"I am a runner": a qualitative analysis of women-runners' pregnancy experiences


Aurora Sinai Medical Center, Aurora-University of Wisconsin Women's Health Clinics and Midwifery & Wellness Center


BACKGROUND: Women runners are a group with potential for health maintenance and health promotion in pregnancy. When providers counsel women to discontinue or cut back on running without cause, an opportunity for health benefits to both woman and baby may be lost.

AIM: This study aims to explicate the experience women runners have in pregnancy to further providers' understanding of this population's unique needs.

METHODS: An online, qualitative inquiry was employed to explore the experiences of an online community of women runners in pregnancy (N=22). The Doing Pregnancy framework provided guidance for final stages of the analysis.

FINDINGS: Four themes emerged, explicating a process for "Doing Pregnancy" as a woman-runner: (1) I am a runner; (2) running tunes me into my pregnant body; (3) adjusting to pregnancy's changes; and (4) trusting my instincts & knowledge vs. listening to others.

DISCUSSION: Women's sense of embodiment caused them to feel strongly tuned into the needs of their maternal-fetal dyad and to trust that they knew what was healthy regarding running during pregnancy. When provider advice was conflicting or was not evidence-based, women lost trust in their providers.

CONCLUSION: Providers caring for women runners should recognize running as a key piece of their identities and enter into shared partnership as women navigate changes in pregnancy. Women have a strong sense of embodiment and are tuned into the needs of their body as well as the needs of their baby.

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