There are lots of myths and misinformation surrounding exercise during pregnancy. But, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women exercise 30 minutes a day. That includes running!
Every pregnant runner is different. If you feel like running, the research says go for it. If you’re too tired, rest. This isn’t the time to go for Strava segments, it’s an opportunity to listen to your body. For big bellies, external support can be a huge help. Support belts and pregnancy-specific exercise clothing can ease discomfort.
Go Ahead Stop and Pee: Running During Pregnancy and Postpartum debunks myths about running while pregnant so that moms-to-be can feel comfortable and confident on the run.
Myth 1: Women shouldn’t run while they are pregnant.
Truth: Generally, not true! Unless you have a medical issue and have been told you cannot run because of it. If you’ve been running, you’re fine to keep running. You may have to modify volume and intensity based on how you feel.
Myth 2: Running during pregnancy will put too much pressure on my bladder muscles and cause future leakage.
Truth: Unfortunately, some women do have urinary incontinence when running while pregnant and postpartum. This isn’t normal and if it happens, you should seek out a women’s health specialist. Many women run their entire pregnancy without any urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence during pregnancy can persist following delivery or cause leakage in future pregnancies. There are many reasons why a woman may experience urinary incontinence while pregnant, and a women’s health specialist should be able to determine the cause and figure out the best course of treatment.
Myth 3: Running while pregnant increases stress on the baby (i.e.: it might be shaken, overheated, or deprived of oxygen), and is not a good idea.
Truth: There’s no research linking exercise and preterm birth. Exercising during pregnancy can actually decrease the risk for cesarean delivery, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes, and it can also decrease both musculoskeletal pain and birth weight (to a healthy range).
Myth 4: Running during pregnancy will cause a diastasis recti abdominis, or separation in the abdominal wall.
Truth: Diastasis recti occurs in up to two-thirds of women during pregnancy. The separation is due to lengthening muscles and fascia and is a normal change during pregnancy. Running does not increase the chances of having a separation, or the severity of the separation.
Myth 5: Running will increase my heart rate too much and hurt the baby.
Truth: In the past, doctors have recommended that women keep their heart rate in a certain range while exercising during pregnancy. This is a challenge because heart rates at rest and with exercise are based on your level of fitness and exercise intensity. Not every woman has the same heart rate while running. An acceptable guideline is to run at a comfortable pace at which you can carry on a conversation.
Myth 6: Running will send you into labor.
Truth: Labor is triggered by hormones. This is a coordinated event where the uterus, fetus, and brain are all communicating with each other. Running does not affect these communication pathways and will not trigger labor. Severe cramping, contractions, and bleeding, however, are signs of overexertion, or perhaps a more significant medical problem. If you experience any of these symptoms while running, stop immediately and contact your doctor.
Dr. Kate Mihevc Edwards PT, DPT, OCS is a doctor of physical therapy, board-certified orthopedic specialist and owner of Precision Performance and Physical Therapy in Atlanta, Georgia. Her clinic specializes in the treatment of runners and triathletes. She is also the author of Racing Heart: A Runner’s Journey of Love, Loss and Perseverance and Co-Author of the recently released, Go Ahead Stop and Pee: Running During Pregnancy and Postpartum.
Book available here.