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Women in Sport Fact Sheet SPORTS MEDICINE AUSTRALIA

Women in Sport Fact Sheet

EXERCISE
in pregnancy WHEN CAN I RESUME EXERCISE the type and amount of exercise that
AFTER THE BABY IS BORN? can be done. Other situations may
You will be surprised After a normal vaginal delivery, arise that require exercise to be
gentle exercise including pelvic floor, restricted or completely ceased.
how soon you can
abdominal exercises and walking can Accepting that pregnancy and birth
resume your full be commenced when comfortable.
More intense exercise should be
will interrupt sporting aspirations will
reduce feelings of frustration and
EXERCISE in pregnancy
fitness and skill level
delayed for up to six weeks to resentment. Try to view this period
Many women are unsure Pregnancy used to signal the end LOOSENING OF ALL LIGAMENTS
after the birth allow for some resolution of the positively, be flexible and be
of a womans sporting career but in During pregnancy, joints will
effects of pregnancy and delivery, prepared to change training programs whether to continue recent years many great female gradually loosen to prepare for
particularly on the pelvic floor and expectations. Remember the final
being active when they athletes have returned to their sport birth. This may create an increased
muscles and pelvic joints. outcome of a healthy child is the aim
to compete at the highest levels risk of injury. Those particularly
After caesarean section, six weeks is for all concerned, whilst allowing the become pregnant following the birth of a baby. affected are the pelvic (sacro-iliac
the recommended time to return to mother as much scope for choice and
Pregnancy is a natural condition and pubic symphysis) joints. Care
exercise if the wound is well healed. healthy activity as possible.
rather than an illness and unless you should be taken with any activity
Exercise has not been shown to
have complications, it should be that involves jumping, frequent
adversely affect lactation (breast
possible to enjoy your sport or changes of direction and excessive
feeding) as long as fluid and caloric BORGS RATING OF PERCEIVED
activity at some level throughout stretching. Jerky ballistic movements
intake are maintained. EXERTION SCALE
most of your pregnancy. should be avoided.
Discomfort caused by full breasts and
Strengthening exercises (particularly
sore nipples may make running and 6 HOW WILL PREGNANCY AFFECT MY
core strength exercises) may also
jumping uncomfortable. A supportive 7 Very, very light BODY AND PHYSICAL ABILITIES?
decrease the potential of injury to
bra is recommended. Exercising 8 There are many anatomical and
these joints.
straight after a feed when breasts are 9 Very light physiological changes during
less full can also help prevent these 10 pregnancy. INCREASE IN RESTING HEART RATE
symptoms. 11 Fairly light Due to the increase in resting heart
Athletes who are able to return 12 INCREASE IN BODY WEIGHT
rate and decrease in maximal heart
quickly to a high level of training will 13 Somewhat hard (ON AVERAGE 10 -15 KG)
rate during pregnancy, it is not
notice the beneficial physiological 14 As pregnancy progresses weight
recommended using target heart rate
effects. You will be surprised how 15 Hard increases and changes occur in
to determine intensity of exercise.
soon you can resume your full fitness 16 weight distribution and body shape.
In healthy pregnant women the
and skill level after the birth, but 17 Very hard This results in the bodys centre of
intensity of exercise can be
remember that it can take up to six 18 gravity moving forward and the
monitored by the mothers rating of
months for joint stability to be re- 19 Very, very hard curvature of the spine increasing.
perceived exertion (see Borgs Rating
established. 20 This increase in body size can make
This fact sheet is an initiative of the Department of Planning and of Perceived Exertion Scale).
