It’s Okay to Stop Running During Pregnancy

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.

English: pregnancy at 8th month

Sometimes all you want to do is lie in bed. And that’s okay! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The great thing about being a woman in distance running today is that the stigma is gone. Not only are we allowed to participated in events of all distances, it’s becoming more and more acceptable to do so during that magical time called pregnancy. Thanks in part to a number of elite runners who ran while gestating, experts espousing the benefits of continuing to run during pregnancy and sites like this here Salty Running, taking your baby bump out for a jog is now both socially and medically acceptable in most cases.

That said, what if you’re struggling with continuing to run during pregnancy?  Or what if you just want to take the 9 months off from running? Is there something in the runner code that says we have to continue running during our pregnancies?

The answer is no, of course not. Absolutely no one is going to argue with you if you decide to take it easy. That said, if you need a bit of help convincing yourself, here’s a few reasons why rest might be best.

Your doctor told you to. While most healthy women who were running when they got pregnant will get the green light from their provider to continue their training, that might not always be the case. While exercise itself isn’t risky during a normal pregnancy, there are some conditions where physical exertion can increase the risk of premature labor. To make sure that bun is fully baked, follow the advice of your provider and ask questions to ensure that you fully understand what your specific risks are.

You were recovering from an injury when you got pregnant. If it was a musculoskeletal injury keeping you down, waiting until after delivery to get back into your running groove may be best: pregnancy hormones cause your ligaments to soften which can easily aggravate an existing or recently healed injury.

You weren’t running much anyway. Whether you were taking an intentional off-season or had just lost your mojo, coming into pregnancy with a decreased level of fitness can make it hard to keep running. Between the weight gain, increased fluid volume, and sharing both your oxygen and breathing space with someone else, you’ll find that it feels like you’re losing fitness even if you keep training at the same intensity as always.

If you were only running a handful miles a week, you may find that it quickly becomes too much for you. You certainly could keep running until you hit that wall, or you could just make the decision to let it go before it becomes uncomfortable.

Your bladder control just isn’t what it used to be. By the end of pregnancy, you’re essentially asking the muscles of your pelvic floor to hold up a small bowling ball in addition to all of the organs and structures they’re used to supporting. For many women, this means that they can no longer cough, sneeze, or jump with a full bladder. If you discover that you’re leaking urine while you run, it means that the muscles of your pelvic floor are no longer able to do their job. For the sake of your long term pelvic health, you’ll be better off if you switch to a low- or no-impact activity until you’ve had the baby and restrengthened those muscles.

Leaking urine during coughs or sneezes isn’t an absolute sign to stop running immediately, but you’d do well to seriously consider it before that weakness gets worse. Severe pelvic floor weakness – which may not make itself fully known until after delivery – can result in prolapse. To put that bluntly, it means your junk is falling out of your body. Not something you want to mess with!

It just doesn’t feel good. If my pregnancy taught me one thing, it was how to really listen to my body. As much as I wanted to stay active right up until that baby came out, at a certain point it just didn’t feel good to be up and on my feet. The interesting thing was, “not feeling good” changed from day to day. Some days my back hurt. Some days I’d start feeling crampy when I tried to work out. And some days I was just too tired to even think about it. Regardless of what “not good” might mean for you, listen to the sign that your body needs the extra rest.

As great as exercise is for both mother and baby during pregnancy, the important thing to remember is that your body’s priority right now is to create a healthy child. If you’re running because you’re still enjoying it and it feels good? Great. However, if the only thing keeping you going is the feeling that you should be running? Take a break; it’s okay! As plenty of other runners have proved, your speed and fitness will come back once the baby is out.

Did you choose not to run during your pregnancy?  How did you feel about it?

5 Responses to “It’s Okay to Stop Running During Pregnancy”

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  1. Lemongrass says:

    Great post! I ran through about half of my first pregnancy and not at all for my second. I actually gained more weight for my first and was much more stressed about the whole exercise aspect than when I allowed myself to forget about it and focus on having the baby. I don’t know if it was because I was more active or because I hadn’t already had a baby, but my ability to get moving again was easier with my first. I was pretty much able to start running again at 10:00 min miles. With my second, I was lucky to be able to run a 13 min mile, and even that was not consistent. However, with a little training, I am now running faster than ever. I agree with you; do whatever makes you feel less stressed. You’ll have to figure out your “new normal” once the baby is born anyway and more than anything, my excitement to get back to running and have a little me time compelled me to get back in shape.

    • Tara says:

      I am currently in the same boat, ran until about 30 weeks the first time but my 2nd pregnancy I haven’t been able to do anything but walk. I am worried about getting back into shape this time around so your response gives me hope!

  2. Stephanie says:

    “You weren’t running much anyway.” This was totally me. I ran my 5th marathon in October and had changed jobs twice that year. I love running but I was starting to despise it as something I HAD to do and not that I WANTED to do. I was running a little bit here and there and when I got pregnant I was a) very nervous as I had previously miscarried and b) exhausted. I could hardly get off the couch when I got home at night. I figured this would be a good time to take some real time off and focus on eating well and just staying active (walking, swimming, yoga). I know that it will be hard to get back into after the baby is born but I am excited to start again!

    • Suzanne says:

      I too loved running but felt pressured to always do it. I’ve only done a few runs since having my twins in April, they haven’t been that great, but I have enjoyed doing them because they have been much less pressure!

  3. I’m glad I read this today. I just wrote about running when pregnant – and worrying I’m going to pee my pants the whole time! It makes the run significantly less enjoyable ;)

    I also felt a little tugging in both of my knees when running yesterday. It’s hard to take a rest day, but I think that’s what I’m going to do today.

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