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October 11th, 2011
11:16 AM ET

Should pregnant moms take on endurance challenges?

After Amber Miller finished the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, she had another endurance challenge to complete - labor.

Miller, a veteran marathon runner, ran the race while 38 weeks pregnant. Babies are considered full term after 37 weeks.

She half ran and walked the 26.2-mile course in six hours, 25 minutes and 50 seconds.

When she crossed the finish line around 3 p.m., she said she felt a twinge.  She headed to a hospital where she gave birth around 10:30 p.m. to a healthy, seven pound girl, named June.

“The race was definitely easier than the labor,” she told CNN affiliate WLS.

Sunday’s race was Miller’s eighth marathon and her second while pregnant.  She registered for the marathon in February before she knew she was pregnant with her second child, she told the Chicago news station.

Miller said she had gotten the medical clearance to run half the race from her doctor.

“I don’t take risks. The baby comes first,” Miller, 27, told WLS.   "I know what I can handle.”

Pregnant women usually don't get enough exercise.  Women who maintain healthy weight during pregnancy are less likely to have complications during labor, gestational diabetes or birth trauma, said Dr. Patricia Santiago-Munoz, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Labor feels like a marathon,” said  Santiago-Munoz.  “The process of labor puts a lot of strain on the heart. There’s a lot more blood flow in the body. The heart needs to accommodate that.  It’s like exercise that way."

Santiago-Munoz, who was not part of Miller's care, has had active patients who run, jog and sail during their pregnancies.

Seasoned athletes like Miller, who had run eight marathons before, they can maintain a level of fitness through their pregnancies with minor modifications, she said.

“Overall, exercise is fine during pregnancy,” she said.

But it depends on the type.   Santiago-Munoz would not recommend contact sports like baseball or basketball, or even horseback riding.  But she suggests yoga, walking, swimming and biking (in familiar paths).

But for everyday athletes, “the general consensus is that pregnancy is not the time to start up a new sport, especially something like this,” she said.  This means, inexperienced women should not take up their first marathon during pregnancy.

Pregnant women should be aware of how their center of gravity changes and also keep well-hydrated during workouts.

“If you think you’re getting hot, the baby is getting even hotter,” she said.  “That’s something moms to be especially aware of.”

During exercise, the mother’s blood flow is diverted from the uterus to the muscles she needs to exercise, but it’s not enough to be worrisome, Santiago-Munoz said.  And babies who come from constantly exercising moms tend be a bit smaller, but they are not growth-restricted, she said.

Jogging does not hurt the fetus.

“The fetus is very, very well-protected in that uterus, because it’s in amniotic fluid,” said Santiago-Munoz, an expert in high-risk pregnancies. “The baby is floating in there. It’s very buoyant.”


soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Dana

    Marathon, or exercise that lasts 6 hrs, pfff, same thing. I'd avoid the doc that woman was going to. :\

    October 11, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. c s

    Not many women would attempt it but if you are healthy and have clearance from her doctor, go for it. I find it kind of amazing that any woman could do it. I am sure that her kids are active too.

    October 11, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. E

    Since the baby is ok and she chose to race when the doctor said it was alright, I'm not mad at her. BUT I think that this isn't something people should do. I can't imagine how exhausted she must have been while delivering after a marathon. I think women need to stay in shape and eat well, but a whole marathon? Maybe not.

    October 11, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. jillmarie

    At 8 months pregnant, I excersise daily, but this would be too extreme for me, personally.
    However, she and her baby were perfectly healthy, so kudos to them! It's amazing what women are capable of.

    October 11, 2011 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Lily

    Amber – way to go, and congrats on both the new baby and the marathon finish!

    This wouldn't be a good idea for a less athletic woman, but for her... haters to the left. She got her doctor's OK, and had the necessary preparation.

    October 11, 2011 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Bob

    Not a good idea. Consider the guy that died in the same race. Not pregnant and in great shape but died at age 35. As more and more information comes in it becomes clear that marathons are not worth it. Half marathon is OK but a full marathon causes the body too much damage.

    October 11, 2011 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lulu

      Bob, your a moron. I have run 20 marathons and every one of them were worth it. You are obviously not a runner. You make me laugh. Marathons are not dangerous if you are healthy. Most people you hear about who die during races have an underlying health condition that ultimately caused the death. Kudos to her for maintaining her running regimen during what most women use to just sit around and eat for two. Kudos for her for beating her husband in the race, and Kudos to her for following through with her marathon plans! She rocks!