Community Development (Sport and Recreation Victoria) through Women in
12-14 is considered some activities more uncomfortable
Sport funding and has been prepared with the contribution of the Medicine
SHOULD I DISCUSS MY EXERCISE moderate intensity (eg. jogging). These changes can
and Science for Women in Sport group of Sports Medicine Australia
PROGRAM WITH MY DOCTOR? also alter balance and co-ordination,
S P O R TS M E D I C I N E AU S T R A L I A
National Office
Yes! It is essential that all women particularly in the second half of
PO Box 78 Mitchell ACT 2911 discuss their exercise plans with their the pregnancy, and for this reason
tel 02 6241 9344 Reference
fax 02 6241 1611 doctor as each pregnancy is different. activities that require a degree
SMA statement on benefits and
email smanat@sma.org.au
A healthy uncomplicated pregnancy risks of exercise during pregnancy of balance or rapid change in
website www.sma.org.au
may have few restrictions placed on (see www.sma.org.au) direction may not be advisable
Victorian Branch
Sports House, 375 Albert Road (eg. roller-blading).
South Melbourne VIC 3205
tel 03 9674 8777 fax 03 9674 8799
email general@vic.sma.org.au

The information contained in this Fact Sheet is in the nature of general comment only, and neither purports, nor is intended, to be advice on a
particular matter. No reader should act on the basis of anything contained in this Fact Sheet without seeking independent professional medical
advice. No responsibility or liability whatsoever can be accepted by Sports Medicine Australia or the authors for any loss, damage or injury that
may arise from any person acting on any statement or information contained in this Fact Sheet and all such liabilities are expressly disclaimed.
Try to view this period
positively, be flexible
EXERCISE in pregnancy
and be prepared to
change training programs
and expectations

DECREASE IN BLOOD PRESSURE resulting from pregnancy will remain weights for exercising and non- humans have different mechanisms WHEN SHOULD A PREGNANT
During the second trimester of for some weeks following the birth exercising pregnant women. However, of heat dissipation than the animals WOMAN NOT EXERCISE
pregnancy, the development of blood of the baby. There may therefore be one recent study showed women who studied, it is reasonable to suggest Exercise should be stopped if any
vessels to supply the growing improvements in performance for exercised intensely more than that it is not wise to exercise in the abnormal symptoms occur such as
placenta will cause blood pressure to those who manage to return to three times per week in their third heat of the day and to stay well- pain, contractions, vaginal bleeding,
fall. From approximately the fourth competition soon after the birth. trimester delivered significantly smaller hydrated when exercising. dizziness or unusual shortness of
month, pregnant women should avoid For most women, managing a new babies. Although these babies were all breath (see box below).
RISKS TO THE MOTHER
rapid changes of position, both from baby, breast-feeding and sleep healthy at the time of delivery, there Exercise during pregnancy is not
Potential risks of increased injury
lying to standing and vice-versa, so deprivation, means this potential are concerns about the long term advised in a number of conditions
due to changes in body shape and
as not to experience dizzy spells. advantage may go unnoticed. health effects on low birth weight including heart disease (ischaemic or
size, as well as ligamentous laxity,
Stopping suddenly should also be babies. It is therefore recommended valvular), severe hypertension (high
PELVIC FLOOR have been discussed.
avoided as cardiovascular that exercise in the third trimester blood pressure), risk of premature
Damage to the pelvic floor muscles BENEFITS FOR THE MOTHER
adjustments take longer and may be limited to three sessions or labour (incompetent cervix, multiple
occurs during birth (vaginal delivery). There are numerous potential benefits
result in dizziness or faintness. If less and not be as intense as earlier pregnancy, ruptured membranes),
The pelvic floor muscles are also for women who exercise during
undertaking aerobics, leg exercises in the pregnancy. growth retardation or pre-eclampsia.
weakened during pregnancy, so it is pregnancy. These include better weight
done whilst lying on the back should ii) Contact sports Any illness or complication of the
extremely important to begin control, improved mood and
be avoided after the fourth month as There has been much theoretical pregnancy should be fully assessed
conditioning the pelvic floor muscles maintenance of fitness levels. Exercise
the weight of the foetus can slow concern about the risks to the foetus and discussed with your doctor
from the start of the pregnancy. also helps prevent the onset of
down the return of blood to the whilst participating in contact sports before commencing or continuing
These exercises (which can be gestational diabetes (GDM) and is
heart. Try to modify these exercises such as netball. There is currently no an exercise program.
