The Complete Guide to Running While Pregnant

Are you pregnant and wondering if running is safe for you and your baby? If you ran before you conceived, experts say it is safe to continue doing so unless you are uncomfortable or having certain types of pain. Read on to learn which type of pain to watch out for and for all my best tips for running while pregnant.

Pregnant woman in black with running shoes on.
I wondered can I run while pregnant? Thankfully, I was able to for both of my pregnancies.

When it comes to running during pregnancy, a lot has changed. For a long time, people treated pregnant women runners as if they were smoking a cigarette or eating sushi while slamming shots of vodka. Thanks to recent research, however, most people know you can run safely while pregnant.

It wasn’t that way when I was pregnant with my first. Early in my pregnancy, my husband ran the Leadville 100 ultra-marathon. While he was lost in the woods (literally speaking), I passed the time trail running while pregnant—at probably an altitude of 11,000 feet. I mentioned this to Jake and he went kind of nuts—“Was the baby even getting oxygen? That was not safe!” he retorted.

To ward off future heated discussions of the risks of running when pregnant, we talked with my doctor who set parameters so that Jake and I both felt comfortable with me continuing to pursue my hobby.

When it comes to running during pregnancy, a lot has changed. For a long time, people treated pregnant women runners as if they were smoking a cigarette or eating sushi while slamming shots of vodka. Thanks to recent research, however, most people know you can run safely while pregnant.

It wasn’t that way when I was pregnant with my first. Early in my pregnancy, my husband ran the Leadville 100 ultra-marathon. While he was lost in the woods (literally speaking), I passed the time trail running while pregnant—at probably an altitude of 11,000 feet. I mentioned this to Jake and he went kind of nuts—“Was the baby even getting oxygen? That was not safe!” he retorted.

To ward off future heated discussions of the risks of running when pregnant, we talked with my doctor who set parameters so that Jake and I both felt comfortable with me continuing to pursue my hobby.

Thankfully, after this conversation and listening to my body, I ran through both of my pregnancies. My body directed my activities and set the parameters for what was too much. I ran comfortably throughout my first pregnancy, but my pace slowly decreased as the weeks passed. Similarly, my volume naturally decreased for my second until I cross-trained for the last few weeks.

If you are pregnant and want to run, there are a lot of questions. After all, running is stressful on the body and there still are vocal doubters out there who believe in the outdated myths about running. Regardless, you want to know what is best for you and your baby, as your body is hard at work doing something super important: growing a human! 

As a VDOT-O2 certified running coach, marathon runner, and mama, I am here to set the record straight about how to run safely when pregnant. I share information from my coaching training and experience as well as tips from other experts and pregnant mother runners. Let’s get into it!

Is it safe to run while pregnant?

Let’s tackle the most important question first: yes, it is safe to run while pregnant, as long as you were regularly running previous to conception. If you are considering taking up running now that you are pregnant, experts recommend that you wait until after the baby (and the postpartum recovery period) to lace up those running shoes.

Even if you have been running regularly before pregnancy, this time is not one to push your limits or chase for personal bests. Instead, focus on the joys of the sport, the stress relief it provides, and the health benefits it brings to you and your baby.

A pregnant woman running on a gravel trail.
The stakes are high when running while pregnant. These tips will help you stay safe while you go the distance.

Related: Best Belly Bands for Running While Pregnant

What are the benefits of running while pregnant?

In 2002, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommended that expectant women with uncomplicated pregnancies exercise for 30 minutes on most or all days of the week. In 2020, the ACOG outlined the various benefits of exercise for pregnant women. 

The ACOG noted that regular exercise or running while pregnant has many physical and mental benefits for the mother and baby. A few of these benefits are as follows.

A pinterest pin for the complete pregnant running guide with a woman stretching in the park.

Benefits of Running while Pregnant for the Baby: 

  • Lowers the occurrence of Caesarean section
  • Lowers the risk of preterm birth 
  • Reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes 
  • Prevents high birth weight
  • Improves baby’s brain development
  • Promotes exercise in adulthood
  • Improves fetal development, including lean muscle mass and neurodevelopment
  • Bolster’s stress tolerance – especially important for labor and delivery

Maternal Benefits of Running:

Related: Can You Run a Marathon While Pregnant?

How do you run safely during pregnancy? 

