Is It Safe to Run During Pregnancy?

Pregnant woman running

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

We’ve all probably seen the headlines or video clips of pregnant women crossing the finish line of marathons—and felt some serious awe at the athletic feats of these mamas-to-be.

While it’s clear that not everyone can pound out 26.2 miles with a bun in the oven, you may have wondered if it’s generally safe to run during pregnancy.

Issues like nausea, weight gain, and loose joints can certainly make going for a jog more challenging during pregnancy—but, according to experts, they don’t have to keep you from lacing up your running shoes.

Here’s what you need to know about starting (or continuing) to run while pregnant.

Is It Safe to Run While Pregnant?

“It is totally safe and actually very healthy to continue running during pregnancy—especially if you have had a running practice before pregnancy,” says Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, MD, OB/GYN, Senior Medical Director of Babyscripts.

In fact, though well-meaning relatives may tell you the jostling and bumping of running could lead to premature delivery, research says otherwise. A 2018 study of nearly 1,300 women in the British Medical Journal Open Sport and Exercise Medicine found that continuing to run during pregnancy did not appear to affect babies’ gestational age or birthweight.

Want to hit the pavement, but haven’t been a runner before? Starting up a running routine during pregnancy also gets the thumbs-up from Demosthenes. “Yes, it’s okay!” she says, “But you may need to start slowly and increase your level.”

Consider starting with a walking program that gradually increases to jogging, as well as warming up and cooling down for five to 10 minutes before and after your workout.

What to Expect in Each Trimester

Each trimester of pregnancy comes with its own unique gifts and challenges. How you feel on week eight, for example, will be quite different from how you feel on week 38. This can, of course, affect your experience with running.

Your First Trimester

From the beginning of your pregnancy through week 12 (and sometimes longer), morning sickness and fatigue are common symptoms that might put a damper on exercise. So, although running in the first trimester is safe, don’t be too hard on yourself if you simply don’t have the oomph to log many miles.

“Many women may not feel like exercising when they feel this way,” says Demosthenes. “Listen to your body and run if you feel like it.”

Your Second Trimester

As for trimester two? “The nausea will improve (usually) and your energy will return. But you may feel some discomfort in the uterine ligaments in the groin area and some pressure in the public bone. This is because the ligaments become a bit more lax due to the hormones of pregnancy.”

If this becomes uncomfortable, invest in a support belt to relieve some pressure while running. And as your breasts enlarge in anticipation of baby’s arrival, don’t forget to wear a comfortable support bra.

Your Third Trimester

Even at the tail end of pregnancy, when a big belly affects your center of gravity, third trimester running can be safe, too! You may (naturally) need to slow your pace, take more frequent water breaks, and stop to use the restroom during a run.

Benefits of Running During Pregnancy

Running while pregnant comes with some significant benefits for both the body and mind.

“Exercise can reduce back pain, boost your mood, strengthen your blood vessels and heart, help you sleep better, and ease constipation,” says Jessica Mazzucco, a certified fitness trainer. “Research also shows us that exercising during pregnancy helps ease delivery and is associated with higher IQ levels for the baby.”

Additionally, maintaining any kind of exercise practice could prevent excessive weight gain during your nine months. This may have a positive effect on those all-important pregnancy blood sugar levels. “[Running] may help prevent developing gestational diabetes or help control your blood sugars more effectively if you do develop gestational diabetes,” explains Demosthenes.

Finally, don’t discount the mental and emotional rewards of running while pregnant. Tackling something as challenging as jogging with a baby in your belly can build confidence. This added confidence will help to strengthen your mental outlook as you approach labor, delivery, and motherhood.

Who Shouldn’t Run During Pregnancy?

While it is safe for most expectant mothers to start (or continue) running, this form of exercise isn’t for everyone.

“There are certain conditions where it may be best not to run or do moderate-to-strenuous exercise of any type during pregnancy,” Demosthenes notes. “Patients with heart or lung conditions, preeclampsia, triplets or more, or placenta previa are examples of conditions where your healthcare provider should be consulted before starting an exercise program.”

Lighter activities like swimming, walking, or yoga may be better options in these cases.

When to Stop Running

Certain symptoms are a red flag to stop running. Seek medical attention if you experience the following during or after running:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain with or without nausea
  • Contractions
  • Leaking of amniotic fluid
  • Dizziness and headache
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness and balance problems
  • Calf pain or swelling

Precautions to Take

Assuming you’ve got the all-clear to jog while expecting, it’s still smart to take certain precautions. Be sure to stay hydrated, especially on hot days, and pay attention to any signs of physical distress while running. And although keeping a fast pace can make you feel like a rock star, be careful not to push yourself past your limits.

“There is no real benefit to highly strenuous exercise during pregnancy,” says Demosthenes. “Even elite athletes will find that they naturally taper their training off a bit during pregnancy.”

As pregnancy hormones course throughout your body, they can also loosen your joints and ligaments, making you more prone to injury. “To minimize risk, women should decrease their usual distance and pace, warm their body up by stretching, and start their run off with a brisk walk,” recommends Mazzucco.

Want to take injury prevention even further? Don’t be afraid to add strength training to your exercise routine, especially with the supervision of a trainer. Lifting weights builds muscle and increases endurance to keep you going strong on the treadmill or track.

Finally, the right gear can make a big difference to your success with running during pregnancy. Mazzucco recommends purchasing high-quality running shoes that support the ankles and (again) a supportive belly band.

A Word From Verywell

Pregnancy can sometimes feel like a time full of “don'ts.” It’s nice to know that, for most women, running isn’t one of them. Consult your healthcare provider before you hit the road, and then enjoy the many benefits of running while pregnant.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kuhrt K, et al. Is recreational running associated with earlier delivery and lower birth weight in women who continue to run during pregnancy? An international retrospective cohort study of running habits of 1293 female runners during pregnancyBMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2018;4(1):e000296. doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2017-000296

By Sarah Garone
 Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.