Health & Exercise

Did being in shape help you through labor?

Hi ladies,

My SIL, who has never really exercised but did extensive research into natural childbirth (sadly, only to have to have 2 c-sections), told me the other day that I should explore doing an unmedicated childbirth because I'm in shape (I've run 2 marathons and I'm still running 6 miles 5x a week). Another friend told me that her (unmedicated birth) philsophy was that she could make it through anything for a couple of hours- which is the approach I took with marathon #2.

I hadn't really considered it before, so I'm wondering what your experiences were? Did being in shape help?

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Re: Did being in shape help you through labor?

  • i am totally jealous that you are still able to run while pregnant...my MFM OB won't allow me to run and i am dying, esp since i had planned to run thru at least my second trimester...im sure that it is because i am high risk, but it is frustrating after running since high school and completing a half marathon in March of this year...

    all i can say is staying active helps in so many other ways, from mood to lower blood pressure, to increased muscle strength and healthy body weight. being in shape should help decrease the discomfort of your body growing/changing and will help with recovery after your little one is here...that is the way i see it...as long as your body tolerates it and your OB says you can do it...then go for it:)

     good luck:)

  • Well I didn't want to get into it, but I'm actually high risk too- incompetent cervix. My doctor said it's okay for me to run now, but he will reassess at my 16-week ultrasound.

    So I may be joining you shortly-- have you been biking?

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  • I hope so! I'm banking on my running & exercising helping me through L&D.
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  • 100%  I worked out up until the end of my pregancy and after delivery my doctor even commented on how much easier it was to go through L&D with a patient that was in good physical shape. I had the BEST L&D experience and I attribute a lot of that to the fact that I took good physical care of myself during my pregnancy.
  • Absolutely! I ran about 20-25 mpw up until 21 weeks with DS, did weights until 36, yoga periodically, and walked until the very end (5 miles on the day my water broke). I had no drugs (apart from the serious quantities of pitocin) and know that being strong (physically and mentally) really helped. I was walking agian within days of delivery, running at 4 weeks and back to weights at 5 weeks pp. This time (I am 11 weeks right now), I have given up running due to some persistent spotting, but have kept up with everything else and hope it goes as well.
  • image lindsay.lou:
    I hope so! I'm banking on my running & exercising helping me through L&D.

    Serious, it's my motivation too. 

  • I think so.  My labor was pretty short for a first baby but I do think that being in better shape helped physically and mentally.  I ran up until about 36 weeks - not a tons of miles but enough. During pushing I would break down the time into smaller increments and think I can do this for 30 minutes, etc.  I also think that being in shape helped speed up recovery.  I was in pretty good shape about 4 days PP and was running again by 2.5 weeks PP.  Good luck.  
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  • Nope. Ran a 10K the week I got pg.  Stopped running in 1st ri but still I worked out all through pg and it didn't help my delivery.  It was loooong.  
  • well i hope that your OB isn't a Nazi like mine...he wont let me do anything at this point, but i am being stubborn and still walking as much as i can, however i was hoping to be able to start yoga again soon...i miss the mental clarity after my runs...and i slept a lot better when i was exercising more...

    good luck with your running...i hope that you are able to hold out as long as possible...im sure i will get more information after my 16/17week ultrasound, but for now i am just waiting for my NP to call me back with a possible answer:)

  • hallelujah...my OB Nurse Practitioner called me back and i am allowed to run again...yay:)  even if it is only on a treadmill and i have to go slow (3.0 mph), i dont care...i am so excited that i get to run again...maybe will try for wed/thurs evening after work:) 
  • I think so, both physically and mentally.  I did my normal cardio (running mostly) a few times a week and weight training until mid pregnancy, then I switched over to swimming and pilates each twice a week until I was about 37 weeks.  I delivered at 39 weeks and from first contraction to delivery it was about 13 hours.  Delivery went well, but recovery was tough due to the tearing.  I think the breathing I learned in pilates really helped me concentrate and keep labor progressing.
  • image Amoret:
    Absolutely! I ran about 20-25 mpw up until 21 weeks with DS, did weights until 36, yoga periodically, and walked until the very end (5 miles on the day my water broke). I had no drugs (apart from the serious quantities of pitocin) and know that being strong (physically and mentally) really helped. I was walking agian within days of delivery, running at 4 weeks and back to weights at 5 weeks pp. This time (I am 11 weeks right now), I have given up running due to some persistent spotting, but have kept up with everything else and hope it goes as well.

     Oh thank you!! This answers my questions about working out and pregnancy. When I went to new york on a vacation a couple of years ago I saw pregnant women running through central park. I was like, I wonder if I can do that. I don't run as much as you. 3 times a week, but I hope to keep it up when I'm pregnant. I also heard that it easier for in shape women to get back their body after too. which from the sounds of it, is true. :)  

  • I KNOW it helped me. I had completely natural childbirth with the entire labor lasting only a morning (started at 8am, welcomed baby by 1pm). I feel like because of my daily exercise routine, I was better prepared for the experience. The labor was intense, but I was walking around (limited) 10 minutes after giving birth. 

    I also know it aided in a speedier recovery. 

  • I am someone who always works out and it was no different for my pregnancy. I worked out until the day before my induction.... that's right I went to 42 weeks.  My labor from start to finish was 12 hrs long. Water broke at 8 am and then Nathan came out at 8:26 pm. I had 2 failed epi's (they didn't work to start so I did it natural) and push for 2 1/2 hrs. I can honestly say that if I didn't work out... I can guarentee it would have been worse. Labor is called that because that is exactly what it is... but let me tell you.... every ounce of pain... totally worth it and now I know that I could do it naturally again a million times over.