prescribed by a physiotherapist) certainly an important part of the
as most can be done lying on the research to support this concern. The
should continue throughout the management plan should GDM occur.
side. Prolonged periods of motionless current advice is that each woman
pregnancy and recommence as soon IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF
standing should also be avoided. should discuss her wishes with her HOW MUCH EXERCISE IS SAFE?
as is comfortable after the birth. THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS
doctor and take into consideration In general, healthy women who have
INCREASE IN BLOOD VOLUME, DURING OR AFTER EXERCISE,
ARE THERE ANY DANGERS OF the type of sport, pregnancy status uncomplicated pregnancies can
HAEMOGLOBIN AND VO2 MAX YOU SHOULD STOP AND
EXERCISING DURING PREGNANCY? and her history of participation in that continue their previous exercise
As pregnancy progresses, the bodys CONTACT YOUR PHYSICIAN
There are theoretical concerns for sport. For example, it would be most program after consultation with their
ability to transport oxygen improves.
the foetus and mother including reasonable for a woman who has doctor. It is also now considered  High heart rate
This adaptation is designed to meet
risk of overheating, impairment of played netball all her life and is safe to START an exercise program  Dizziness
the needs of the growing foetus. This
oxygen and nutrient delivery to pregnant in her first trimester, with during pregnancy.  Headache
means that oxygen supply to other
the foetus and possible risk of no complications, to continue with No studies have determined a safe  Uterine contractions
parts of the body, including working
premature labour. this activity. Alternatively, a woman upper limit of exercise but as  Vaginal bleeding
muscles, also improves.
who has never down-hill skied and pregnancy continues, increased size  Amniotic fluid leakage
These cardiorespiratory adaptations RISKS TO THE FOETUS
wants to attempt this for the first time and fatigue generally cause most  Nausea
are potentially advantageous for There are no studies to date that show
at 30 weeks pregnant would probably women to lessen their participation.  Shortness of breath
performance after the baby is born. an association between exercise and
be advised not to participate. As previously stated, by the third  Faintness
During pregnancy the advantages are adverse outcomes for the foetus. trimester no more than three sessions  Back or pelvic pain
offset by changes in weight, blood There are however some areas where iii) Over-heating
per week of vigorous exercise are  Decreased foetal movements
pressure and ligaments, and by the concerns have been raised; Some animal studies have indicated
recommended.  Sudden swelling of ankles,
need to ensure oxygen supply to that over-heating of the mother in the
i) Effects on birth weight Moderate exercise (as determined by hands and face
the foetus. It is true however, that first trimester may cause an increased
Most studies have not shown any the perceived exertion scale) is
physiological adjustments risk of neural tube defects. Although
significant difference in babies birth considered safe throughout pregnancy.
Try to view this period
positively, be flexible
EXERCISE in pregnancy
and be prepared to
change training programs
and expectations

DECREASE IN BLOOD PRESSURE resulting from pregnancy will remain weights for exercising and non- humans have different mechanisms WHEN SHOULD A PREGNANT
During the second trimester of for some weeks following the birth exercising pregnant women. However, of heat dissipation than the animals WOMAN NOT EXERCISE
pregnancy, the development of blood of the baby. There may therefore be one recent study showed women who studied, it is reasonable to suggest Exercise should be stopped if any
vessels to supply the growing improvements in performance for exercised intensely more than that it is not wise to exercise in the abnormal symptoms occur such as
placenta will cause blood pressure to those who manage to return to three times per week in their third heat of the day and to stay well- pain, contractions, vaginal bleeding,
fall. From approximately the fourth competition soon after the birth. trimester delivered significantly smaller hydrated when exercising. dizziness or unusual shortness of
month, pregnant women should avoid For most women, managing a new babies. Although these babies were all breath (see box below).
