If you’re deciding whether or not to run while pregnant, here are a few things to think about:
1) Know your risk factors.
Do you have pre-existing pelvic organ prolapse, a family history of pelvic organ prolapse (aka POP) or a connective tissue disorder? Folks who answer yes to any of those questions may have a higher pre-disposition to pelvic-organ prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition characterized by reduced support of various pelvic organs.
If you’re at a higher risk for POP, you may choose not to add more strain to a strained system (i.e. running during pregnnacy).
Also know, pregnancy is an independent risk factor for pelvic floor dysfunction (2,3). This means that whether or not you have a vaginal or cesarean birth, you are more likely to experience leaking (think sneeze pees) or POP.
Pregnancy strains the pelvic floor, even in an uneventful pregnancy. Strain on the pelvic floor will increase as your baby grows. Running also places extra load through the pelvic floor (4).
2) Do you looooove running?Running is great cardiovascular exercise. And maybe it’s an important part of your stress management strategy or mental health maintenance. Or just something you really really enjoy. It’s important to remember, you are more than just your pelvic floor.
3) What are your long term goals?Is your goal is to be a runner well into your postpartum years? Consider whether the short-term benefit is worth the potential risk to your long-term athletic function. Once again: risk vs. reward.
If you decide to run during pregnancy:
1) You may be able to reduce the accumulated strain on your pelvic floor. You can reduce or eliminate running by the time your baby bump is very visible. OR, if you experience:
-pressure through your perineum or vagina
-pain in your pelvis
you might shelve your shoes until after your pregnancy.
2) Manage your expectations. Allow yourself to go slower, take breaks and skip runs when you’re tired.
3) Pay extra attention to hydration.
4) Watch your intensity. You should be able to talk but not sing.
5) Visit ACOG’s website and learn general warning signs to stop exercise in pregnancy. These include:
- Vaginal bleeding or leaking of fluids
- Dizziness during activity
- Shortness of breath before activity
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling
- Uterine contractions
6) Work with a pelvic floor physical therapist. Pelvic floor PTs are the most qualified medical professionals to assess and treat pelvic floor muscles. They can also help you prepare for your labor and delivery.
A few FAQs about running during pregnancy:
Is running during pregnancy safe?
It depends on your definition of safe and your relative risk tolerance. It’s safe for baby. It’s potentially a mixed bag for your pelvic floor. I urge to you consider the points I made in this article and make your own decision. It’s also good to just have a quick chat with your medical provider to make sure you don’t have any medical reasons not to run.
How long can you run during pregnancy?
For many people, running feels okay through about 16-20 weeks of pregnancy. But you are a snowflake.
Can you START running during pregnancy?
I don’t recommend it. If you weren’t already a regular runner before pregnancy, I recommend hitting your 150 minutes a week with another type of exercise.
Can running cause miscarriages or otherwise hurt your baby?
There’s really no data to support this. There’s a limited amount of data suggesting that there might be problems when athletes push 90% of their maximal heart rate (5)- this is typically an issue relevant to elite athletes who are likely being closely monitored by physicians. For recreational athletes, running is considered to be safe for baby. Please speak with your medical provider about specific concerns.
When you jump back into running postpartum, start here. And be sure to work with a coach who understands nuances of running during pregnancy and postpartum. There’s more to returning to run postpartum than just a couch-to-5k plan.
For example, your gait will change during pregnancy and these changes will persist postpartum. You will also be managing a recovering pelvic floor and inevitable strength deficits. A postpartum coach can work with you to restore your gait, build running-specific strength and help you avoid common injuries associated with postpartum running.
I offer 1:1 coaching and specialize in the pregnant and postpartum athlete. When you are looking to return to run postpartum, contact me for a personalized strength and conditioning plan to get you back out on the road or the trails!
(2) Bozkurt, Murat, et al. “Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, and Effects of Pregnancy and Mode of Delivery on Pelvic Floor.” Taiwanese Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, vol. 53, no. 4, Dec. 2014, pp. 452–58.
(3) Van Geelen, Hans, et al. “A Review of the Impact of Pregnancy and Childbirth on Pelvic Floor Function as Assessed by Objective Measurement Techniques.” International Urogynecology Journal, vol. 29, no. 3, Mar. 2018, pp. 327–38. Springer Link,
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My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I also offer personal training services and consultations to folks locally (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and online.