There are all kinds of myths and misunderstandings swirling around running while pregnant, so we reached out to an obstetrician, midwife and pelvic floor therapist for clarity. If you want to keep up your running routine while pregnant, here are seven things to keep in mind:
1. YOU CAN DEFINITELY KEEP RUNNING
Our experts, OB-GYN Dr. Diana Ramos, midwife Julie Toole and pelvic floor therapist Laura Powers, urge runners to stay the course throughout their pregnancy. It’s better for you — especially when it comes to getting back to your old stride after giving birth — if you can stay active throughout your pregnancy. Of course, all of the experts caution against doing too much.
Stick to your normal routine for as long as feels right for you, but be aware of your body and what it’s telling you. The pros far outweigh the cons in almost every case: the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says regular exercise during pregnancy “improves or maintains physical fitness, helps with weight management, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women and enhances psychological well-being.” So get out there!
2. … BUT DON’T TRY NEW STUFF (EXCEPT WALKING)
Pregnancy isn’t the time to start training for your first marathon if you’ve never run a mile, or to drop weight, says Ramos. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists actually says that while running and jogging are great, that’s only the case if you were a runner prior to becoming pregnant.
You can start walking at any point, though, Ramos notes. So focus on what you already do, whether that’s taking long walks with a few small bursts of running throughout or short jogs around the block. If you start feeling off in any way, Powers recommends stopping and consulting with your doctor. It’s better to catch any potential problems early, rather than wait until you’ve already over-stressed your body. Back off if you feel pressure in your pelvis, Powers and Ramos say. That might mean slowing to a jog or even a walk, but the long-term cost isn’t worth hitting your planned run pace or duration for that day. (Ramos also encourages runners to chat with their OB-GYN and let them know your plans and any issues you’re dealing with.)
3. INVEST IN A GOOD SPORTS BRA
You might head into pregnancy with an A cup that doesn’t require much support, but Toole emphasizes the importance of wearing sports bras that offer both comfort and support throughout your pregnancy and after. Because women tend to get bustier as their pregnancy progresses, size up gradually — it can actually be painful to run with an ill-fitting sports bra. The potential long-term consequences can be a bit … droopy.
4. EXPECT VARICOSE VEINS
Varicose veins are part of pregnancy — and sadly, activities like running can exacerbate them, says Toole. Powers adds that she even sees varicose veins in the healthiest pregnant women. Don’t be shocked if you get them, and know they’re genetic and there isn’t much you can do about it. Don’t panic and keep running if you’re just having aesthetic issues as opposed to real pain.
READ MORE: DEBUNKING 3 POPULAR PREGNANCY EXERCISE MYTHS
5. BE BODY AWARE
During and after pregnancy, women should pay attention to how they really feel. A little tired? Fine; a short run is still in the cards. Completely exhausted and miserable? Swap the run for a lighter walk and see how it goes.
Let yourself take it easy when you need to: Ramos adds that you can always regain that fitness later. During pregnancy, imbalance from carrying baby can lead to pelvic girdle pain, where one side is tight and one side is weak because your body is trying to stabilize with a beach ball of baby weight that’s far from symmetrical. After delivery, muscles on one side could still be weakened, so don’t expect to bounce back immediately.