No, I’m not pregnant.
But every single woman I know and bump into is and several have recently given birth. It’s an epidemic. Literally everywhere I turned last weekend there was a woman my age-ish who was bumpin’ around.
In recent years, I’ve been asked more and more about running and pregnancy and what I advise. Before I share my thoughts, a disclaimer:
- I am not a medical doctor and any and all advice I provide on this blog is, as always, my opinion. This opinion should never supersede that of your physician, obstetrician, or anyone else on your medical team. Always consult a medical professional before undertaking any fitness regimen.
- I don’t have kids so I don’t have the advantage of knowing how it feels to run through a pregnancy.
- My knowledge of what happens during pregnancy comes from my Histology (Embryology) and Lifespan Development classes, Pre/Post-natal Continuing Education classes, pregnancy-specific presentations during my first year as doctoral candidate, and the recreational medical journal reading I do regarding the topic.
Now. Let’s get down to business.
Running while pregnant is just fine. Women do it all the time and deliver healthy babies while maintaining a very healthy body themselves.
They get pregnant while running, they run throughout their entire pregnancy, they run right up until the day they give birth, they breastfeed while running, and everything is fine.
It happens every day. I have friends who’ve run up until the morning they gave birth. I’m all for it.
Let me throw a few caveats your way, though:
- Tendons and ligaments are not easily repaired when they become stretched or damaged because they have poor blood supply.
- Relaxin, the hormone released during pregnancy to allow for the hips to expand to accommodate the baby during gestation and birth, relaxes these tendons and ligaments.
Add these two things together and mix in rigorous, high-impact running and you might have a problem. Yes, it’s safe for the baby for you to exercise. Yes, it’s good for you to exercise. Yes, raising your heart rate above 140 bpm is fine.
The problem I want you to know about is overdoing it on your joints. The relaxin doesn’t just affect the elasticity in your hip joints, but every single joint in your body.
Weight gain combined with increased force production on those less stable joints during running puts pregnant women at risk of developing joint dysfunction–most notably sacroiliac joint, possibly permanently, due to stretched out ligaments and tendons.
Now, don’t let this information deter you from running or exercising while pregnant. In fact you should absolutely remain as active as is safe for you and your baby and with the input of your doctors. You can read about some of my friends’ experiences during and after pregnancy.
I share this with you because, from my young Student Physical Therapist perspective, beyond the concern for the health of the baby and the mother, the joints get kinda ignored in the whole running-while-pregnant discussion. That’s my job, to worry about the nuts and bolts of your body.
So what’s a girl to do?
Slow down, shorten your runs, strength train before and during your pregnancy (within reason), take it easy with the stretching. Your heart rate will increase faster, you will become fatigued sooner, you will take longer to recover.
So those are my thoughts on running while pregnant. Be smart. Take it easy. Don’t do too much. Will I try to keep running when I do get pregnant? Sure will. As long as I have the A-ok from my doc and am feeling up to it.
But don’t expect me to be running any marathons rockin’ a bump. And I don’t recommend any other woman do it, either. That’s my professional opinion.
Have you run during pregnancy? How did it go?
Now go out and run.