If you are a runner and pregnant one of the thoughts that is probably at the forefront of your mind is, "when am I able to go back to running after I give birth??" In order to find the answer, you are probably doing a fair share of social media scrolling and google searching (let's be honest, we all do it) and are most likely not getting any closer to finding a concrete answer. Maybe you have a friend that waited a whole year to return to running postpartum, but then you see an instagram influencer that proudly announced she returned to running at 6 weeks postpartum. So which is it?!
In short, the average time most people are able to safely return to running postpartum is between 3-6 months. Your body just went through some very traumatic changes (from growing a baby the past 9 months to delivering that baby) and it's important you allow enough time to rest, recover, and re-strengthen your musculoskeletal system to decrease risk of injury when you return to high impact sports.
Now you might be thinking that 3-6 months is a pretty vague timeframe (after all, that's 3 whole months of discrepancy!). The reason for this wide range is because everyone's pregnancy and birth story is going to be different. If you had a complicated pregnancy and delivery (ex. vaginal birth with tearing, cesarean birth, etc.) it might be towards the latter end of this timeframe before you're able to run again. However, if you had an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, your body will most likely be able to recover faster.
Since the recommended timeframe to return to running is so variable, I often find it more helpful to consider your individual symptoms (or lack there-of) as a return to sport guide. If you're having any urinary and/or fecal incontinence, vaginal pressure/bulging, chronic vaginal bleeding, or any musculoskeletal pain, it's important to be assessed by a pelvic floor physical therapist prior to resuming running. If you're not having any of these symptoms, the next step would be to perform what Donnelly et al. refers to as a "load and impact management assessment." The purpose of this type of assessment is to ensure that none of the above mentioned symptoms arise once you start performing more higher impact activities.
Below is an example of a load and impact management assessment created by Donnelly et al. specifically for postpartum runners. If you are able to perform all of the exercises without any symptoms, you are most likely safe to resume running.
Load and impact test
Walk 30 min
Single leg balance 10 seconds each leg
Single leg squat 10 reps each leg
Jog on spot 1 min
Forward bounds 10 reps
Hop in place 10 reps each leg
Single leg running man 10 reps each leg
Donnelly, G., Brockwell, E., & Goom, T. (2020). Return to running postnatal - guideline for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population. Physiotherapy, 107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2020.03.276
Of course, if you have any questions/hesitations regarding running postpartum, reach out to your local pelvic floor PT. He/she can perform a comprehensive musculoskeletal examination and help you create an individualized treatment plan to get you back to running in no time :)