Specific sports in Pregnancy
For women who engage in endurance sports such as long-distance running: What sort of advice is given when they conceive?
There is no doubt that they can continue engaging in their sport for as long as they feel able to, as long as there is regular and adequate antenatal care. There is no evidence whatsoever that this will affect the course or progress of the pregnancy.
If such an athlete develops any of the pregnancy complications which can affect any woman, then the appropriate advice will be given. Studies carried out have shown that such athletes continue to be actively engaged in their sport to well beyond the half-way mark of the pregnancy, with no noticeable effect on their performance.
What will be the condition of such athletes when they resume training after delivery?
Many such women go back to their sport several months after delivery. Normally there is no noticeable effect on the performance level that they eventually achieve post-delivery. World Marathon record holder, Paula Radcliffe, won the New York Marathon in 2007 barely a year after she gave birth to her first child.
What is the advice regarding women boxers?
Boxing is one of the sports that have crossed the gender barrier in recent years. The advice is to stop during the course of the pregnancy. There is no evidence that even the protective gear that is sometimes available is sufficient in eliminating the risk entirely.
Resuming exercise after the birth
How soon should a woman who has had an uncomplicated delivery resume exercising?
If she had a vaginal delivery without any problems, two weeks or thereabouts is a good enough interval to start aerobic exercise. There is no harm in starting a few days earlier with light exercise, if she feels like it.
What about postnatal swimming?
Swimming has special constraints. This is because of the inevitable vaginal discharge (lochia) that follows delivery and may continue for several weeks.
If using communal pools, one should avoid swimming until the discharge has stopped. This may take four to six weeks.
What about exercise after caesarean section?
In this case, it is wiser to stay off exercise for at least four weeks. After this, the build-up to the previous level of activity should be slow and steady.
Does this advice include pelvic floor exercises?
No. These can be resumed even before leaving hospital if one is able. However, a woman who had a caesarean section may find that the soreness from the surgical scar limits even these.
What if one has had an episiotomy?
An episiotomy (a cut made to increase the birth passage in vaginal delivery) heals quite fast; in most cases within a week. However, lingering soreness in the area may mean that pelvic floor exercises may have to wait.
Suppose the new mother has opted to breast-feed. Will exercise or sport have any effect on this?
They should not. In fact, moderate exercise does not alter any of the essential ingredients of breast-milk. Nor does it have any effect on quantities produced. Extreme exercise may alter the pH of the milk making it slightly more acidic. The effect may last for sixty to ninety minutes post-exercise. Overall, exercise has no significant effect one way or another on breast-milk. The advice regarding adequate fluid replacement remains the same for a breast-feeding exercising mother.
Last update: September 20, 2013