Can You Run While Pregnant? Here's What Experts Say
Running is an excellent form of exercise; it strengthens your muscles, builds your endurance, and clears your head. But if you’re pregnant, you may wonder whether it’s safe to continue this type of workout throughout your nine months.
As your body expands and changes to accommodate a growing baby, you may have to make some tweaks to your usual running routine. But take heart! Running during pregnancy can be safe. If you’ve already formed a running practice and have gotten the green light from your doctor, you can feel confident about lacing up with a bun in the oven.
Here's what you need to know about running safely during pregnancy.
Is Running During Pregnancy Safe?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), if you are healthy and your pregnancy is considered normal, it’s safe to continue or start regular physical activity.1 Contrary to what you may have heard from well-meaning relatives or friends, the movement of an exercise (like jogging) isn’t likely to harm your baby.
A 2018 study on nearly 1,300 pregnant women found no association between running and low birthweight or early delivery.2
That said, it’s still important to discuss your exercise routine with your OB/GYN. Be sure to get the OK before starting or continuing any running regimen.
Health Benefits of Running During Pregnancy
Just like at any time of life, running during pregnancy promotes your cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles, and improves agility. But it comes with additional, pregnancy-specific benefits, too.
“Women [who run] gain a healthier amount of weight during pregnancy and have babies born with a healthy birth weight,” says Sherry A. Ross, MD, OB/GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. “Exercise also decreases or prevents a woman from developing gestational diabetes, which could cause dangerous complications to the baby."
Keeping up with jogging brings advantages not just for you, but for your baby as well! “Women who exercise during pregnancy have an overall sense of well-being that transfers over to the well-being of the baby,” says Ross.
“Exercise during pregnancy improves the vascular smooth muscle of a baby’s heart. It’s been shown that this heart ‘programming’ can ultimately decrease a baby’s susceptibility to heart disease during its lifetime.”
Potential Risks of Running During Pregnancy
Of course, running with a baby in your belly isn’t without some risks. “Pregnancy affects a woman’s balance and coordination,” Ross notes. “Carrying extra weight, especially in the belly area, makes the center of gravity for a pregnant woman very unstable. Even women who are experienced with exercise can be surprisingly affected by the physical changes of pregnancy that make you unsteady on your feet.”
Trips and falls are among the chief risks of running during pregnancy. “Exercises that put pregnant women at risk for falling or tripping could lead to unwanted complications to the baby. Any unforeseen falls could be dangerous for both mother and baby,” says Ross.
It’s also best to consult a health care professional about the safety of running if you have certain health issues, such as a heart or lung condition, preeclampsia, placenta previa, or are carrying multiples. Running could exacerbate risks of complications during pregnancy.
Tips for Running Safely During Pregnancy
For most women who’ve already had a running practice prior to pregnancy, keeping it up can be safe and healthy under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner. However, doing so may require some modifications. Try these tips.
Invest in Supportive Gear
Pregnancy comes with a slew of products to purchase—and not just for outfitting your nursery! If you’d like to continue running during your nine months, you may want to invest in some extra gear to support your efforts.
Good running shoes are a must to cushion your joints and support your feet. (Just note that you may need to purchase a size up, as your feet may swell during pregnancy.) A belly band and a supportive sports bra also help to minimize discomfort as you jog.
Consider a Run/Walk Combo
There’s no shame in combining your jogging with walking during pregnancy, especially when a growing belly and ligament-relaxing hormones make running more challenging.
“I’m a huge fan of walking while pregnant!” says personal trainer Holly Roser, CPT. “Walking is much more comfortable and will still elevate your heart rate, giving you the cardiovascular workout you need to stay healthy. Power walking or walking intermittently in the middle of a run are both great solutions when you’re feeling more out of breath than previously.”
Take It Indoors
If you have access to a treadmill, this can be a safer option than jogging on busy streets, where bad weather and traffic increase your risk of injury.
“If it’s wet outside or above 74 degrees, it’s probably better to jump on a treadmill,” says Roser “All variables are controlled. There are no cars in the street, you’re less likely to fall, and you have the ability to adjust the difficulty with ease.” (Plus, you always know you can stop and find a bathroom!)
Hydration and Nutrition
Staying hydrated and sticking to a healthy diet are essential during pregnancy—and never more so than when you’re keeping up with exercise.
The ACOG recommends drinking 8 to 12 cups of water per day while pregnant, but if running makes you thirsty enough to exceed these guidelines, drink to your thirst level.3 You can also continue to add extra calories to your daily diet during your second and third trimesters. Recreational running won’t necessarily cause you to require more caloric intake than this, unless directed by your doctor.
Modifications by Trimester
As your baby continues to grow, there are some slight adjustments you can make to keep running a comfortable part of your routine.
First Trimester Running Tips
During your first trimester, fatigue and nausea may have you feeling like you can barely get out of bed, let alone run. Still, the more you can get your body moving, the better you may feel.
Roser advises giving yourself grace during this first portion of your pregnancy. “This is the time to nourish yourself and take it easy. You’re creating a life, and your body is doing a lot of work,” she encourages. “Going for a walk outdoors can help morning sickness and fatigue. Listen to your body and figure out what works best for you.”
Second Trimester Running Tips
In your second trimester, successful running may come down to having the right physical support. “Trying to run in this trimester may require an extra supportive bra and a belly band,” says Roser. “The belly band is great to help keep round ligament pain at bay and for giving your belly more support as you run.”
Meanwhile, pay attention to your physical needs when running during this trimester. “Taking more frequent rest periods, hydrating throughout the workout, and taking more bathroom breaks are all necessary,” says Ross.
Third Trimester Running Tips
As you round the bend toward delivery day, keep in mind that you may not be able to press on with the same running regimen as earlier in your pregnancy—and that’s okay. Soon enough, you’ll be back to your usual physical self. During your third trimester, it may be time to ease off to a workout with less intensity.
“Running in your third trimester certainly isn’t comfortable,” says Roser. “Your center of gravity has completely changed, having weight in front of your body, which can cause you to be off balance and strain a muscle. I’d recommend shifting your workout to the elliptical or power walking.”
A Word From Verywell
Just because you’re carrying a growing baby doesn’t mean you have to stop running. If it’s been a favorite form of exercise prior to pregnancy, you can feel confident about keeping it up, as long as approved by your doctor.
On the other hand, if you’ve never been a runner before, pregnancy probably isn’t the best time to start. Save your desire to run for just a few months—and put a jogging stroller on your wish list! Once baby has arrived, you can hit the road with your little one in tow.
Every woman’s experience with running during pregnancy will look different. Some can continue up to their due date, while others will need to curtail this form of exercise much earlier. The duration of your ability to run in pregnancy should be a joint decision with a medical professional.
Running a race while pregnant is certainly possible, but is not for everyone. If you’re interested in race training during pregnancy, discuss the possibility with a doctor.
Running can strain the pelvic floor at any time, and since pregnancy places extra stress on these muscles, you may find running weakens them even more. Talk to a doctor if you feel running is causing weakness in your pelvic floor. And then, of course, take action with at-home exercises!