RISKS TO THE MOTHER
rapid changes of position, both from baby, breast-feeding and sleep healthy at the time of delivery, there Exercise during pregnancy is not
Potential risks of increased injury
lying to standing and vice-versa, so deprivation, means this potential are concerns about the long term advised in a number of conditions
due to changes in body shape and
as not to experience dizzy spells. advantage may go unnoticed. health effects on low birth weight including heart disease (ischaemic or
size, as well as ligamentous laxity,
Stopping suddenly should also be babies. It is therefore recommended valvular), severe hypertension (high
PELVIC FLOOR have been discussed.
avoided as cardiovascular that exercise in the third trimester blood pressure), risk of premature
Damage to the pelvic floor muscles BENEFITS FOR THE MOTHER
adjustments take longer and may be limited to three sessions or labour (incompetent cervix, multiple
occurs during birth (vaginal delivery). There are numerous potential benefits
result in dizziness or faintness. If less and not be as intense as earlier pregnancy, ruptured membranes),
The pelvic floor muscles are also for women who exercise during
undertaking aerobics, leg exercises in the pregnancy. growth retardation or pre-eclampsia.
weakened during pregnancy, so it is pregnancy. These include better weight
done whilst lying on the back should ii) Contact sports Any illness or complication of the
extremely important to begin control, improved mood and
be avoided after the fourth month as There has been much theoretical pregnancy should be fully assessed
conditioning the pelvic floor muscles maintenance of fitness levels. Exercise
the weight of the foetus can slow concern about the risks to the foetus and discussed with your doctor
from the start of the pregnancy. also helps prevent the onset of
down the return of blood to the whilst participating in contact sports before commencing or continuing
These exercises (which can be gestational diabetes (GDM) and is
heart. Try to modify these exercises such as netball. There is currently no an exercise program.
prescribed by a physiotherapist) certainly an important part of the
as most can be done lying on the research to support this concern. The
should continue throughout the management plan should GDM occur.
side. Prolonged periods of motionless current advice is that each woman
pregnancy and recommence as soon IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF
standing should also be avoided. should discuss her wishes with her HOW MUCH EXERCISE IS SAFE?
as is comfortable after the birth. THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS
doctor and take into consideration In general, healthy women who have
INCREASE IN BLOOD VOLUME, DURING OR AFTER EXERCISE,
ARE THERE ANY DANGERS OF the type of sport, pregnancy status uncomplicated pregnancies can
HAEMOGLOBIN AND VO2 MAX YOU SHOULD STOP AND
EXERCISING DURING PREGNANCY? and her history of participation in that continue their previous exercise
As pregnancy progresses, the bodys CONTACT YOUR PHYSICIAN
There are theoretical concerns for sport. For example, it would be most program after consultation with their
ability to transport oxygen improves.
the foetus and mother including reasonable for a woman who has doctor. It is also now considered  High heart rate
This adaptation is designed to meet
risk of overheating, impairment of played netball all her life and is safe to START an exercise program  Dizziness
the needs of the growing foetus. This
oxygen and nutrient delivery to pregnant in her first trimester, with during pregnancy.  Headache
means that oxygen supply to other
the foetus and possible risk of no complications, to continue with No studies have determined a safe  Uterine contractions
parts of the body, including working
premature labour. this activity. Alternatively, a woman upper limit of exercise but as  Vaginal bleeding
muscles, also improves.
who has never down-hill skied and pregnancy continues, increased size  Amniotic fluid leakage
These cardiorespiratory adaptations RISKS TO THE FOETUS
wants to attempt this for the first time and fatigue generally cause most  Nausea
are potentially advantageous for There are no studies to date that show
at 30 weeks pregnant would probably women to lessen their participation.  Shortness of breath
performance after the baby is born. an association between exercise and
be advised not to participate. As previously stated, by the third  Faintness
During pregnancy the advantages are adverse outcomes for the foetus. trimester no more than three sessions  Back or pelvic pain
offset by changes in weight, blood There are however some areas where iii) Over-heating
per week of vigorous exercise are  Decreased foetal movements
pressure and ligaments, and by the concerns have been raised; Some animal studies have indicated
recommended.  Sudden swelling of ankles,
need to ensure oxygen supply to that over-heating of the mother in the
i) Effects on birth weight Moderate exercise (as determined by hands and face
the foetus. It is true however, that first trimester may cause an increased
Most studies have not shown any the perceived exertion scale) is
physiological adjustments risk of neural tube defects. Although
significant difference in babies birth considered safe throughout pregnancy.
