exercise and pregnancy