Running During Pregnancy: Is it Safe?

Running during pregnancy is a great way to stay active and in shape, but it depends on some different factors whether it is safe or not. If you ran regularly before getting pregnant, it is fine to continue as long as you take some precautions and first checks with your doctor or midwife. Pregnancy is not the time to start a running routine.

Pregnancy’s also not the time to start training for a marathon, a triathlon, or any other race. During the first trimester is when the baby’s major organs are forming, and overheating is a real issue. If a woman’s core temperature gets too high, it could cause problems with the baby. Instead, train for the marathon of labor by strengthening your abdominals and pelvic floor muscles.

Pregnancy is one time when exercise is not about setting records. Instead, your goal should be to optimize your and your baby’s health. Pay attention to how you feel, and monitor the intensity and duration of your workouts. Just because you ran for an hour-and-a-half before you were pregnant does not mean it is okay now.

Use the talk test. If you can carry on a conversation throughout the whole workout, you are getting enough oxygen for you and your baby.

Whether you are pregnant or not, running can be hard on your knees. During pregnancy, your joints loosen, which makes you more prone to injury. So unless you are an avid runner, you should probably steer clear of this form of workout at least until after your baby arrives. For now, focus on exercises that are safe during pregnancy. 

Here are some things to keep in mind during the first trimester:

1. Follow the usual precautions such as drinking lots of water before, during, and after your run. Dehydration can decrease blood flow to the uterus and may even cause premature contractions.

2. Wear shoes that give your feet plenty of support, especially around the ankles and arches. Invest in a good sports bra to keep your growing breasts well supported.

3. If you were new to exercise prior to your pregnancy, start slowly with a simple walking program: walk for 30 minutes 2–3 times per week, with a day of rest in between. 

[Read more about Exercise]

Here are some things to keep in mind during the second trimester:

1. Your center of gravity’s shifting as your belly grows, leaving you more vulnerable to slips and falls. For safety, stick to running on flat pavement.

2. If you lose your balance, do your best to fall correctly. Try to fall to your side or on your behind, to avoid trauma to the abdomen. Or put your hands out to break your fall before your abdomen hits the ground.

3. Consider running on a track as your pregnancy progresses. Not only is the track surface easier on your joints, but you may feel safer running somewhere where you will not get stranded in case of an emergency.

4. You can begin to increase the intensity of your walk. Warm up by walking briskly for 5–10 minutes, then pick up the pace and power walk (walk at a fast pace, pumping your arms) for 25 minutes. Cool down by walking slowly for 5 minutes.

Here are some things to keep in mind during the third trimester:  

1. Be as careful as you have been during the first two trimesters. And remember: if you feel too tired to go for a run, listen to your body and take a break. Being sedentary is unhealthy, but pushing yourself too hard is also harmful.

2. Most avid runners find that their jogging pace slows down considerably during the third trimester – a fast walk may be a better choice as your due date approaches.

3. You should be able to power walk for at least 30 minutes. If you are not up to it, ride a recumbent bike, use a stair climber or walk on a treadmill. Your hips may not feel as stable as in the second trimester, so stick to level terrain.

4. Never run to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Pushing yourself to the limit forces your body to use up oxygen that should be going to your baby.

Stop running or jogging immediately and call your doctor or midwife if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing, especially when resting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Preterm labor (contractions)
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Fluid leaking from your vagina

Here are some of the most common myths many pregnant women may hear:

If you weren’t exercising before you got pregnant, now isn’t the time to start.

  • Pregnancy is the ideal time to start moving. If you are just starting out, run-walking is the perfect place to start, and is not deemed unsafe. The real hazard is inactivity, which contributes to excess weight gain, high blood pressure, and aches and pains, as well as a higher risk of C-section and gestational diabetes.

[Read more about Gestational Diabetes]

Running causes an increase in early pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or neonatal death.

  • There is no evidence of any increase in miscarriage risk, stillbirth, or neonatal death with any exercise. Quite the contrary, exercise improves placenta growth and fetal development.

Running is especially unsafe during pregnancy. You might shake the baby loose.

  • As long as you have no pain or change in joints, running during pregnancy is fine. The baby is cushioned by amniotic fluid and cannot be shaken loose. Round ligament pain can inhibit pace, stride, and ability to maintain current speed and distance. So listen to your body; slowing down will happen, and that is okay. 

Continuing to run during pregnancy is not only about doing something you enjoy. Studies show that exercise improves the health of mom and baby. It also lessens back pain, prevents excessive weight gain, improves sleep quality, and reduces delivery complications and time spent in labor.