Contrary to what you might think, running and pregnancy are not incompatible.
It is recommended to keep active and exercise during pregnancy, and running is a very good way to do so. While it is not sensible to start running for the first time when you are pregnant, if you take all the right precautions, continuing running and jogging when pregnant is perfectly safe!
Read on to learn all about running when pregnant and all the good running habits you should develop to continue running during pregnancy. From hydration to the running shoes you need or the alternative forms of exercise you can undertake, this article contains all the information you need to maintain your physical activity at a good level.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy our guide to the [16 week ultrasound] or being [31 weeks pregnant, head down]
Can You Run When You're Pregnant?
The short answer to this question is yes, you can!
There are many rumors claiming that running can endanger the health of your baby or even induce labor or a miscarriage, but this is not true. You should avoid running if you are already having a complicated pregnancy or perhaps expecting more than one baby, but otherwise, runners will be pleased to hear that running while pregnant is perfectly safe.
Exercise is actually strongly recommended during pregnancy to control weight gain (which in turn minimizes the development of stretch marks during your pregnancy, for example) and maintain good health. Exercising during pregnancy also makes you fitter and more energized which helps with the birth process and improves your health and recovery postpartum.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends exercising for 20 to 30 minutes a day while pregnant as it can reduce your risk of gestational diabetes, having a pre-term birth or a heavier than normal baby, or even the need for a C-section. Some studies have even suggested that exercising during pregnancy can help with your baby's brain development!
Running is also very good for your mental health, which is paramount during pregnancy. It has been proven to create endorphins and reduce anxiety and depression. Pregnant running or jogging while pregnant can also be a way to socialize and meet up with friends or other moms-to-be!
There is no set amount of time or distance that a pregnant woman should or should not run. You should listen to your body and determine what amount of time is good for you! However, most doctors recommend limiting exercise to about an hour, so it is wise to avoid half and full marathons when you are running through pregnancy. If you were able to do so before pregnancy, then regular 5ks or more are perfectly acceptable for pregnant runners, especially during the earlier stages of pregnancy!
There is also not a set time to stop running during your pregnancy. In theory, you could run until your delivery date if you are able to! Most women however find that it gets too uncomfortable in their third trimester as their belly gets larger and heavier, and switch to activities such as walking. Take care when running in early pregnancy as this can feel very similar to running pre-pregnancy, but you are carrying another tiny human inside you and you will need to make adjustments for it!
At this point, you should note that if you were not a runner before getting pregnant, starting running while pregnant is not recommended! Your body consumes more oxygen during pregnancy so starting aerobic exercise like running can be very difficult and taxing. Instead, try to do more strength training like yoga or even some pregnancy-adapted weights training, which can help strengthen your pelvic floor for example.
Overall, running has many health benefits, both mental and physical, even during your pregnancy.
What Precautions Should I Be Taking?
Before you start running during your pregnancy, even if you were an accomplished runner pre-pregnancy, speak to your doctor or a medical professional about adjusting your fitness regime to your new condition.
As mentioned above, during pregnancy your body consumes more oxygen than it used to, so don't be surprised if you are running slower and tire out more quickly than before. Remember to mix in some strength training to your regime which will help with back pain and pelvic floor strength.
Hydrate more than usual, and more than you used to! Even if you feel no different than before while running during early pregnancy, remember that you are carrying extra weight so you will be sweating more, and hydration is key during pregnancy. While it is tempting to drink less to avoid the more frequent pee stops when running while pregnant, you must keep hydrating before, during, and after the runs and plan your routes with stops where you can use a bathroom instead.
Wear loose clothing for comfort, especially around your belly. You could also wear a belly band to support your lower back and abdomen as your pregnancy progresses. This will help alleviate the pressure on your pelvis caused by running while pregnant and the lower back pain caused by your heavier belly.
Other accessories you might need to run during pregnancy are an adapted sports bra which provides you with plenty of support and a small water bottle you can carry everywhere to stay hydrated at all times. You can find those easily in sports shops, running shops, or online!
