How soon after pregnancy can I return to running?

It depends. 
Running can be a challenging activity to return to after having a baby because it is a high impact activity that places additional stress on the pelvic floor and abdomen.  The pelvic floor and abdomen are affected greatly during pregnancy and delivery, and require a period of healing afterwards. 
Some factors that determine when you can return back to running include:

  • Level of activity prior to and during pregnancy
    • If you were a runner prior to pregnancy you are going to have a quicker return to running.
    •  If you were sedentary or inactive prior to pregnancy, it’s going to take you more time to build up to this activity
  • -Bed rest during pregnancy
    • Bed rest is a common area of concern in the geriatric community, but it also affects pregnant women. 
    • During prolonged periods of bed rest you experience significant levels of muscle atrophy. We are seeing losses as great as 25% of lean muscle mass after just 1 week of bed rest, and many women are on bed rest for periods longer than 1 week.
    • This is going to affect your return to running because you’ve got more muscle mass to recover. 
  • Method of delivery (cesarean section vs vaginal delivery)
    • Cesarean sections are a major abdominal surgery and generally require a longer healing period. Not to mention your abdominal muscles are surgically cut and have to heal. Running requires quite a bit of abdominal work
  • -Postpartum Low back pain
    • Postpartum low back pain is often related to the unique changes in your ability to regulate your intra-abdominal pressure, and sudden loss of abdominal strength (you get this really huge belly, than bam baby’s gone the muscles are kind of like a deflated balloon in the beginning).
    • Generally speaking, if you have developed low back pain during your pregnancy that carried over to the postpartum period, or you have sudden onset of low back pain after delivery, I don’t recommend you start running until after you have found a low back pain management solution.
  • Urinary Incontinence
    • Urinary incontinence is also a poor indicator for returning to running. If you are leaking, your pelvic floor muscles are not currently adequately able to control urine, and adding a high impact activity such as running usually is a sign that your body is not ready for this level of activity. It can get worse if you continue to run. Again as with low back pain, I recommend improving leakage before endeavoring to pursue a running program.

When it comes down to it, for every woman this answer will vary greatly, but generally speaking, once running becomes symptom free (no leaking, and no back pain) you are ok to return to the activity. On average, if you have none of the factors listed above, I recommend to give yourself at least 6 weeks before even attempting to return to running. There are special cases (referring to high level athletes, or women who previously ran very regularly) who may return to running sooner. On the other end of the spectrum I have seen it take over a year to return to running depending on the complexity of your pregnancy and delivery. If you begin running too soon, you can make disorders like low back pain, urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and abdominal hernias worse. If you continue to have symptoms, do not be discouraged because there are many other physical activities you can engage in to still reap the benefits that running provides. Examples include:
A walking program, Pilates based exercise, Yoga, general strength and conditioning (low impact of course)

If you know these basics, many women are able to problem solve their return to running on their own, or you can consult with a physical therapist who can appropriately guide you back to your desired level of activity after pregnancy. I have rarely seen strapping a back brace on and hoping the symptoms will go away work, so if nothing else, invest some time in figuring out how to improve your symptoms.

As always I Iove to hear your input and questions so please reach out to me via email at, or call/text at 682-231-1607