All the messy feelings about running in pregnancy… and after miscarriage

I’m not pregnant, as you know. And we’ve decided not to try again until we’ve been seen at the recurrent miscarriage clinic. This is a bit of a departure from the previous losses. For me the need to be pregnant after my first two miscarriages was over-whelming; all-consuming.

I just felt hollow. Literally gutted. And I knew being pregnant again was the only thing that could begin to make that emptiness go away.

But three miscarriages feels a bit different, it’s a watershed, in a way, as after three miscarriages – and only after three miscarriages – the NHS will start to investigate what, if anything, might be at the root of it all.

There’s no obligation to stop trying, of course. But we were told at the hospital that the clinic like to run baseline tests before you’re pregnant in order to get the best idea of what’s going on.

Besides, after this third loss, I was just…….done. At least for a bit. We needed a break from it all. The getting your hopes up each month, followed by – if you’re lucky – the constant anxiety of being pregnant.

Being pregnant after a loss is a bit like being afraid of flying. You know how some people  say they spend the whole time rigidly focusing on keeping the aircraft aloft with just the power of their mind – if they were to stop concentrating for a second it will surely crash. That. That’s what being pregnant after a miscarriage is like. If you stop thinking about it, willing it to work, policing everything you do, the worst will happen. The mental effort involved is exhausting.

So we’re out of the baby race, for now anyway.

But that puts me back in the running for other things – including, well, running.

I’ve decided to run the London Landmarks Half Marathon for Tommy’s (more on this in a bit). I’ve always done a bit of running, on and off – but it’s been more off than on this year, thanks to being pregnant three times in nine months.

Running and pregnancy is a tricky one, even before you factor in previous losses. Like almost all pregnancy advice, it is maddeningly vague. Is it safe to run while pregnant? I googled this frantically in the first trimester of my first pregnancy.

 Running and pregnancy will forever be complicated for me. Tarnished by guilt that I somehow brought the miscarriages on my self.

I desperately wanted to keep up with running, but my GP had said she wouldn’t recommend it, at least in the early weeks. So I didn’t. Then, after 8 weeks the midwife suggested it was fine if I was used to it, as did the NHS choices website. The gist of the advice to women now seems to be to try to do what you normally do, without over-exerting yourself.

Actually, I think this is next-to useless advice. What if what you normally do is, by definition, over-exerting yourself? Running and spinning were my main forms of exercise pre-pregnancy, that was normal for me – but both are fairly knackering. Is that still fine? Or do you need to slow it down a notch? (Hard to imagine, frankly, I am not a fast runner).

Tentatively, I ran again, after 8 weeks. I went slow, I monitored my heart rate like a hawk, if hawks wore mint-green Garmins. It felt OK. I was doing what I was supposed to, after all, following the advice: exercise is good for pregnancies, not enough women do it, blah, blah, guilt-trip, guilt-trip.

But miscarriage changed all that.

Now, I don’t often tell people this because I fear the response I will get. My first miscarriage started just after a spin class. It was barely perceptible – just very faint spotting. Again, I’d been taking it relatively easy, monitoring my heart rate. The instructor knew I was pregnant. All the proper adjustments had been made. But this is where it gets messy in my head.

It doesn’t matter that everyone I saw at the hospital the next day repeatedly told me the miscarriage was not down to anything I had or hadn’t done. It doesn’t matter that all the official advice insists that exercise does not cause miscarriage. My relationship with running – and exercise more generally – in pregnancy will forever be complicated. Tarnished by guilt that I somehow brought this on my self.

I didn’t run when I next got pregnant. Or the time after that. I swam instead. And went to yoga, like a good little girl, even though I find it boring.

Suffice to say it didn’t work. And instead of feeling anxious I was over-doing it, I just felt anxious I wasn’t doing enough. Was it bad that I wasn’t keeping up my usual routine? Was my weight going up too quickly? What if this deliberate, cautious slothfulness was even more likely to lead to another miscarriage?

There are no answers. And we are where we are.

So now I’m running again. I’m running 13 miles for charity. Right now I can barely manage three. I’m running to raise funds for much-needed research into miscarriage. For more answers for couples like us. For better pregnancy advice. For new tests and treatments.

If you’d like, you can sponsor me here. I feel a tiny bit selfish asking for sponsorship, as I do like to run. I’m running for charity, but I’ll admit I am also running for me. It feels good to focus on something my body CAN do, when I feel it has so blatantly – and repeatedly – failed me.

When I’m running I feel like me again. Just me, plus some cheesy music. Just me and a pair of trainers. Just me and a treadmill. Just me and the canal path.

