Yesterday, Laura Grande and Haley Overland sent me an article that has been burning up the UK blogosphere. Jenny Wright, mother runner to a toddler and pregnant with her second, was called a “selfish cow” for doing what she loves — running. At the time, Wright was six months pregnant and was given the OK by her doctor to continue strength training and running for as long as she felt comfortable. And, up until she quit running at 39 weeks, Wright continued to be criticized by people for being active during her pregnancy.
Surely that reaction must be restricted to her neighbourhood in Leeds, I thought. So I took a look at the comments section and my stomach turned. The comment section was WORSE. Mean and certainly misinformed.
In Canada, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends all pregnant women without contraindications should participate in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises. While SOGC lists brisk walking, swimming, cross-country skiing and stationary cycling as the lowest risk activities, it also states that women who have been exercising prior to pregnancy may continue to do so.
I know firsthand the benefits that running and exercise brings pregnant women — because I was one of them. I ran — and raced — until I was 24.5 weeks pregnant with our daughter. Three half marathons, six trail races and hundreds of training kilometres to get me to those start lines kept my blood pressure and weight down and my depression and anxiety in check. When I stopped running I cycled with my triathlon team right until I went into labour (no joke — my contractions started an hour after my last workout). My labour was short and I had a successful VBAC with minimal pain medication. My recovery was quick and I was back cycling and running at six weeks postpartum. This is in comparison to my exercise-free first pregnancy when I gained more than 60 lbs by binge eating hash browns and donuts and had a C-section.
Oddly enough, the only person to suggest that I might be over-exercising was my personal trainer. My OB/GYN approved of my activity level and suggested that I find a new personal trainer. Other than that, I only received compliments and high fives from strangers out on the race course when they saw me waddling along with my bib number pinned to my baby bump. I have no idea how I would have reacted if I was in Wright’s shoes. I applaud her dignity to keep on running and not to try to explain to people that simply don’t understand all of the fantastic benefits running and exercise has for mothers and their unborn babies.
Pregnant women receive enough unwanted advice and criticism. Please, next time you see a pregnant athlete, thank her for being such an inspiration.