Running while pregnant will not be the same as running when you aren’t pregnant. Just call me Captain Obvious. But, it is important to remind yourself of this if running feels or is different for you. Pregnancy is not a time to chase aggressive goals but instead is a time to listen to your body and connect with other reasons that you love the sport. 

Read on for tips to successfully and healthfully run during pregnancy.

General Pregnant Running Tips

  • Wear a supportive sports bra 
  • Warm-up and cool down
  • Wear supportive shoes and tie your shoelaces tightly 
  • Be careful to not trip or fall
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of electrolytes
  • Fuel adequately 
  • Give yourself plenty of time to recover 
  • Wear sunscreen 
  • Wear a belly band if needed for extra support

Related: Your Pregnant Running Nutrition Guide

Specific Pregnant Running Tips

Run a big base phase: Pregnant runners looking to stay fit or who want to race while pregnant can run a high volume, low-intensity miles which will help increase endurance. It’s important to note that recovery takes longer in between training sessions and races for pregnant runners.

Scale workouts: Intensity will naturally be higher for pregnant runners. Therefore, it’s important to scale effort for workouts. For example, tempo runs may be done at a steady state pace instead of threshold. Intervals may be done at a threshold pace rather than VO2 Max.

Volume will also be reduced and recovery intervals will be increased. Effort should not go beyond an 8/10 on the rate of perceived exertion scale (or 75 percent of your max heart rate). Avoid all-out strenuous exercise.

Incorporate hills: Hills are a wonderful training tool for pregnant runners because there is less impact. Therefore, it’s aerobically challenging but not overall taxing on the body.  Some pregnant runners may get breathless doing hills.  If you do, scale them back or not run them as no session should be more than moderately hard.

An important note about incorporating speed work when pregnant

Speed work may not be a good idea for every pregnant running mama. Remove speed work from your weekly running routine if you:

  • You are struggling to recover between sessions
  • Have any leakage or pelvic floor discomfort (including round ligament pain)
  • Did not do hard workouts before pregnancy
  • Are experiencing pain in your knees, feet, back, etc.
  • You have a high demand for energy or time on your feet during the day
  • Your energy starts to feel low

Related: Pregnancy Core Workout

But what about relaxin?

Relaxin is a hormone that will make your joints, ligaments, and muscles looser. During pregnancy, there is an increase in the hormone to help the body change to accommodate the growing baby. There has been much research into relaxin and its potential role in predisposing pregnant people to injury. For most people, it doesn’t create any issues for running during pregnancy, but if you have pain or discomfort, including round ligament pain, do not push through it. Scale back and talk to your doctor. Pelvic tilts can also help with round ligament pain.

A side shot of a pregnant belly at a running race.
Pin these tips for running during pregnancy for later!

Can you train for races or run a marathon pregnant?

Yes, you can train for and run a marathon while pregnant. I have coached several pregnant women through marathons. However, racing during pregnancy is not a time to try to set a personal record. Running a marathon while pregnant should be something done for the pure joy of the experience, not for setting PRs. 

The largest study ever completed on pregnant runners supports that running while pregnant is safe, including running distances up to a marathon.

Training for a race while pregnant will look different. Effort will be scaled as it takes longer to recover while pregnant and it is harder to run faster the larger you get. See my list above for training considerations if you are contemplating training for a marathon while pregnant.

(By the way, one of my athletes qualified for Boston while pregnant. You can read her reflections on the process on my Instagram page here.) 

Related: Best Energy Gels for Pregnant Runners

When to stop running during pregnancy

A pregnant woman should stop running if continuing to do so feels uncomfortable, she has a medical concern and is directed to stop by her doctor, or if she has any of the following pain or issues: 

  • Significant leakage 
  • Pelvic floor discomfort 
  • Vaginal bleeding 
  • Water breaking 
  • Placenta previa 
  • Struggling to recover between sessions 
  • Dizziness or headache 
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble catching breath or breathing
  • Pain in the knees, feet, or back
  • Swollen or painful calves
  • Heaviness in the pubic area 
  • Pelvic pain
  • Balance difficulty or weak muscles 

In most cases, your body will tell you that it is time to stop running due to discomfort or pain. Now is the time to develop that awareness and listen to whatever your body is telling you. You may naturally notice that as you continue running in the second or third trimester of pregnancy your body naturally begins to slow down as your bump grows or pregnancy symptoms change. 

