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parkrun launches study into running while pregnant

By Kath Hudson    13 Nov 2014
parkrun has launched a research board / David Rowe

The world’s biggest ever study into the impact of running on pregnancy has been launched by running community, parkrun, with academic and professor of obstetrics, Andrew Shennan.

Shennan approached parkrun last year about the opportunity to tap into the organisation’s 900,000 runners, to quiz women about their experience of running and pregnancy.

As a result, a parkrun research board has been put together, made up of world-class academics, so going forward further studies will be launched. The research into pregnancy and running was launched last week and a report is expected early next year.

Shennan said he approached parkrun for two reasons: as an obstetrician he was always being asked whether running was good or bad when pregnant and he genuinely didn’t know the answer. Secondly, as a dedicated parkrunner he noticed that he was frequently being overtaken by a lady who was getting progressively more pregnant.

“Currently the evidence is not good: studies include low numbers of people and are isolated,” says Shennan. “We want to assess two main things: do women go into labour early if they do high impact exercise? And does exercising while pregnant, and therefore being fitter and healthier, benefit the baby through the placenta.”

They also want to find out whether heavy exercise in the first trimester, for example running a marathon, could be detrimental because it leads to the blood being directed elsewhere and could cause overheating.

“The health of a baby is programmed into the DNA while it is in the womb. Babies who are too big or too small in utero can be sicker in later life, so there is a window of opportunity while pregnant to optimise the baby’s health and we want to find out more about that,” says Shennan. “Hopefully our findings could have long term implications on improving cardiovascular health.”

Within 48 hours the team had received 750 responses, which was enough to determine the differences between runners and non-runners.

As well as finding out about those who run during pregnant, Sheehan needs a control group who didn’t run. If you have given birth, whether a runner or not, and would like to respond, visit this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7DQ8KZZ

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