    Every pregnancy is different and even if you do everything the way you are "supposed" to.... your baby ultimately decides how and when they come out. I thought Nathan was going to be this huge baby... nope... 6lbs 15 ounces and 21 inches long even at 2 weeks late. I think that my working out attributed to him being a good size.

     I went into my labor so sure about an epi and when neither of them worked... I was freaked... but I got to experience something that not alot of women get to these days... the actual feeling of childbirth. It hurts, I'm not going to lie... it is probably the worst pain you will ever go through (I have to be honest) but all I kept thinking was "I can do this, I'm strong, my son is the reward" and it got me through to the end.

     This is my advice to to, go into the hospital thinking that you are going to do it natural but don't set unrealistic expectations for yourself. If the pain becomes to much know that you can have an epidural. (The epi not working on me is just because my body has an EXTREME tolerence to meds... it is not a normal thing and you have nothing to worry about lol.) I know there are so many women who get upset when they feel the pain is getting to much and that they are going to need something but there is no reason to feel that way. It's just as amazing of an experience natural or numb.... the end result is all you'll remember Smile

  • hmm, after seeing some answers I should add to mine:  Given my long labor (in early stages of labor (I'm talking tire you out contractions) for a week!!) I in no way would have had the stamina to actually survive active labor had I not had all my endurance training.  
  • I think it absolutely helped.  I exercised throughout my second pg and ran throughout my 3rd up to the end.  Even though I was induced my labors were quick and the actual pushing stage was extremely fast.  I had an epidural.  DD (#2) was born in 4 pushes and DS (#3) was born in 3 pushes.  Recovery was a breeze.  I was up and walking around in minimal pain within hours.  The OB nurse for DS even commented on how quickly I recovered-she was pretty surprised.  
  • I ran a marathon shortly before getting pg and ran all through my pg. Labor was still super hard for me. Maybe I'm a wimp and it would have been even worse if I wasn't in shape...I don't know!! I know that I thought the whole marathon thing would really help--I went in with the attitude of "I can do anything for a few hours" but it was totally different.
  • I worked out religiously up until 39 weeks, no running but swam a mile 6 days a week.

    I had a TERRIBLE labor, it was long and emotionally draining. Pushed for 3 hours...but I bet if I hadn't worked out, pushing would have been terrible. I thought the pushing was the easiest part-- but I did have the epi eventually. Drs say that giving birth is equivalent to running a marathon. Not sure I believe that but it was pretty intense!

  • Absolutely.  I am not a runner, but I am a big gym rat.  I lifted weights, elliptical trained and walked on a track throughout pregnancy #1.  I also swam a LOT in the third trimester.

    I was lucky to have a short labor (12 hours) and I think being in shape really aided in my control and willpower.

    DD - 3 years old
    DS - 17 months old

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  • Yes!!! I ran a full marathon at 25 weeks and continued to run 60 miles per week until week 32, then cut back to about 40 miles per week. I also continued doing weights and abs.

    I ran a half marathon distance five days before I gave birth and the evening before I went into labor, I ran 6 miles and did weights and abs.

    I am 38 and this is my first. I had the fastest and easiest labor and delivery you can imagine - got to the hospital at 10 am and had the baby at 3:50 pm. We left the hospital less than 24 hours after giving birth, the doctors and nurses all said it was because of my fitness level.

    Good luck!!! 

    36 marathons since 2002, 6 Boston marathons, PR 3:17 Silicon Valley 2010

    Boston Marathon 2009 at 25 weeks pregnant in 4:29



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  • I really do believe it can make a difference...if not for labor then just for the pg. I haven't had a chance to read all the replies so sorry if I'm duplicating or not making sense :P

    I worked out the entire preg and it made me feel better both physically and mentally. I noticed if I went a few days w/out a workout I'd have more back pain.

    I was looking forward to seeing what my body could do during labor but then I got a crappy nurse. My water broke at home and had meconium in it. When I got to the hospital I wanted to take a 'let's see how this goes' approach. The nurse told me I had to stay in bed and laying down! It was awful having to labor on my back. My contractions were every 1 to 1 1/2 min and there was no rest in btw. By the shift change I was beyond ready for an epidural so they put in the request. Then they said I could in fact sit, get on my knees, whatever. Once I did that I felt so much better but I was already in so much pain I still wanted the epi. I pushed for an hour but think it would have been so much quicker if I could have felt what I was doing.

  • With DS #1, it definitely helped. I walked miles and miles while in labor to deal with the pain. I did get an epi for the end, though. Also, flexibility helps a lot during delivery.

    However, it's not necessarily "a couple of hours." I was in labor for 30 hours, so that's at least an ultra marathon. Smile

  • image Sally J:
    I think so, both physically and mentally.  I did my normal cardio (running mostly) a few times a week and weight training until mid pregnancy, then I switched over to swimming and pilates each twice a week until I was about 37 weeks.  I delivered at 39 weeks and from first contraction to delivery it was about 13 hours.  Delivery went well, but recovery was tough due to the tearing.  I think the breathing I learned in pilates really helped me concentrate and keep labor progressing.

    I had almost this exact same experience except mine was yoga instead of pilates and I had 12 hours from water breaking to delivery (but only about 4 hours of actual labor).  If I had been out of shape I know I would have caved and asked for drugs.

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