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Is it Safe to Run When Pregnant?

written by: BStone • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 10/8/2010

Give up running! What? If you were physically active before pregnancy, running while pregnant is not a bad idea. Be sure to consult your physician first to be sure it is safe for you and your baby.

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    To Run or Not to Run

    running while pregnant Is running while pregnant safe, recommended or advised against? There are a number of factors and safety considerations that go into making the decision to run or not, but ultimately if you ran before pregnancy you can run during pregnancy. If you are not already a runner, pregnancy is probably not the time to start.

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    Is It Safe for the Baby?

    Running is actually safe for the fetus. The jostling and movement will not cause any harm, and in fact the baby will not move very much while you are running. It will not cause a miscarriage or a short-term pregnancy. The biggest danger to be aware of for the well-being of the child is the possibility of overheating. If you overheat during pregnancy, the fetus will overheat as well. This is why very hot baths are advised against. Intense physical activity such as running in the heat or pushing yourself too hard could put the baby at risk.

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    Tips for Running Safely

    Running is a great activity to maintain a healthy weight and to keep the body physically fit, something that will help you during labor. It also may even benefit the child — physically active mothers tend to carry fetuses with very good fetal heart rates. During pregnancy, your body goes through many changes and has different needs, and there are things to consider to make sure continuing to run is a beneficial decision. Runs may need to be modified as you need to listen to your body's needs, and always talk to your doctor before engaging in any serious physical activity.

    If you are not already a runner, you may be told not to run. If you are a runner, you will probably be told to scale back your mileage and certainly slow down your pace. As the months of pregnancy go by, you will find that you will have to make these alterations anyway. As a general rule, a two mile run at a casual pace is a good pregnancy workout.

    Look for softer areas to run on, such as a cushioned track, dirt trails, or even the treadmill. Be wary of running downhill or on hard pavement as this can put excessive strain on the joints as you carry the extra weight of pregnancy.

    Do not sprint and keep a comfortable pace. Your body needs more oxygen during pregnancy, and you do not want to be in a position where you are having trouble breathing or feeling dizzy. If you get to this point, stop and walk. Be careful of running up steep hills during the third trimester, as it may be very difficult to breath.

    During pregnancy it is always important to regularly take in calories. You do not want to feel faint, dizzy, or weak because of lack of food. This includes during your runs. Try not to run on an empty stomach.

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    When You Shouldn't Run

    There are reasons that running while carrying a baby may not be advised by your doctor, such as pregnancy induced high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, if you are carrying twins or if you have a history of miscarriages. If you are in a high-risk category definitely discuss your exercise plans with your doctor.

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    Alternatives

    Instead of running, there are many things that you can do during pregnancy to stay physically fit and promote a healthy pregnancy. Walking is an excellent alternative to running. Towards the third trimester as the pressure on the joints increases, many women may find walking to be a much more approachable activity. Walking is a great medium for reducing stress, improving circulation and oxygen uptake, and strengthening the body for labor.

    If you are advised not to run or if you were not previously a runner, you can talk to your doctor about swimming. This is another endurance sport that will benefit you and the fetus without putting too much strain on the body. Pre-natal yoga is another ideal alternative. It will strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce stress.

    Running while pregnant is safe as long as you already are a runner and you change your training to suit the needs of your changing body. If running isn't right for you there are other ways that you can maintain a healthy weight and keep your body in shape without any risk. Talk to your doctor about any concerns that you may have and enjoy a healthy pregnancy.

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    References

    Brown, Teri. "Running While Pregnant." (Pregnancy Today) <http://www.pregnancytoday.com/articles/healthy-safe-pregnancy/running-while-pregnant-2251/>

    "Running During Pregnancy." (Baby Center) <http://www.babycenter.com/0_running-during-pregnancy_7877.bc?page=1>

    Murkoff, Heidi, Arlene Eisenberg and Sandee Hathaway. "What to Expect When You're Expecting." (Workman Publishing, 2002).

    photo by: Karin Daiziel (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/nirak/206930221/sizes/m/in/photostream/>