It’s just me. Trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Jennie Agg Uterus Monologues blog runner

16 thoughts on “All the messy feelings about running in pregnancy… and after miscarriage”

  1. Just to say, I had a very similar experience to you, and very similar mixed emotions. I had 3 miscarriages between my first and second children. I also liked to run, although not competitively. I like to say that I run short distances, very slowly! I experienced the same guilt as you, particularly after the third miscarriage, a missed miscarriage where I placed the time the heart stopped beating at around about the time I completed a, for me, quite strenuous 5 mile run. It’s nonsense of course. Exercise “in moderation” (and only you know what that is for you) is categorically good for you, pregnant or not, and a strong and healthy body will serve you far better through pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood than an unfit one. But the terrible injustice of miscarriage has you trying to find a reason, someone to blame, even if that someone is yourself. There will be a reason, but I promise you it won’t be running and it definitely won’t be your fault! Good luck at the recurrent miscarriage clinic, I hope they can help. Know that plenty of women do go on to have healthy babies, even when that seems impossible. I did it without medical help, but then I was 39 when I had my first baby and 43 when I finally had my second, and was reasonably sure that the miscarriages were age related and down to dodgy eggs! However, my sister-in-law, who had four consecutive miscarriages, and received little advice from the NHS beyond “keep trying”, finally had her much longed for first baby recently after consulting Dr Shehata at the London Miscarriage Clinic, an expert in the concept of natural killer cells, where the mother’s body attacks the embryo. Very treatable once diagnosed, might be worth a Google! Best of luck with the half marathon and keep running, physically and mentally you need it!

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    1. Very wise words! Thank you so much for reading – and it’s always so nice to hear from people who’ve gone through similar and know they feel the same. Five miles seems like a long way to me right now…lots of training to do! X

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  2. I’m like this too. After having a miscarriage with my first pregnancy I was afraid to cycle or do sport. I’ll be trying again soon (with fertility treatment this time as a solo mum) and I know I will stop cycling as soon as they inseminate me. Really hope they can help prevent another loss. And good luck with the running in the meantime!

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  3. I have two children, and each experience was worlds apart. My first born son was a blissfully easy pregnancy, I kept fit throughout and there was never any doubt, question or worry. I then went on to have 2 inexplicable miscarriages. In a bid to gain some much needed head space I rejoined the gym. A week later I found myself pregnant again, this was met with such trepidation and all consuming worry. However, I kept going to the gym and was running and spinning for as long as my bladder could carry me. My very healthy baby girl was born a whopping 9.5lb.
    I have never replied to anyone’s story of miscarriage before, but I wanted you to know dreams can come true. Good luck with everything, sending love and positive vibes ✌🏻X

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  4. This is the only place I could find a similar experience to mine. I had an early miscarriage in May and I still haven’t been able to get back to my exercise routine – I lifted weights, did body weight work & sprinted. Now all I can bring myself to do is walking briskly. I’ve been to the gym once since, and I miss it so so much. I just can’t seem to get past the mental block of feeling guilt. I hope you get some answers with the clinic and good luck with your run x

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    1. Hi Kealey, so sorry for your loss and that you feel like this too. Thanks so much for reading and I really hope you get back into the swing of gym things soon. I’ve been out for a couple of runs since my last miscarriage, and it is a weird feeling – and frustrating how slow I am! But we’ll get there… x

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  5. I just wanted to say I’ve read your article in the DM and I’m so sorry for your losses and can totally relate to your feelings regarding other people’s pregancies. It’s perfectly normal in my experience and led me to shun Facebook and nothing else that might trigger my uncontrollable jealousy. I also wanted to say that if you have some miscarriage tests, please ask that they include Array CGH to check you & your hubby for any chromosome issues. It turned out after five years of trying that I am the carrier of something called a balanced translocation and the most common symptom is recurrent miscarriage. I appreciate there are dozens of reasons for recurrent miscarriage but if you can at least rule this one out as not everywhere tests for it and it would be a shame for it not to be picked up before any more heartbreak. Anyway, after nine years, six ivfs and five natural pregnancies I’m finally pg (no6) with an unaffected baby. Perhaps we could have got there earlier if we’d known at the outset what we were up against. Whatever the underlying cause of your m/cs, I hope you get to have your rainbow(s) too.

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    1. Hi Melanie, thank you so much for reading and for the advice. I’d heard of balanced translocations – but I’m not sure if they usually test for it at our clinic. I will definitely ask though! Wishing you so much love and luck with your pregnancy. X

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  6. I’ve had two miscarriages now and it’s hard not to obsess about what I might have done that might have caused it. I think the only thing we can do is keep living life and try not to overthink things. And never give up hope. All the best xx

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