This blog was sparked by a pregnancy fitness challenge that came across my Instagram feed that was promoting running in pregnancy!?!?! When I see this kind of thing, my heart SINKS. I get so disappointed that women are being misled with incorrect & unsafe information in the fitness industry!!!
Let me explain…
The problem with running in pregnancy is not the cardiovascular output on your body (if you stay at a safe intensity) or the health of your baby, the problem is the PRESSURE ON YOUR PELVIC FLOOR!!!
Running is a high-impact exercise – this means that both feet are off the ground at the same time, and the impact of landing creates downward pressure through your pelvic floor.
Two things can happen here…
1. Pelvic floor weakness:
Your pelvic floor can weaken or fatigue due to the increased pressure of running over time. Since pregnancy can weaken the pelvic floor on it’s own due to the increased weight, adding running to this is a recipe for disaster!
Why is pelvic floor weakness a problem? Well, it can lead to:
- Stress incontinence (leaking with cough, sneeze, jump or running)
- Prolapse (the descent of an organ downwards causing vaginal heaviness or bulge)
2. Pelvic floor overactivity:
Your pelvic floor may become overactive (tight/tense) over time in response to the increase in pressure during running.
A study actually found that runners during pregnancy were more likely to have an assisted vaginal delivery (i.e. the use of forceps or suction) than women who didn’t. Just another reason the quit pounding the pavement!
Whilst you might have been a runner for many years and may not feel any issues running during pregnancy, this doesn’t mean that pelvic floor changes are not happening or they won’t happen later i.e. after you have your baby, or second, or third baby! You see, pelvic floor weakness is accumulative.
So what do I recommend?
If you are a strong runner & feel well enough to run in your first trimester then you can continue running during this trimester. But also ensure you do strength training such as light weights, Pilates or Yoga 3 times per week as well as running.
Make sure you STOP running in your second trimester (regardless of how you feel) & swap it for fast-pace walking, swimming, stationary bike or a low-impact gym class.
To find out all you need to know on safe exercise in pregnancy click here.
For those of you who are fearful of weight gain during your pregnancy, which is why you want to run, please be reassured that if you eat healthily during your pregnancy (I mean an abundance of veggies, fruit, good quality protein & good fats; no junk, processed food or sugar) plus do low impact exercise 6 days per week, excessive weight gain will not be an issue.
Most of the time the biggest shift we need to make when it comes to changing the type of exercise we do is our MINDSET! Associating a change in exercise regime with weight gain, is a fear-based story we tell ourselves. Try to shift your focus to the benefits low-impact exercise will have on your body and your pelvic floor now & in the future.
Any questions, please reach out!
Karmarka and Dwyer (2018) High impact exercise may cause pelvic floor dysfunction. BJOG Debate.
Kuhrt et al (2018) Is recreational running associated with earlier delivery and lower birth weight in women who continue to run during pregnancy? An international retrospective cohort study of running habits of 1293 female runners during pregnancy. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med 4(1).
Van Geelen et al (2018) A review of the impact of pregnancy and childbirth on pelvic floor function as assessed by objective measurement techniques. Int Urogynecol J 29(3):327-338.