Pregnancy and running: can you run while pregnant?

Child-bearing and running are not mutually exclusive!

Many enthusiasts choose to continue running throughout their pregnancy and in return often receive flak or words of caution from others…

But you should know that running is no more dangerous than any other sport! Barring medical contraindications, hanging up your running shoes doesn’t need to be a foregone conclusion. However, it is important to take a few precautions as soon as you are aware of the pregnancy.

Take physiological loads into account

During the pregnancy, the osteo-articular system is carrying a bigger and bigger mass at the abdominal level. This can cause pain in the lumbar spine (the lower back). For this reason, reinforcing the abdominals in a dynamic way is strongly recommended.

The hormonal changes that occur due to pregnancy lead to an increase in the elasticity of ligaments and therefore the joints. To avoid sprains and other such injuries, we recommend that expectant mothers opt to run on a smooth surface (free of bumps and potholes).

Particular attention must be paid to the state of the cervix for the good of the mother and the baby. For obvious reasons, it’s important that this area remains closed until the right time. It is therefore prudent to avoid competing or focusing too much on performance during the pregnancy. At the slightest hint of a contraction or pain, you must stop running!

In the context of maintained athletic activity, you must of course also remember to have a monthly meeting with your midwife or gynecologist. These visits provide an opportunity to make sure that everything is ok with regards to the cervix and its tension.

Watch your cardiac rhythm

Throughout the 2nd and 3rd trimester, your resting heart rate will gradually increase. It is therefore important to keep an eye on it, both at rest and while exercising, especially starting with the 4th month of pregnancy. We recommend staying within 70 to 75% of your maximum heart rate.

Particular attention must also be paid to your respiratory rate. You should never push yourself too hard, to the point where you are unable to talk and run at the same time. Instead, treat your runs as an opportunity to chat with a friend.

At the same time, opt for a cool and ventilated environment for the sake of your body’s temperature. Ideally, it should never go higher than 38°C (100°F), and the key to that is to regulate your effort!

Don’t overlook the risks

It is commonly thought that running increases the risk of a miscarriage during the first trimester; however, a direct link has never been proven. It is, however, something you should still keep in mind, as well as the risk of premature birth during the third trimester.

Running is potentially fine up to the sixth month. Beyond that, there may be posture problems or joint and ligament pain related to the weight gain.

In case of fatigue or unusual symptoms manifesting, it’s always a good idea to stop running, see a doctor, and opt for more suitable activities.

If the preceding conditions are respected, running will have beneficial effects on your body:

  • Less weight gain throughout the term
  • Improvement of blood circulation and arterial pressure
  • A healthier perineum
  • A reduction in the appearance of stretch marks and venous complications
  • An increase in aerobic ability
  • Fewer issues with the cervical dilation curve
  • Shorter labor when giving birth
  • Often, a shorter fetal expulsion period
  • Excelled weight loss after giving birth

What do the scientists say?

A study led by researchers at the University of Montreal showed that 20-minute sessions of running, swimming, bicycling, or walking at moderate intensity, three times a week, can have strong positive effects on the infant’s cerebral development:

“Our results show that babies of active mothers display more mature cerebral activation, suggesting that their brains developed more rapidly.

Élise Labonté-LeMoyne, researcher and postdoctoral student at HEC Montréal’s Tech3Lab.

Written by:

Guillaume Boitel – Doctor in Physiology, Bio-mechanics, and Sports Sciences

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