Running While Pregnant: Staying Safe and Healthy on the Run

Pregnant East Asian woman running outdoors

Runners, we know you: you love running. It helps you stay active, sane, and happy…and you definitely don’t want to give it up!

But now, you’re pregnant, and you’re wondering what this will mean for your running routine. Is it safe to continue to run during your pregnancy? Will running negatively affect your health or your baby’s?

Good news! In most cases, you can safely run throughout your pregnancy. Running can also confer considerable health benefits to you and your baby. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of running while pregnant, and we’ll debunk some common myths on the topic. We’ll cover current recommendations for staying safe as a pregnant runner, including gear choices and injury prevention tactics. Let’s dive in!

Running Benefits Both Mom and Baby

As a runner, you probably intuitively understand the benefits that running has on your physical, mental, and emotional health. All of these benefits carry forward in a pregnancy running routine, and you’ll also unlock some new ones.   

Maintaining a consistent exercise routine reduces the risk of developing several pregnancy-related health conditions. These include:

  • Gestational diabetes (GD): pregnancy-related impairment of the ability to metabolize sugars from food
  • Gestational hypertension: elevated blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Preeclampsia: a high blood pressure-related condition that can damage the mother’s liver or kidneys
  • Excessive weight gain: while it’s important to gain some weight during pregnancy, gaining too much can be harmful to mom and baby.
  1.  Birthing people who exercise during pregnancy also experience better delivery outcomes than those who don’t. Compared to inactive pregnant people, people who exercise during pregnancy experience lower rates of preterm births (delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Exercisers are also more likely to deliver vaginally and less likely to require a cesarean (C-section) delivery. Among those who deliver vaginally, exercisers are less likely to require medical procedures like an episiotomy or forceps use to assist their delivery.
  2. Physical activity during pregnancy has clear benefits for maternal mental health. Exercisers have lower rates of prenatal depression and anxiety, and if they do experience these conditions, the severity of their symptoms is lower than pregnant people who don’t exercise. Compared to non-exercisers, pregnant exercisers report lower stress levels and higher quality of life.
  3. Exercising during pregnancy may also reduce the risk of postpartum depression (PPD): exercise often has an even stronger effect on PPD than traditional counseling.
  4. Exercising during your pregnancy can also optimize your physical recovery after delivery. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports that exercisers often recover more quickly after delivery than non-exercisers: they cited a 2012 study that showed that postpartum women who began exercising during their pregnancies returned to basic household tasks nearly 50% earlier than their inactive peers.

Debunking Common Myths

From social media influencers to your female friends and relatives, everyone seems to have an opinion on what you should or shouldn’t be doing to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Unfortunately, not all of this information is equally trustworthy. When it comes to pregnant runners, myths and misinformation abound. Let’s debunk some common misconceptions about the safety of running while pregnant.

Myth #1: Exercise Reduces Blood Flow to Your Baby

  • When you exercise, your heart directs blood to the body parts involved in movement. Typically, this means blood flow increases in the skeletal muscles of your trunk, arms, and legs.
  • Some people worry that this pattern may shunt blood flow away from the uterus and the baby growing inside it. In a 2012 clinical trial, researchers tested this theory by measuring fetal blood flood in pregnant women who exercised at a moderate intensity 3 times per week. Fortunately, they found that moderate-intensity exercise did not reduce blood flow to the uterus or the developing baby.
  • One key detail: the participants in this study exercised at a moderate intensity by walking, not running. However, other studies have looked at vigorous-intensity exercise, and the authors found that blood flow to the fetus was maintained even during more strenuous activity. 

Myth #2: Exercising During Pregnancy Can Harm Your Baby’s Development

  • Some people worry that exercise could prevent their baby from growing and developing properly. Fortunately, exercising during pregnancy does not stunt fetal growth or result in low birth weight babies. This holds true even when pregnant people exercise at vigorous intensities.
  • Side note: Public health sites commonly list running as a “vigorous-intensity” exercise, but this blanket classification doesn’t account for individual variations in fitness levels. Activity that may feel very challenging for a sedentary person may be “light intensity” for someone who regularly runs half marathons.
  • A good rule of thumb: If you can talk but not sing during exercise, you’re working out at moderate intensity. If it’s difficult to speak more than a few words at a time, you’re in vigorous-intensity territory. 

Myth #3: Exercising During Pregnancy Could Cause Premature Delivery or Miscarriage

  • Preterm delivery and miscarriage are perhaps the most common concerns of pregnant runners hoping to continue running during their pregnancies. Fortunately, controlled trials comparing pregnant exercisers to non-exercisers have shown that moderate-intensity exercise during pregnancy does not result in preterm labor or delivery.
  • The same holds true for vigorous exercisers: in fact, pregnant women who exercised vigorously experienced a decreased risk of premature birth!
  • A comprehensive 2023 review found “[n]o significant association between exercise during pregnancy and the occurrence of miscarriage”. 

Clearly, many myths we’ve been led to believe about running during pregnancy simply don’t hold water. In general, running while pregnant can be a valuable component of your healthy pregnancy routine. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however: we’ll discuss those cases next.