Privilege routes with flat pavements and little uneven ground. As your belly gets bigger, your center of gravity becomes different, which means you are more likely to lose your balance. Your body also releases a hormone called relaxin which loosens your ligaments, which is great for relaxing your pelvis and making delivery easier, but also means you are more likely to hurt your joints. For these reasons, investing in a good pair of running shoes is crucial!
Warm-up and cool down extensively. You should be doing this anyway, but during pregnancy, this becomes all the more crucial. As the hormone relaxin loosens your joints and ligaments, you might find that you are sorer after running while pregnant than you used to be or that you experience more lower back pain.
Your pregnancy is not the time to start setting records, you will slow down and that's normal! You can run slightly more than the recommended 20-30 minutes if that feels good for you, but don't overdo it. You don't necessarily need to monitor your heart rate to establish whether you are overdoing it; a good baseline to assess when you should stop running is when you cannot sustain a conversation anymore.
Take walking breaks and more recovery days if you need them. Listen to your body when you determine how much exercise you should do, it really does know best!
In the event that you lose your balance and fall over, try to fall on your side or on your hands and knees to avoid an impact on your belly.
Contact a doctor if you ever experience dizziness, vaginal bleeding, chest pain, or uterine contractions during or after running.
What Other Exercise Can I Do?
While you should steer clear of some sports whilst pregnant, like for instance those involving balls or things which could impact your belly, there are many forms of exercise you can still do! Below are some suggestions of activities runners might like to try if they want to keep fit and, for whatever reason, they would like to avoid running during their pregnancy.
In your first trimester, avoid activities that quickly and strongly increase your body temperature like hot yoga or going to a sauna as this may cause neural tube defects in your baby. As a baseline, you should aim to maintain your body temperature below 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
Walking is an activity privileged by many pregnant women, especially during their third trimester and at the end of their pregnancy when their belly gets too heavy to run comfortably. Try to set yourself a daily steps goal, like 5,000, and track your progress using your phone or a smartwatch. You can also do your daily walks with your partner, relatives, or friends and use them as a time to catch up and socialize!
Swimming is a safe sport during pregnancy as it is low impact and can be done at your own pace. Just 20-30 minutes of swimming a few times a week can make a great difference to your fitness! Plus, swimming is great for improving your mobility. It might be harder to maintain later during your pregnancy, however!
Yoga and pilates are excellent activities to carry out during your pregnancy. Privilege the more low-impact forms and take your time to get the different exercises right. You will find yourself energized and more mobile, which is always a good thing when you get nearer the end of your pregnancy! They can also be very meditative activities that can help your mental health. Some organizations provide sessions specifically for pregnant women which focus on strengthening the lower back and the pelvic floor, for example.
Similarly, activities like dance and Zumba can be good exercise for a pregnant woman. The movements required are limited and they can be adapted for pregnancy. Plus, dance and Zumba classes are fun and can be made into social activities, a regular time during which you can meet up with your friends! In any exercise class that you join, remember to tell your instructor that you are pregnant so that he or she is able to adapt any moves where required for you.
If you are looking for a new form of cardio to replace running when it gets too uncomfortable, look no further than indoor cycling. You can find great classes and tutorials online which will guide you to build the perfect workout!
Maintaining base fitness is very important during pregnancy as it can help with the birth process and with recovery postpartum. However, alongside cardio, it is recommended pregnant women should do some weight training to maintain or develop muscle mass. This will help you as your belly gets heavier and you have to carry it around all the time! Weights training during pregnancy should be kept regular and light, don't attempt to break personal bests. Simply doing a few reps of your favorite bodybuilding exercises (squats, lunges, curls) with some light weights if you have them can make a big difference in developing your muscle mass. You can do this at home, or sign up to a gym!
If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at what to expect when you're [32 weeks pregnant] or at the [36 week ultrasound]?
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