Photo: Moofushi

Pregnancy and Running

Stay active and healthy with the latest guidelines and tips for running while pregnant

Not long ago, women were advised to avoid running while pregnant. But female runners will be glad to know that modern medical advice now says the exact opposite: Running is not only safe for the majority of pregnant runners, it has been proven beneficial to both mom and baby.

Benefits to moms who run include everything from a reduced risk of getting gestational diabetes to a 67% reduction in odds of developing depression (the latter according to a 2020 study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal).

A study done by Washington University in 2015 found that mothers who run while pregnant may actually help their babies minimize the possibility of having fetal heart defects.

Runners who like to push the pace and elevate their heart rates will be happy to know that guidelines have changed for this as well. Pregnant women used to be advised not to exceed a maximum heart rate of 140 beats per minute, but even that constraint no longer applies.

All that isn’t to say that pregnant moms should go out and run like they weren’t pregnant. It’s critical to check with your doctor and get his or her blessing for your specific body and pregnancy. And always listen to your body. No two pregnancies are alike.

And of course there are caveats for specific conditions. The Mayo Clinic implores that “reasonable precautions for exercise during pregnancy are important.” They also point out that having conditions such as a history of preterm labor, an incompetent cervix, placenta previa during the third trimester, heart disease, high blood pressure, or poorly controlled type 1 diabetes, could make running unsafe for either you or your baby, or both.  

Photo: Moofushi

Changes to a Runner's Pregnant Body

If you’re currently pregnant or have been, you don’t need us telling you this: Pregnancy takes a toll on your body. But if you were a runner before becoming pregnant, continuing to run—if it feels good for you—while pregnant can be great, as mentioned above.

If you weren’t a runner before you got pregnant, now is not the time to start. Let your body focus on growing that baby and doing other activities that are lower impact, like swimming, walking, or yoga. Once you have the baby and recover postpartum, with the blessing from a doctor, you can slowly start a gentle running program.

One of the key physical changes to understand is how your body prepares for your pelvis to move enough to birth that baby. Your body releases a hormone called relaxin, which loosens your ligaments. For that reason, it’s extra-important to listen to your body if running while pregnant, and to supplement your running with strength training. It’s also a good reason to not start running if your body isn’t already used to it.

Gear and Tips for Pregnant Runners

As your body is growing and changing, a few key items of gear, and a couple pointers will make your running more enjoyable.

Belly Support

Maternity support belts—stretchy, supportive belts that attach via Velcro underneath the growing baby—work like weightlifter’s belts and can help both with comfort and injury prevention. 

Bathroom Breaks 

Another aspect of running while pregnant is the increased pressure on the bladder caused by the baby. Add the up-and-down movement of running, and the need to urinate can become ridiculously inconvenient. You’ll want to plan running routes that have bathroom access (like in public parks), or run loops past a known bathroom. 

Sports Bras

And as the baby grows, so, too will your breasts. You’ll want to wear your most supportive sports bras and may need to shop for new ones to support your changing breast size. 

Apparel

Wear maternity running gear that’s designed with your growing belly in mind. Shorts and tights with wide, stretchy waistbands and tops with forgiving hems are designed to keep pregnant runners comfortable through the third trimester. These items also come in handy postpartum because of the relaxed fit.

Shoes

With the added weight that inevitably comes with pregnancy, you might find that shoes with more cushion or more stability (or both) feel better on your body.

Fuel

You already know that hydration and nutrition are important. When you’re running for two, pay special attention to make sure you’re eating and drinking well.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.