Red Flags for Pregnant Runners

Despite all the potential benefits of exercise during pregnancy, there are certain situations when running while pregnant may be a no-go. Let’s consider a few “red flag” cases in which running during pregnancy isn’t recommended.


People with Pre-existing Conditions

For some pregnant people, pre-existing health conditions could cause running to be unsafe for mom, baby, or both. 


If you have placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor may instruct you not to run. Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta is situated low in the uterus and covers the uterine opening.


Similarly, if you’ve had a cervical cerclage procedure (closure of the cervix with stitches to prevent or delay premature delivery), your doctor may ask you to avoid exercise.


Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia can also complicate a pregnancy running routine. Neither condition represents a strict contraindication to exercise during pregnancy: Many pregnant people with mild forms of preeclampsia and GD can exercise safely. However, it’s critical to consult with your physician to determine the specifics of your situation before you start or continue exercising.


Running to a Red Light: Warning Signs to Stop Exercising


Some pregnant runners may start their pregnancy with no medical concerns, and they initially feel great while running. Unfortunately, some will begin to experience signs that they need to stop exercising and consult their doctor before continuing.  

Here are several symptoms you shouldn’t ignore:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Liquid gushing from the vagina (i.e., your water breaking)
  • Consistent, painful contractions
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath before starting to exercise
  • Calf pain and/or swelling
  • Headache, dizziness, or feeling faint
  • Unexplained muscle weakness

If you experience any of these symptoms, stop your workout and call your provider to report what you’re experiencing. 


Proceed with Caution: Signs to Slow Down and Seek Help


  1. Pregnant runners may experience some symptoms that aren’t outright dangerous but can still derail their pregnancy exercise routine.
  2. Some pregnant people experience pain around the pubic symphysis, the joint at the front of the pelvis. They may feel sharp pain right at the joint itself, or pain that shoots into the legs or different parts of the pelvis.
  3. Other folks develop pain in other areas of the pelvis such as the back and/or sides. As you might expect, this kind of pain can make exercise rather unpleasant, particularly if it’s a high-impact exercise like running.
  4. Pains in the pelvis don’t necessarily mean you have to give up your exercise routine altogether. With the right support from your muscles and perhaps a supportive garment like a pregnancy support band, you can learn how to reduce and manage the pain without giving up all activity.

Additionally, if you’re feeling sensations of heaviness, pressure, or a “bulge” inside the vagina, like something is falling out from your insides, consult with a pelvic physical therapist before continuing to run.

Pregnant people often find that they experience bladder leaks while exercising. While leaking during exercise is common during pregnancy, it’s not normal - and you shouldn’t have to “just to live it”

If you’re experiencing symptoms like these, it isn’t worth ignoring them and “powering through” your runs. Pelvic physical therapy can help with all of these symptoms. By seeking care early for pelvic pain, pressure, or bladder problems, you’ll set yourself up for more success in your pregnancy running routine.


Recommendations for a Healthy Pregnancy Running Routine


  • Every pregnancy and pregnant person is unique, so blanket statements about running while pregnant won’t apply to everyone. However, much of the research on physical activity in pregnancy focuses on other types of exercise, like walking. Few studies specifically assess running, so it is difficult to make recommendations specific to pregnant runners.
  • Fortunately, we have enough research to guide some general recommendations for physically active pregnant people. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cites the physical activity guidelines developed by the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
  • These guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity spread throughout the week. Recall that exercise intensity is relative: If your fitness level before pregnancy was high, running may be a moderate-intensity activity for you.
  • According to the HHS guidelines, most pregnant people can continue to participate in the activities they started before becoming pregnant – including running! However, it’s important to first consult your healthcare provider to discuss any risks or underlying conditions that could impact the safety of running during your pregnancy.


Gear Considerations for Pregnant Runners


If you’re planning to continue running during your pregnancy, you’ll want to be prepared with gear that will make your workouts smoother and more comfortable.


As a result, you may want to consider running shoes with more underfoot cushion. For many pregnant people, a full-sized silicon insole can provide this additional cushion in existing running shoes.

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  • Sports Bras: Your breasts become bigger during pregnancy, so they’ll need more support when you’re running. Investing in high-quality maternity sports bras will ensure that your breasts are supported and comfortable. A bonus: many sports bras for pregnancy can double as nursing bras after delivery.



Preventing Injuries and Complications


You’ve cleared your running routine with your OB-GYN, you’ve created a reasonable training plan, and you’ve invested in all the right gear. You’re feeling ready to run, but before you dive in headfirst, let’s consider some simple strategies to prevent injuries or other pregnancy complications.


Keep Up Your Cross-training

Additionally, many of the simple core and pelvic floor exercises recommended for the early postpartum period are helpful and safe for pregnant people as well. During pregnancy, you’ll simply want to avoid exercises that require you to lie on your back for sustained periods.


Keep Your Cool

Stay in Balance

About the Author

Dr. Caitlyn Tivy is a doctor of physical therapy specializing in pelvic health for people of all ages and genders. She has completed advanced training in women’s health and the pre- and postpartum periods, and she writes extensively on pelvic and women’s health topics.

Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.

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