Personally, sciatic pain during my second pregnancy in the third trimester told me it was time to call it quits for a while so I did barre instead.

Related: Postpartum Running Plan

What other exercises can you do if running gets uncomfortable?

A pregnant woman running in a tank top and shorts.

If running does become too uncomfortable for you or if your doctor advises you against running but gives you clearance to continue with low-impact exercise, here are a few great alternatives:

  • Walking 
  • Swimming 
  • Elliptical 
  • Stationary cycling 
  • Yoga 
  • Barre 
  • Weight training

Related: Does Pelvic Floor Therapy Work?

Running while pregnant FAQs

Can running while pregnant cause miscarriages, birth defects, or premature birth?

No, high-impact exercise and running cannot cause a miscarriage. Research has shown that miscarriages cannot be prevented, and thus cannot be caused. Running is therefore safe for pregnancy and is not known to cause miscarriages or other related issues.

When should I talk to my doctor before running or jogging while pregnant?

Talk to your doctor before running if you have questions, are concerned, or if you have any pregnancy complications before starting to run.  Every pregnancy is different. You may have complications or feel different than other Mother Runners. Your doctor can monitor how running is going for you and the baby. Also, if it helps you to feel more comfortable, ask them to set guidelines like mine did—sharing your running history so they know what your body is used to doing.

How do you run with morning sickness?

If you are running in the first trimester or have morning sickness still later in your pregnancy, take heart. Our Mother Runners said sipping Gatorade on their runs helped calm their queasy stomachs. Dr. Cole Hosenfeld of Apple Healthcare recommends dropping your mileage by 10 percent to see if your symptoms ease.

Extra Running Tips

Listen to your body

If something doesn’t feel good or feels strange. Stop doing it. And, then share with your doctor what’s going on. The comfort zone is the place to be when growing a human. Keep it easy. You’ll get it back postpartum.

A pregnant woman runner with a reflective light belt on and the numbers 1,275 on the asphalt in front of her.

Master the art of peeing outside (or find bathrooms on your route).

I cannot tell you how many times I would have to pee (or at least felt like I had to pee) on a 4-mile run. I got good at pretending like I was tying my shoe but instead was…well, you get the picture. Humility goes out of the door in the name of comfort. If this isn’t something you want to do, plan to run near public bathrooms.

Related: Why Do My Hips Hurt Running Postpartum?

Get a maternity support belt.

​​When the extra weight in my tummy got uncomfortable, I invested in the Gabriella Maternity Light Support Belt. Another fantastic belt that many professional runners use is ReCORE’s Fitsplint. A belt worked wonders in taking the pressure off so I could still log slow miles throughout my pregnancies.

Find slower running buddies.

If you’re lowering your exertion levels or paces while running, you may not be able to run with the same friends you ran before you became pregnant. Find people who will run at an easier pace.

Or, if you are running with the same people, run with them on their easy days and let them know your limits. Speak up if the pace gets too fast.

Take naps.

Your body is working overtime growing a human and chances are your sleep is interrupted by discomfort and having to pee several times a night. Heed those heavy eyes and lie down whenever you have the opportunity to rest.

Raid your partner’s closet.

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on maternity running clothes, consider raiding your partner’s closet for workout shirts you can wear while your tummy is housing a human.

Have grace for yourself.

Your body is freaking amazing. It’s built to run and it’s built to have babies. It’s going to be changing and doing what it needs to do to bring a human into the world. Don’t stress about gaining weight or missing runs. It’s adapting to this major change and it will adapt again after you have your precious baby.

Related: Can Running Help with Postpartum Depression?

10 Expert Pregnant Running Tips 

Here are ten practical tips to run pregnant from experts and mother runners who have done it to keep you safe and comfortable. 

1. Talk to your doctor.

Every pregnancy is different. You may have complications or feel different than other Mother Runners. Whatever you do, make sure you tell your doctor that you’re continuing to run so that they can monitor how that’s going for you and the baby. Also, ask them to set guidelines like mine did—sharing your running history so they know what your body is used to doing.

