Exercise and running has always played a big part in Katie White’s life. So when Katie, a physical therapist, became pregnant, she was even more motivated to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle for herself, as well as her baby. Now with two children, Katie has a lot of experience when it comes to running and pregnancy, an area that a lot of women have questions about.
Katie continued running up until she was 26 weeks pregnant with her first child and up to 30 weeks with her second. For her, the discomfort of ligament pain and a growing belly is what kept her from running beyond those dates. Katie elaborated, “At first I found it very frustrating because I felt like this is an activity that I’ve done my whole life, so why can’t I do it now. You hear about people completing marathons while pregnant…certainly, I should be able to jog for 30 minutes!”
However, Katie made adjustments and found other ways to stay active, like using the elliptical, swimming and yoga. She emphasized, “Everyone is different and ultimately, you have to listen to your body.”
Since Katie has expertise in this area, we asked her a few common questions when it comes to running and pregnant.
1.) Is it safe to run while pregnant?
First and foremost, you want to check with your OB before initiating any type of exercise/fitness regimen while expecting. However, I've always been told that as long as you've always been a runner, it is perfectly safe to continue running while pregnant. If you've never run, now is not the time to start a couch to 5k training program.
2.) Do you have to limit your workout intensity as your pregnancy progresses?
You need to be aware of your heart rate and body temperature. You don't want to stress your cardio system too much, (as it is already working extra hard to provide for your little one!), and you don't want your body temperature to rise, as this could be dangerous for the baby. If you feel like you're over-doing it, you probably are doing too much. When women run while pregnant, they usually instinctively change their running style to more of a 'cautious glide'. They do this because it decreases ground reaction forces and causes less of a 'bounce' on the belly.
3.) Can running while pregnant be painful or uncomfortable?
Everyone is different, but it sure can be! A lot of woman experience round ligament pain in the second trimester of pregnancy. This is because as your belly starts to grow, the round ligament also stretches. This can cause a sharp pain for some women, making even walking uncomfortable. For some women, they need to take a break from running for a week or two, and then can resume after the ligament pain stops. In the 3rd trimester, the hormone relaxin is released in the body which prepares the body for delivery of the baby. This can cause temporary ligamentous laxity. So, with a growing belly, likely weight gain, and now ligamentous laxity, this can put a lot of increased pressure on the pelvis and lumbar spine
4.) What are some could alternative workouts for pregnant women who still want to keep in shape?
If running feels good, do it. If yoga feels better, do that. Now is not the time to set any personal records, but it is your priority to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle for you and your baby. Listen to your body, fight your way through the heartburn when you can, and stay active anyway you know how. Labor is like a marathon, and you want to be ready for it!
Katie White, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, is the Clinical Manager at Eastover Physical Therapy.