Updated: Aug 25, 2021
For many of my clients who are runners, after pregnancy they can't wait to get back to running. At least that is what they say, and it is probably true.
Running is often an outlet and therapy for many people. It can also be due to social pressures to "lose the baby weight." If that is your reason for running, please wait. Do it for you and not for the false pressures of the world.
A pregnant body goes through so many changes! It took 10 months to grow a child and it will take time for that body to return to how it was pre-pregnancy. In fact, it will likely never be the same, and that is a good thing. Pregnant and postpartum bodies should be celebrated and not tried to be crammed back into some skinny jeans a few weeks after delivering a baby.
The postpartum body still has different levels of hormones compared to a non-pregnant body, especially if the caregiver is breastfeeding or pumping. Those hormones are going to be altered as long as the body is producing breast milk. That doesn't mean one can't run until breastfeeding is completed, it just means that is one factor to consider.
In all athletes we take into account not just the training but the nutrition, hydration, sleep and recovery. These are all factors in a postpartum person as well, yet we don't want to pay attention to them. If you have a newborn, how much sleep are you really getting? How well are you eating? Are you drinking enough water? Are you getting any time to rest and recharge? Again, all important factors with return to running.
Three physiotherapists in Europe put out some baseline recommendations for postpartum return to running. You can access their full recommendations here: https://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2019/05/20/ready-steadygo-ensuring-postnatal-women-are-run-ready/
Some of the recommendations are:
Don't resume running until 3-6 months postpartum
There should be no urinary leakage before or during running
There should be no heaviness in the pelvis before or during running
No vaginal bleeding that is not related to the menstrual cycle
A pelvic floor exam by a pelvic floor physio (PT) is recommended prior to resuming running
Should be able to walk 30 min without any pelvic floor symptoms
Leg strength should be adequate to resume running
These are the minimum recommendations for returning to running.
I know 3-6 months may seem like a long time to not run, but waiting until your body is ready in the short term will help you be a better runner and athlete in the long term. Be patient. Enjoy the time with your baby. Work on building strength and endurance to be able to return to running safely.
If you would like to get checked out by a pelvic floor PT and make sure you are ready to return to running safely schedule an in-person or virtual visit here:
I also created a course specifically for runners that provides a step-by-step guide on how to return back to running safely! Check it out here.