If Paula Can Do It (Running While Pregnant)

Posted by Filed Under: Women's Running

Paula Radcliffe, pregnantSo you’re holding that little magic stick with a “+” on it that confirms you are indeed pregnant. A new family member is on the way and suddenly you start thinking about your lifestyle. Maybe you weren’t trying, maybe you were. Your mind flashes back to that long run you did on Sunday and a wave of guilt overcomes you. Am I harming my baby by running? Can I continue running?

Thankfully the answer is a resounding No, you aren’t harming your baby. In fact, there are benefits to running while pregnant. Yessiree, there are! First off mommy is healthier, and we all know that healthy moms mean healthy babies, right? But did you also know that:

  • Exercise reduces the risk of preterm delivery Source: HealthDay News
  • Running during pregnancy reduces fatigue, nausea, constipation and lower back pain Source: Act Now BC
  • Maternity exercise may help prevent gestational diabetes Source: Science Daily
  • Maternity fitness contributes to shorter labor & less delivery complications, including fewer C-sections Source: BabyZone

  • Moms to be who exercise also have less swelling of extremities Source:

Running also has benefits to the baby:

  • A regular pregnancy fitness regimen better prepares baby for transition from womb
  • Pregnancy running increases blood circulation & placental efficiency
  • Running while pregnant also increases newborn baby’s capacity to self calm & self quiet
  • Regular exercise decreases baby fat without decreasing normal growth
  • Cardio fitness leads to increased blood flow from placenta which supplies nutrition & oxygen to the fetus
  • Mommies who run have increased fetal movements, which studies have shown leads to quicker development of oral language skills

Source: *Clapp III, James F. Exercising Through your Pregnancy. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1998.

That said, a study published in a British medical journal showed that there is a link between heavy exercise and miscarriage. Now if you’re a regular runner, then running isn’t considered a heavy exercise and can be done safely while pregnant. It is not recommended that you begin a running program during pregnancy if you are a non-runner. You can help to ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby you if follow these guidelines:

  • If you’re a regular runner, the experts say you should be able to follow your usual program to a certain extent. Your program will need modifying as your pregnancy develops and depending on how you feel yourself. Listen to your body. If it says rest, then rest.
  • Exercising to breathlessness can signal that not enough oxygen is getting to the baby. Remember to take it easy.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Even though you’ll be running to the washroom even more than normal, it’s important that you don’t dehydrate.
  • Wear comfortable running shoes with strong ankle support and keep to flat ground. This will help reduce injuries and ankle sprains.


Here are some stop signs:

  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Uterine contractions
  • Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking
  • Heart palpitations


I ran throughout both of my pregnancies. It can be done. Just look at Paula Radcliffe. She ran through her pregnancy with baby Isla. She even ran up until the day before she delivered Isla. In my case, I found that the bigger the baby got, the harder it was for me to run. My bladder could no longer handle the abuse it took from the baby and I had to quit running when I was around 24-26 weeks pregnant. After that, I switched to the elliptical cross trainer as the impact to my bladder was less. Both of my labours were quick (4 hours). I strongly believe that my fitness level also contributed to my high pain tolerance which allowed me to deliver naturally without the use of any medical interventions. Yep, not even an epidural.

Running and exercising through pregnancy is possible, and also has many benefits to both mommy and baby. As with any exercise program, you will need to check with your doctor first as there are circumstances where exercise during pregnancy is contraindicated (ie: placenta previa, pre-term labour). You will need to tweak your program, even Paula reduced her training intensity. Given all of the benefits, I guess the real question is, can you afford not to continue running? Run on, my pregnant friends!

Photo credit: Clare & Dave

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About Janice Smith

Janice is a 30-something wife, mother, employee, runner, softball player, internet addict and a completely obsessed New Kids On The Block fan.w She has two daughters, 3 year old Sierra and 1 year old Brooke. She lives near Toronto, ON Canada and has just recently returned to running after having her second darling daughter. You can follow her journey back into running, and her journey through motherhood on her blog: Mom On The Run

  1. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on March 6th at 8:20 am

    Hopefully my wife will be back to running normally before she gets pregnant and can keep it up throughout.

