What to Know About Running While Pregnant

Illustration of pregnant woman walking while pregnant

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

Whether you were an active runner before pregnancy, or just someone who enjoyed jogging occasionally—or anything in between—you might be wondering if running is something you can safely continue during pregnancy. Or you may be wondering if running is something you can start for the first time while you are expecting.

For the most part, the answer is a resounding yes. Exercising during pregnancy keeps you strong and vibrant, and helps you maintain a healthy pregnancy. Although running can be a high intensity exercise, it’s something you can continue doing in most circumstances.

That said, because it can be such a rigorous, high-impact workout, it’s something you will need to be careful with, and make possible modifications along the way.

Is It Safe to Run While Pregnant?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)state it is safe to continue most types of exercise, as long as your pregnancy is progressing well and you are healthy.

As for what types of exercise are most recommended, that depends on you, and you should discuss your options with your doctor or midwife.

According to ACOG, the safest exercises for pregnant women are moderate-intensity aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, gardening, swimming, stationary biking, yoga, or Pilates (with modifications for pregnancy).

As for running specifically, ACOG says that experienced runners should be able to continue, with clearance from their doctors or midwives.

“If you are an experienced runner, jogger, or racquet-sports player, you may be able to keep doing these activities during pregnancy,” ACOG explains. “Discuss these activities with your obstetrician or other member of your health care team.”

If you have never taken up running before but want to start during pregnancy, this is definitely something you will need to discuss with your healthcare team. But don’t rule out the possibility completely, especially if you plan on light to moderate jogging.

As Dr. Helene Darmanin, PT, DPT, CSCS, founder of Mama Bear Physical Therapy, explains it, if starting a running or jogging routine during pregnancy is something that will get you up and moving, then the benefits may outweigh the risks.

“Some experts will say not to start a new type of exercise while pregnant (so only run if you’ve already been running)," Darmanin says. "But the evidence shows that it is much more dangerous to not exercise while pregnant than it is to start a new type of exercise, so exercise in a way that you enjoy and will stick with,”

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

As ACOG explains, there are numerous benefits to exercising while pregnant, and is an excellent way to maintain a healthy pregnancy and prepare for labor and delivery. For example, exercise during pregnancy:

  • Can help reduce pregnancy related back pain
  • Can help keep your bowels moving and decrease constipation
  • Can help lower your risk of diabetes, preeclampsia, and C-section delivery
  • Can help maintain a healthy pregnancy weight
  • Can help increase your energy levels and maintain your heart and lung capacity

When You Should Not Run During Pregnancy

There are certain health conditions that may prevent you from sticking to a vigorous exercise routine or may prohibit your ability to exercise much at all during pregnancy.

Since running can be a high-impact activity, it is something you may have to scale back on or eliminate if any of these conditions are present for you during pregnancy. Again, talk to your healthcare provider for clarification.

As per ACOG, the complications that prohibit exercise include:

  • Heart and lung diseases
  • Cervical cerclage
  • Pregnancy with multiples (twins, triplets, or more), especially if you are at risk of preterm labor
  • Placenta previa
  • Preterm labor signs
  • Preeclampsia or high blood pressure
  • Severe anemia

Risks of Running While Pregnant

In the absence of the risk factors which prohibit exercise during pregnancy, exercise does not put you at increase risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or pre-term delivery, ACOG assures.

However, pregnancy puts a lot of strain on your body, your muscles, your joints, and your heart and lungs. Injuries can happen more easily during prenatal exercise as sudden and jerky movement can irritate muscles and joints.

Your center of gravity changes during pregnancy as well, so it may be easier to get off balance and fall. You also need extra fluids and calories during pregnancy, and any exercise that is too strenuous can leave you dizzy, out of breath, or nauseous.

Running in particular may put extra strain on muscles. But taking it slow will help you feel more comfortable, explains Samantha Spencer, PT, DPT, postpartum rehabilitation specialist and medical advisor at Aeroflow Breastpumps.

“Pregnancy alone places a significant amount of weight on your pelvic and abdominal structures, and running increases the impact to your pelvic floor at a rate of 2.5 times your body weight,” says Spencer. “The phrase ‘listen to your body’ is essential to protecting your pelvic structures; listen for pressure, heaviness, or pain. Heed your body’s cues, and slow down if you need to.”

How to Make Running Safer and More Comfortable

In general, try to be mindful as you run or jog during pregnancy. Remember that pregnant people can get more easily overheated, and require extra water and calories. So plan accordingly with weather appropriate clothing (layers can help!) as well as keeping some water handy. Make sure you are eating regularly throughout the day, and that you have a post-run snack available.

As your pregnancy progresses and your belly gets bigger, running may be more cumbersome and may put a strain on your joints and muscles. Abdominal support devices may be helpful, says Spencer.

“As the second and third trimesters progress, you may find a belly band to be helpful in supporting your growing belly while you run,” she advises. Wearing a supportive bra will be helpful too, as your breasts will become larger and heavier during pregnancy.

The hormones of pregnancy can make your ligaments looser, putting you more at risk for pelvic back pain, and sprained ankles while running, says Darmanin. As such, she recommends some strength and balance training to help stabilize the joints before running.

“It could be as little as five minutes before you go out for a run,” Darmanin explains. Some of her favorite warm-up exercises for this purpose are:

  • Single leg heel raises: Stand on one leg and lift your heel up and down while holding onto a support
  • Drinking bird/single leg deadlift: Hinge the torso forward at the hips and lift one leg so that your body is in the shape of a “T”
  • Squats or sit to stands

A Word From Verywell

When it comes to exercising or running during pregnancy, it’s not so much of a matter of what and what not to do, but doing it carefully and with caution.

If you are already an avid runner, you don’t need to give this up. But you do have to make sure that you listen to your body, and well as your doctor or midwife. Remember that even if you need to scale back during pregnancy, that’s OK. You will get back to your full running program in due time.

 

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  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Exercise During Pregnancy. Updated July 1, 2019.

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