October 11th, 2011
11:16 AM ET
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.”
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