Related: Pelvic floor exercises for mother runners

2. Listen to your body.

If something doesn’t feel good or feels strange. Stop doing it. And, then share with your doctor what’s going on. Mother Runners advise not to push yourself hard. This is not a time to do speedwork and long runs. (Plus there is an increased risk of injury because of the relaxin hormone that’s pumping through your body getting it ready for birth—link). The comfort zone is the place to be when growing a human. Keep it easy. You’ll get it back.

3. Master the art of peeing outside (or find bathrooms).

A pink and orange Pinterest pin for pregnancy running guide
Pin these running while pregnant tips for later!

I cannot tell you how many times I would have to pee (or at least felt like I had to pee) on a 4-mile run. I got really good at pretending like I was tying my shoe but instead was…well, you get the picture. Humility goes out of the door in the name of comfort. If this isn’t something you want to do, plan to run near public bathrooms.

Related: How to start running after having a baby training plan

4. Get a maternity support belt.

When the extra weight in my tummy got uncomfortable, I invested in the Gabriella Maternity Light Support Belt. Another fantastic one which a lot of professional runners use is ReCORE’s Fitsplint. A belt worked wonders in taking the pressure off so I could still log slow miles throughout my pregnancies. Also, this is common sense—but make sure you have good supportive shoes.

Related: Pro Runner Sarah Brown’s advice to new moms

5. Manage morning sickness.

If you’re dealing with morning sickness and still trying to run—take heart. Our Mother Runners said sipping Gatorade on their runs helped calm their queasy stomachs. Dr. Cole Hosenfeld of Apple Healthcare recommends dropping your mileage by 10 percent to see if your symptoms ease.

Related: Best Foods to Eat Postpartum

6. Eat right and drink often.

Yes, you are eating for two, but you only need to eat about 350-450 more calories a day more than your usual in your second and third trimesters, says nutritionist Betsy Johnson. She recommends eating a mid-morning and late-afternoon snack, and every meal should include healthy fats, carbs, and protein. (And, take your prenatal vitamins!).

Also, hydration is key. Know your sweat rate at different temperatures, suggests registered dietitian Amy Stephens, who coaches elite runners. Click here for a sweat rate calculator.

“During pregnancy and lactation, your fluid shifts will be higher. This is because your body is holding more fluids and your body creates more heat so the shifts are greater. Therefore, electrolytes will be helpful to restore higher fluid losses,” she explains. 

  • If you sweat a lot (>1 pound per hour), add a salty snack before or after your workout. Pickles, pretzels or saltines are great.
  • Start with 16 oz fluids at least one hour before exercise and drink 4-6 oz every 15-30 min during the workout. You will need more if it’s warmer or less if it’s cooler.
  • Prehydrate before longer runs by drinking extra fluids the night before and continue after the run. 
  • If you’re worried about having to make pit stops, go before your run and plan a route where there are places to go to the bathroom. 
Mother runners who run while pregnant should know their running is helping them and their babies.

7. Find slower running buddies.

If you’re keeping your heart rate at 140 or below (or at a conversational pace), you may not be able to run with the same friends you ran before you became pregnant. Find people who will run at an easier pace.

Or, if you are running with the same people, run with them on their easy days and let them know your limits. Speak up if the pace gets too fast.

Related: 8 Clever Tips for Breastfeeding While Running

8. Take naps.

Your body is working overtime growing a human and chances are your sleep is interrupted by discomfort and having to pee several times a night. Heed those heavy eyes and try to lay down whenever you have the opportunity to rest.

9. Raid your partner’s closet.

This is kind of genius—if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on maternity running clothes, consider raiding your partner’s closet for workout shirts you can wear while your tummy is housing a human.

10. Have grace.

Your body is freaking amazing. It’s built to run and it’s built to have babies. It’s going to be changing and doing what it needs to bring a human into the world. Don’t stress about gaining weight or missing runs. It’s adapting to this major change and it will adapt again after you have your precious baby.

Related: How to Start Running Postpartum

If you want guidance with your training, including running while pregnant or postpartum, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:

4 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Running While Pregnant”

  1. I just fined out Im pregnant and I’m training for my first half, I was concerned if I would be able to keep it up. This article was a blessing! Thanks you so much

    Reply
  2. Hi Whitney, thank you SO MUCH! I also just found out I am pregnant and recently started a training plan for my third half marathon in March. Thank you for providing the reassurance I needed to continue.

    Reply

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