      October 12, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
    • Olivia

      Bob, it doesn't mean that. Look at her! did she get any damage? she's just fine! I don't think you know much about marathon nor pregnancy. she was just doing that to get healthy! maybe it's just that you're fat.

      October 13, 2011 at 20:21 | Report abuse |
  7. Druglady33

    "Running" a marathon in 6hrs isn't really running. That's more like a fast walking pace. Neither she or the baby were in any danger. She had a decent fitness base before pregnancy so this was a reasonable feat, although not something most women would want to do. People do die doing marathons, but it's rare and the risk is far outweighed by the benefit of the training people do.

    October 11, 2011 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Aether

    Six hours of acidosis, diversion of uterine blood supply to muscle groups and then labor...and the baby may or may not be OK. Time will tell. IMHO a little selfish

    October 11, 2011 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nells

      Are you a doctor? I maintained a high level of fitness during pregnancy and was my child and I are as healthy as can be. Pregnancy is a time to stay as fit and healthy as possible. If you are not a medical professional, don't judge. It's worse to sit around, eat bad things, and blow up while pregnant.

      October 13, 2011 at 11:43 | Report abuse |
  9. Webadeb

    Six hours of run and walk is really not much different than a lot of women who are overdue and walk the mall to induce naturally. LOL – though I've never done either.

    October 12, 2011 at 02:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dana of Enduramoms

    This is a testament to what women can do; pregnant women walk for miles in developing countries on a daily basis just for water. Since Amber has a history of distance running and her doctor's clearance, this was a great thing for her to accomplish. By all means the baby has been the beneficiary of her commitment to health and fitness. She's not the first or last to run while pregnant. Lots of moms do this and /or hop back into fitness shortly after giving birth... Enduramoms is what we are.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. CincyCat

    Miller said she had gotten the medical clearance to run half the race from her doctor. “I don’t take risks. The baby comes first,” Miller, 27, told WLS. "I know what I can handle.”

    End of story.

    October 12, 2011 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. H

    I think its great she kept exercising regularly, it is important and will help her recover more quickly. But running a marathon just seems unnecessary. You can stay just as fit and healthy without putting your body through a 26.2 mile race. Sounds to me this was more like an addiction to running or a need to "prove" something.

    October 13, 2011 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lulu

      H, what you don't understand is that runners plan their running schedules months and years in advance. It's October now and I have my schedule laid out until next May! And those registration fees and travel expenses have already been paid! She did not get pregnant and then decide to go run a marathon to stay in shape. The Chicago marathon is expensive, fills up quickly and has high travel costs associated with it! Dropping out is a huge deal if you have trained and paid all those expenses. This was her second marathon while she was pregnant with this child so she had these events planned before she got pregnant. Believe me, walking and running a marathon is not trying to "Prove" anything. She was simply carrying out the plans she made in a low key way to follow through. I would do the same!

      October 13, 2011 at 18:15 | Report abuse |
  13. Neena

    We are too much into others' lives... thats why we become stressed....Whatever the lady feels to do it let her do.. its her life and she has already done it. why pepole coments that she shouldn't do.. I just don't like it.

    October 13, 2011 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. larry5

    Most medicine is like a menu at a fast food restaurant. You have a certain collection of symptoms you get a number 5 treatment, that is a prescription and some instructions, maybe a lab test or an x-ray and you go home and take your pills. Most of these menus are based on time and budgets an focus on fat, busy, lazy, sedentary people. This lady falls out side the norm and her life style supports what she did. During her pregnancy she just continued to live her life and the baby is doing well. For most women running around the block would not be advised during pregnancy because it's not part of their lifestyle and would have terrible consequences. They might sweat or get some fresh air, meet a neighbor get their heart beat above normal.

    October 14, 2011 at 03:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Christopher Dycha

    Given the potential risks (baby health) vs the rewards (bragging rights), I would err on the side of caution. I'm glad things worked out for them but I wouldn't of taken that chance. Exercise is wonderful and everything in moderation. This was a bit extreme given what is at stake.. Christopher Dycha

    October 23, 2011 at 07:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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