  2. Helene Byrne—BeFit-Mom on March 7th at 12:09 pm

    Thanks for your infomative article!

    As an added benefit, animal studies show that regular aerobic exercise during pregnancy stimulates increased neural development in the cerebral cortex, so running during pregnancy may even make your baby smarter!

    Pregnant women should be aware that the placenta stops growing at 20 weeks, and therefore its’ ability to transport oxygen has reached maximum capacity. As the baby grows in the last half of pregnancy, and her need for oxygen increases, the mothere’s rate of perceived exertion for any given activity escalates. Pregnant women should slowly taper down the intensity of their workouts so that they do not cross their anaerobic thresholds by staying in a perceived exertion training zone of “somewhat difficult.”

    A sudden increase in either workout HR or peceived exertion can be a sgn of over -training, immune challenge, or other stress and signals the need for rest.

  3. roadrunner on March 8th at 4:02 am

    Newer lady runners may wish to investigate Norwegian elite athlete of the 1980’s Ingrid Kristiansen who won the london marathon while unknowingly 4 months pregnant. Just google the name

    roadrunner’s last blog post..Paula Radcliffe out of London Marathon

  4. Athena on March 8th at 7:46 pm

    Be careful with blanket advice like this. It’s great that you were healthy and able to continue running but not everyone has a textbook pregnancy and some simply should not run during a high-risk pregnancy.

  5. FYI on July 5th at 4:27 am

    It’s great to see women staying fit and keeping healthy during their pregnancy!

    FYI’s last blog post..Incontinence: A Woman’s Little Secret

  6. Matt on July 17th at 10:51 am

    Although my wife did not run the whole time she was pregnant (she had twins) she did do so up to the third trimester. She had to stop because she got so big. Thanks for dispelling some of the myths around this issue.

    Matts last blog post..Cheap BB Guns

  7. Maureen grey on February 12th at 5:27 am

    Is it safe to use a cross trainer when 8 months pregnant

  8. Jon (was) in Michigan on February 12th at 9:29 am

    Maureen, I think that depends on the woman and her baby. Getting the advice of a doctor who is knowledgeable in both pregnancy and fitness, would be crucial to determining what type of exercise a pregnant woman can safely undertake.

    Jon (was) in Michigans last blog post..100 pushup challenge

  9. TeenDad on August 11th at 5:59 pm

    I’m now 19 and experiencing being a dad. I must say although it feels good it’s still hard. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but to be honest, the hard part is having to balance time. My daughter is great and makes managing her never dreadful. -Teen dad

  10. Aaron Bates on April 1st at 9:08 pm

    Running is also good for the neurological development of the fetus. Oxygenation from running can help a mom with circulation and reducing vascular disorders.

    D. Bates

  11. Sarah P. on July 29th at 9:43 pm

    I recently started running in preparation for conceiving our second child in the next few months to the next year. I’m so glad to hear I won’t have to quit exercising regularly. I’m also glad to hear that I’m on the right track as far as making the birth easier from exercising regularly – that is the hope! 🙂

  12. Alix Shutello on August 24th at 10:39 am

    Thanks for another great piece on running while pregnant. I started a blog on this topic years ago and am so happy for more articles by others on this issue. I ran a marathon pregnant back in 2003 and it inspired a whole conversation on this topic.

    Alix Shutello
    Runners Illustrated
    .-= Alix Shutello´s last blog ..Add Sleep to Your Training =-.

  13. Pam on August 24th at 7:12 pm

    I enjoyed reading the articles and also try to promote running even when pregnant. I ran during all three of my pregnancies until the day before. Our joke is I would have ran the day I delivered most likely to the hospital but all three where born early in the am hours. I arrived at the hospital and would deliver totally natural ( no time for drugs) in 15 minutes. Our third my husband work third shift so I called him at 2:30am drove the half hour to the hospital and our son was born by 3:30am. My doctor encouraged me to continue running since I had bee a runner for 20 years. You will naturally slow do. I used the pregnancy as a reason to enjoy racing because I really didn’t race. I could enjoy running with friends and my sister. I also lost all the baby weight by my 6 week check up. I have written a few blogs and articles about running pregnant visit them at and blogs at