Sitting in the doctor's office in August, elated to learn she was pregnant for the first time, Amanda Weeks had a question.
Could she still compete in the half-marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival?
Told she could run, Weeks relaxed.
"Running is my stress reliever," she said. "To take it away, especially now, would be tough."
Weeks will be nearly five months pregnant when she answers the gun Saturday for the 13.1-mile race through the streets of Baltimore. Meanwhile, Kellie Batz, of Arbutus, will be almost six months along with her first child when she tackles the festival's 5K, a 3.1-mile run for which she has long prepared.
"When I'm out jogging, people look at me and call me 'Little Mama,'" said Batz, 35.
Her reaction, upon hearing she was expecting?
"I was happy to learn that I'll have a training partner in the future," Batz said.
Whereas pregnant women were once told to avoid strenuous activity, doctors now advocate staying fit.
"We encourage those who are athletes to keep running when pregnant," said Dr. Andrew Satin, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Johns Hopkins Bayview. "Running is good, in the absence of complications. It's not like in your mother's time, when such exercise was frowned upon."
On Sunday, in fact, a woman who took part in the Chicago Marathon completed the race, went to the hospital and gave birth to a daughter that night. Amber Miller's doctor had permitted the 27-year-old from Westchester, Ill. to run half of the marathon; 38 weeks pregnant, she walked the other half. About seven hours after finishing in 6:25:50, she gave birth to a healthy daughter, June.
Ultimately, Satin said, strenuous exercise for pregnant women should be undertaken only with a doctor's approval. Generally, physicians embrace activity for mothers-to-be.
Collaborative studies by Satin and Dr. Linda Szymanski — which began in 2009 and continue, having included 100 women so far — bear this out.
"There as so many old wives' tales out there," Szymanski said. "Our purpose was to fill in the gaps."
Their research suggests that "most recreational runners can run safely, with few caveats," Satin said. "We've imaged the fetuses of women running on treadmills. We thought the babies would be kind of shaking in there, but they actually move (in sync) with the uterus, as do all organs, when we run."
Still unknown, he said, is the effect running has on top-flight marathoners who are pregnant.
"We do have some concerns with 'elite' athletes, who tend to run through cramps and pain, beyond what's good for their babies," Satin said. "We tell pregnant athletes, 'This is not the time to push your body past what it is telling you.'"
Nearly three months along, Sarah Mack will compete in the half-marathon Saturday. She'll not rush to finish.