Is it safe to run when pregnant?

Updated: May 1

It wasn’t so long ago that women were told all forms of exercise during pregnancy were dangerous. Now things have changed and the benefits are widely acknowledged. We are told that an active pregnancy lowers the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, depression, and helps you maintain a healthy body weight. It also lowers the risk of your baby having a low birth weight.

If you were a runner before becoming pregnant, and you are fit and well, your doctor will advise you on the dos and don’ts, so that you can continue running. Pregnancy is not a time to increase your running or to take it up as a new activity. It is a high impact sport that puts pressure on your pelvic floor. If you are not accustomed to running, the pressure on your pelvic floor from the baby and from running could be too much. Also, the hormone relaxin is produced during pregnancy. This loosens up joints and makes even experienced runners more susceptible to injury.

All runners will have to make some changes to their normal training routine during pregnancy. With the advice of your doctor you should gradually reduce the intensity and mileage of your running, especially as you progress through the trimesters.

First Trimester

During the first trimester you may be able to stick to your usual routine on the whole. Some women experience no significant changes to their body, whilst other experience sickness and tiredness which saps them of all energy. Your particular situation will determine how much you cut back on your running. If you are feeling exhausted, add in more recovery time and don’t run on the days you have no energy. It’s your body’s way of telling you to rest up and you must listen to your body.

If you notice your tiredness increasing, cut back on the distance or your pace, or both. By the end of the first trimester you should consider reducing your weekly mileage by approximately 25% and slowing your pace to a comfortable level. One long run a week is fine if you feel comfortable doing it.

Second Trimester

In the second trimester you may have more energy than during the first. This may make you feel like increasing your training. But it’s not recommended because your body is changing significantly now. Your growing bump may affect your balance as your centre of gravity changes. It’s also the time when you may discover you have an incompetent/weakened cervix. Your midwife or doctor will check for this. It’s not commonly found, but if you do have it you will be advised to stop all high impact sports, including running.

During your second trimester you should aim to drop your mileage by a further 20-25% and let your pace naturally slow down, so that you are not breathless.

Third Trimester

If you are lucky enough to have no balance issues in your second trimester, you will certainly encounter them in your third trimester. You running style will have to adapt to accommodate the shift in your centre of gravity and you should consider reducing your mileage by a further 25-30%.

You are obviously getting close to your baby being born at this stage, so you have to pay close attention to your body. Staying hydrated is really important as dehydration can increase your Braxton-Hicks contractions.

If you are able to continue running in your third trimester you will have strengthened your pelvic floor significantly. This means you are likely to reap the benefits of a faster labour and faster post-natal recovery.

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