Should I run while I’m pregnant?
Running during pregnancy is a contentious topic. The truth is, when it comes down to all forms of exercise, health professionals make the decision based on RISK vs BENEFIT. So when it comes to running during pregnancy, the question is whether there is any risk to you (eg pelvic floor, ankle injury etc) or risk to the baby (overheating for example) vs the benefit (maintain fitness, mental health). The list below is to help you weigh up the risk and benefits so you can make an educated decision on whether you should run during pregnancy.
Some things to take into account when considering whether you should run during your pregnancy include:
Have you always been a runner?
- National guidelines state that there is a general consensus that walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, strengthening exercise and water based exercise are generally safe during an uncomplicated pregnancy. It is stated that for women who participated in physical activity prior to pregnancy (ie running) and are experiencing an uncomplicated pregnancy, that they should continue that activity (ie running) until such a time that it becomes uncomfortable to do so.
- For women who were previously inactive – they should be encouraged to commence activity during pregnancy, starting with low intensity exercise (walking or swimming) and slowly progress the minutes of exercise they do.
- Basically what this summarises is that if you have always been a runner, and were running consistently prior to your pregnancy, you can continue running as long as there are no complications in your pregnancy and you are comfortable when you run. If you have never been a runner, during pregnancy is not the time to start.
Did you have any pelvic floor symptoms prior to pregnancy?
- If you had urine/wind/faeces leaking during running prior to pregnancy, or feelings of prolapse prior to pregnancy, it would be advisable to consider more low impact exercise than running. If you have those symptoms you should be assessed by your gynaecologist, GP or pelvic floor physiotherapist.
- During pregnancy there is increased ligamentous laxity, which includes the ligaments of your pelvic floor. Laxity means your ligaments stretch more easily, so the above mentioned symptoms may worsen with increased pressure. You want to take into consideration your long term goals for running, and perhaps taking a break while you are pregnant to protect your pelvic floor, which will allow you to return back to running in the future.
Do you feel comfortable running in your back, hips, pelvic floor, knees, ankles etc
- As you progress through your pregnancy and your baby grows, and your body shape and centre of gravity changes, you may feel that when you run you become uncomfortable or get pain in certain areas. You do not want these pains to increase so listen to your body. If you are able to run easily, pain free and comfortable, these are signs you are safe to continue running.
What is the temperature?
- Care should be taken to try not to overheat when running – perhaps you could consider running on the treadmill in the air con, or training at a cooler time of the day
Absolute reasons you should not run
- Chest pain
- Unexplained shortness of breath
- Dizziness, feeling faint or headache
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain, swelling or redness
- Sudden swelling of the ankles, hands or face
- Vaginal bleeding or amniotic fluid loss
- Decreased fetal movement
- Uterine contractions or pain in the lower back, pelvic area or abdomen (potentially indicating pre-term labour)
It is highly recommended that you discuss your exercise with your doctor or obstetrician during your pregnancy to know you are medically cleared for exercise. If there is any risk to your or your baby, your doctor will guide you on what exercise to choose. Some women can run until 36 weeks, others until 12 weeks. The most important thing is that you are comfortable, you and your baby are safe, and your mental health is ok. For some women, running is their emotional outlet, so stopping running during pregnancy can be very difficult. If you are having any struggles with this – as many women do; talk to your doctor about it for support and to make an action plan.
Emily Georgopolous (APAM)
Featured in the Top 50 Physical Therapy Blog
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist, Clinical Practice Guideline on Exercise during pregnancy. Available from https://www.ranzcog.edu.au/RANZCOG_SITE/media/RANZCOG-MEDIA/Women’s%20Health/Statement%20and%20guidelines/Clinical-Obstetrics/Exercise-during-pregnancy-(C-Obs-62)-New-July-2016.pdf?ext=.pdf
Sports Medicine Australia Position Statement on Exercise in pregnancy and the postpartum period. Available from https://sma.org.au/sma-site-content/uploads/2017/08/SMA-Position-Statement-Exercise-Pregnancy.pdf