I’ve never been fond of running. Something you would automatically assume about someone who’s whole career revolves around fitness. However, knowing that so many women DO enjoy going out and hitting the pavement for exercise, the topic of running during pregnancy is something I have equipped myself to address for my mama to be clients.
As I’ve learned through my own pregnancies, as well as my experience working with numerous pregnant clients, the answer will always be “it depends”. There are general guidelines and recommendations that can be used, but there will always be special cases that come into play. Just keep in mind, we are speaking on the health of mom. There have been no findings that any exercise, pending a medical condition, is harmful to baby. If anything, there are numerous gatherings of info that back exercise being beneficial to the health of baby and mother.
So what are the general findings of benefits?
- “Women who exercise regularly and engage in high-impact exercises before the first pregnancy may have a reduced risk of pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy.” — British Journal of Sports Medicine
- “Compared with non-exercisers, regular exercise and high-impact exercises during pregnancy are associated with reduced risk of having an acute Cesarean delivery in first-time mothers.” — American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
As a coach, I can also tell you there will be 2 different categories of pregnant women when navigating exercise situations:
- Women who start to do high impact early on, but then find their bodies giving them signs they need to back off a bit
- Women who can perform most activities without any symptoms or needs to back off or scale.
What we DO know for certain is that pressure control is important when it comes to any issues with Pelvic Floor and/or Diastasis Recti. With extra weight comes extra pressure (think outward on the belly and downward on the pelvic floor). How our bodies manage that pressure can impact our muscle function after pregnancy. We also know that breath-holding increases intra-abdominal pressure, and that high-impact exercise requires above-average pressure management strategies.
To maintain control of pressure will take practice, and attention to how you are executing movements. So if not controlling these things, the potential risk of issues for mama during high impact activity increases. Specifically when we think repetitive and longer duration.
Most changes and attention will need to come in the later weeks of pregnancy. The stages where baby is becoming its own extra weight, think over a pound, as well as when the belly is expanding beyond that early baby bump. Typically later weeks of the second trimester and into the third.
Can you continue to run/jog/jump for prolonged periods of time once you have reached these stages? Sure. Is it in the best interest of your body? Depends.
- Do you notice heaviness or pressure in the pelvis, pubic bone or tailbone?
- Leaking of fluids?
- Pain in the ligaments around the hips or abdomen?
- Doming at the center of the abdomen?
- Do you have trouble controlling your breath?
These would be signs it may be best to scale that movement or cease use of that particular exercise.
It is important to note that you are not a failure if you need to scale a movement or back off something you previously had no problems with. We are playing the long game here. It is not that you are doing anything wrong. You have things happening to your body that are changing the way it can work and function.
For some women, the need to run/jog is deeply rooted beyond the physical aspects.
There is a mental need.
For some it is just a general need to exercise.
For those that just have a need to exercise in general for their physical and mental health, I say lets error on the side of caution and scale impactful exercise back with equally beneficial alternatives that protect the pelvic floor and core integrity. Even with excellent care and practice, we have the weight of a baby pounding on the pelvic floor every time we engage in those prolonged movements.
Women that have that need to get out and run or jog in those later stages, we can approach a few ways. One thing I always suggest is seeing a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist. This way they can assess early on how everything is functioning for mama, as well as monitor any changes as pregnancy progresses.
Another strategy would be to adjust work/rest ratios. Instead of the whole 3 miles being a steady pace, can you run for 5 minutes then walk for 1 minute? Maybe run for 3, walk for 2 etc? Allowing your body to slow down and regulate breathing could help manage pressure long term.
So if you enjoy going out for a run, and need to keep that as a part of your health and fitness routine, pay attention to any possible symptoms mentioned above and go for it! But if you have options to scale or find yourself experiencing some of the mentioned symptoms: don’t be a hero and listen to your body. Change things up so you can continue moving in a safe way.
I’d love to know: what is your go-to prenatal exercise outlet of choice?