Ask a PT: Can I run when I’m pregnant?

“Ask a PT” will be a weekly feature on Fridays in our blog, where we answer questions we get from our clients or posters on this site or our Facebook page.  So if you have a question about some sort of injury or problem you are having whether pain or fitness related drop us a line in the comments or Facebook message, or you can email us at keith@ascent-pt.com.

This weeks question is in regards to exercise during pregnancy. “Is it safe to run during pregnancy? If so, how much and how long?”

If you were a runner before you got pregnant, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), it is ok to maintain your running routine during pregnancy through the first trimester and possibly into the 2nd and 3rd, depending on your body’s response to running and on the presence of any warning signs.

The ACOG recommends 30 minutes of exercise daily during pregnancy, as it can provide many benefits. This includes reduced backache, constipation, bloating, and swelling, reduced incidence of gestational diabetes, increased energy, improved mood, and improved sleep.

If running has been your typical preferred mode of exercise, this may be beneficial for you to continue in order to get the benefits of exercise during pregnancy. However, it is important to know that there is increased joint movement during pregnancy, often resulting in pain in the pelvic region.  Running can stress the joints of the pelvis and a recent study in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy found that the biomechanics of the pelvis during running are altered during pregnancy, beginning at 6 months, and that this increased motion can persist for up to a year post-partum.1  This study also found that running mechanics can be altered to lower risk of injury.  For example, women who are “over-striders” or who take large strides when running, are at higher risk for pelvic pain due to the increased motion.1

For some women, slowing down towards the end 2nd trimester is recommended.  The abdominal muscles become stretched and subsequently weak with pregnancy, and can take a year to return post-partum.  Because of this, when you resume an exercise routine after pregnancy, it is important to proceed slowly.  A core strengthening program can help with this and allow you to ease back into painfree, safe exercise.

A physical therapist can help evaluate your running stride to see if you might be able to alter it slightly to reduce the sheer forces in your pelvis. A PT can also help you develop a core strengthening program.

In general, here are some things to be aware of when exercising during pregnancy, according to the ACOG:

– After the first trimester, avoid doing exercise on your back

– If it has been some time since you exercised, start slowly. Begin with as little as 5 minutes of exercise each day, and add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes

– Avoid exercise in hot, humid weather or when you have a fever

– Wear a bra that fits well and provides plenty support to protect your breasts

– Drink plenty of water to prevent you from overheating and dehydrating

-Make sure to consume the extra calories you need during pregnancy

The Warning Sign that you should stop exercising are:

– Vaginal bleeding

– Increased shortness of breath

– Chest pain

– Headache

– Muscle weakness

-Calf pain or swelling

– Uterine contractions

– Decreased fetal movement

– Fluid leaking from the vagina

Visit http://www.ACOG.org for more information on pregnancy and exercise. Always consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine, or if you have concerns.

1. Thein-Nissenbaum J, Thompson E, Chumanoy E, Heiderscheidt B. Low back and hip pain in a postpartum runner: applying ultrasound imaging and running analysis. Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy. 2013; 42 (7).

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One Response to Ask a PT: Can I run when I’m pregnant?

  1. Caleb says:

    Exercising is great for women that are pregnant, but there are limitations throughout your pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about the activities that you can do throughout each stage of pregnancy.

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