Can You Keep Running While Pregnant? The Quick and Dirty Answer

Licorice

Dawn has written 96 posts on Salty Running.

In a previous life, I worked on computers and spent all day sitting. Thanks to running, I've rebooted my career and am now a running and triathlon coach and soon-to-be physical therapist. I've also got the mind and spirit of an elite trapped in the body of a back-of-the-packer.

pregnancy test

When you see this, your running life is about to change. (Photo credit: Konstantin Lazorkin)

Running and pregnancy. There is so much confusing information out there. Is it ok for you to keep running when you have a bun in the oven? Let’s consult the experts.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in their 2002 report on exercise during and after pregnancy (which was reaffirmed in 2009), states that most women with uncomplicated pregnancies can adopt ASCM recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week. However, most runners get far more activity for that in their general training. Does this mean that active women have to reduce or limit their activity once they get pregnant?

Well, no and yes.

The answer boils down to: yes and no. Women who are already exceeding the ACSM recommendation and running more than 30 minutes a few times a week do not need to limit their activity to 30 minutes a day. However, they may find that, between the fatigue that typically accompanies pregnancy, increased blood volume (which makes your heart work harder), and the fact that they’re now sharing their oxygen with someone else, they’re unable to maintain the volume and/or intensity they had prior to getting pregnant. In short: running will feel harder, and you’ll probably need to go slower and or shorter.

Some women, like Salty here at 35 weeks, run right up until the end of their pregnancies with no problems, but it’s not for everyone.

While some women will be able to run throughout most of their pregnancy, others will have to stop at some point before the baby is born. When a pregnant woman hangs up her running shoes will depend on her level of fitness prior to pregnancy (an elite competitive runner will probably be able to continue running longer than someone who just completed their first 5k). Some pregnant runners feel great running in their ninth month, while others can barely get in the miles at all during their pregnancies.

The biggest take-home message about running (or any other sort of activity) during pregnancy? Listen to your body. As long as running feels good and your provider hasn’t told you otherwise, you should be able to keep logging the miles! And don’t feel like you have to do what someone else did during her pregnancy or even what you did during a previous pregnancy. Every pregnancy is different!

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For more comprehensive information about running during pregnancy, check out Salty’s What to Expect from Running When You’re Expecting Series:

What to Expect from Running When You’re Expecting: First Trimester

What to Expect from Running When You’re Expecting: Second Trimester

What to Expect from Running When You’re Expecting: Third Trimester

If you’re thinking about racing or doing harder workouts while pregnant, check out our Racing While Pregnant post.

You might also be interested in On Your Mark, Get Set, Gain! Pregnancy Weight Gain in Runners.

❀ For all our posts on pregnancy and running, go here.

❀ For posts about postpartum running, go here.

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Disclaimer: This post is not a substitute for medical advice from your provider. I’ll be talking about the general guidelines for exercising while pregnant, but you should always check with your doctor or midwife if you have any questions!

Did you run during a pregnancy?  How did it feel?  Did you have to stop?

2 Responses to “Can You Keep Running While Pregnant? The Quick and Dirty Answer”

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  1. Erin says:

    With three of my pregnancies, I ran all the way to the end. I ran five miles the day before I delivered my third baby at 40 weeks. Due to complications I had to stop running at about 36 weeks with #4. Number five I was barely able to run at all. It hurt way too much. The answer to “Can I run?” is so variable between people and even between pregnancies and day to day in a pregnancy. I do think when you are pregnant, you really need to listen to your body even more than if you are not pregnant. It’s ok to be a easy on yourself for a few months. You won’t be pregnant forever, and before you know it you can go back to fighting form.

  2. Although I was incredibly active before my pregnancy, I didn’t run at all while I was pregnant. I always thought I’d be one of those cute sporty pregnant ladies on the trails and at the gym, but it didn’t work out that way. I was sick and exhausted for most of the first tri, and as soon as my belly started to grow, even moderate cardio workouts didn’t feel “right” to me. It’s hard to explain! I stayed somewhat active and continued to walk as much as possible, but the act of exerting myself caused everything to ache and felt uncomfortable. It’s kind of like how I always worried about giving up my major caffeine habit when pregnant (I drank 3-4 cups a day before pregnancy) but as soon as I hit about 6 weeks, the very thought of coffee was repulsive! I had NO problem giving it up at all. So I guess my body just needed about a 9-month break from exercise. I finally felt ready to get back into running regularly when my son was about 18 months old.

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