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Running While Pregnant

I work with pregnant women in the clinic everyday who have questions about what they can and can’t do when it comes to continuing to run throughout their pregnancy. And rightfully so. There has been years of conventional wisdom, based on no evidence, that physical exertion could be harmful for you and/or your baby. Or that while you are running your heart rate shouldn’t exceed 140 beats per minute; this is completely unfounded. Or make sure you keep your exercise light enough that you aren’t “breathing heavy.” Whoever said this clearly hasn’t tried running while pregnant. While yes we need to be more cautious and aware of bodies while running during pregnancy, you CAN do it, and the benefits for you and your baby are numerous. Exercise reduces maternal weight gain, risk of gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, you are less likely to need a c-section, less likely to have fetal macrosomia, it reduces risk of postpartum depression, and potentially reduces length of first and second stages of labor. Running has been shown to specifically reduce incidence of postpartum depression.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists most recent recommendations is at least 150 minutes per week of exercise at a moderate intensity. All women without contraindications (see below) should be physically active during pregnancy.

Absolute contraindications for exercise:

  • Unexplained persistent vaginal bleeding

  • Ruptured cervix

  • Pre-eclampsia

  • Triplets (+)

  • Placenta previa after 28 weeks

  • Uncontrolled gestational diabetes, hypertension or thyroid issue

Relative contraindications for exercise:

  • Recurrent pregnancy loss

  • Gestational hypertension

  • History of spontaneous preterm birth

  • Twins after 28 weeks

  • Malnutrition or eating disorders

So is running safe while pregnant (if you don’t fall into the contraindications above), yes! Remember to give yourself grace. Your running mileage and speed is going to likely be different when you are pregnant. You are growing a human. As early as the first trimester your cardiovascular system changes to accommodate your growing baby. Your resting heart rate and blood volume increase to send more blood oxygen to the baby. There is a higher demand on your respiratory system; oxygen consumption increases by 30%! As your baby grows your center of gravity changes, it gets harder to take deep breaths, and form changes occur during running like decreased trunk rotation and increased lateral hip movement. All of these changes will make your running feel different – you may have to modify your speed, length of your runs, or transition to a run/walk. If you do experience low back pain, pelvic pain, feelings of heaviness, or leaking of urine – reach out to a physical therapist that specializes in pregnancy and exercise to see what you can do to keep yourself moving!

Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.