Women in Sport Fact Sheet SPORTS MEDICINE AUSTRALIA
Women in Sport Fact Sheet

EXERCISE
in pregnancy WHEN CAN I RESUME EXERCISE the type and amount of exercise that
AFTER THE BABY IS BORN? can be done. Other situations may
You will be surprised After a normal vaginal delivery, arise that require exercise to be
gentle exercise including pelvic floor, restricted or completely ceased.
how soon you can
abdominal exercises and walking can Accepting that pregnancy and birth
resume your full be commenced when comfortable.
More intense exercise should be
will interrupt sporting aspirations will
reduce feelings of frustration and
EXERCISE in pregnancy
fitness and skill level
delayed for up to six weeks to resentment. Try to view this period
Many women are unsure Pregnancy used to signal the end LOOSENING OF ALL LIGAMENTS
after the birth allow for some resolution of the positively, be flexible and be
of a womans sporting career but in During pregnancy, joints will
effects of pregnancy and delivery, prepared to change training programs whether to continue recent years many great female gradually loosen to prepare for
particularly on the pelvic floor and expectations. Remember the final
being active when they athletes have returned to their sport birth. This may create an increased
muscles and pelvic joints. outcome of a healthy child is the aim
to compete at the highest levels risk of injury. Those particularly
After caesarean section, six weeks is for all concerned, whilst allowing the become pregnant following the birth of a baby. affected are the pelvic (sacro-iliac
the recommended time to return to mother as much scope for choice and
Pregnancy is a natural condition and pubic symphysis) joints. Care
exercise if the wound is well healed. healthy activity as possible.
rather than an illness and unless you should be taken with any activity
Exercise has not been shown to
have complications, it should be that involves jumping, frequent
adversely affect lactation (breast
possible to enjoy your sport or changes of direction and excessive
feeding) as long as fluid and caloric BORGS RATING OF PERCEIVED
activity at some level throughout stretching. Jerky ballistic movements
intake are maintained. EXERTION SCALE
most of your pregnancy. should be avoided.
Discomfort caused by full breasts and
Strengthening exercises (particularly
sore nipples may make running and 6 HOW WILL PREGNANCY AFFECT MY
core strength exercises) may also
jumping uncomfortable. A supportive 7 Very, very light BODY AND PHYSICAL ABILITIES?
decrease the potential of injury to
bra is recommended. Exercising 8 There are many anatomical and
these joints.
straight after a feed when breasts are 9 Very light physiological changes during
less full can also help prevent these 10 pregnancy. INCREASE IN RESTING HEART RATE
symptoms. 11 Fairly light Due to the increase in resting heart
Athletes who are able to return 12 INCREASE IN BODY WEIGHT
rate and decrease in maximal heart
quickly to a high level of training will 13 Somewhat hard (ON AVERAGE 10 -15 KG)
rate during pregnancy, it is not
notice the beneficial physiological 14 As pregnancy progresses weight
recommended using target heart rate
effects. You will be surprised how 15 Hard increases and changes occur in
to determine intensity of exercise.
soon you can resume your full fitness 16 weight distribution and body shape.
In healthy pregnant women the
and skill level after the birth, but 17 Very hard This results in the bodys centre of
intensity of exercise can be
remember that it can take up to six 18 gravity moving forward and the
monitored by the mothers rating of
months for joint stability to be re- 19 Very, very hard curvature of the spine increasing.
perceived exertion (see Borgs Rating
established. 20 This increase in body size can make
This fact sheet is an initiative of the Department of Planning and of Perceived Exertion Scale).
Community Development (Sport and Recreation Victoria) through Women in
12-14 is considered some activities more uncomfortable
Sport funding and has been prepared with the contribution of the Medicine
SHOULD I DISCUSS MY EXERCISE moderate intensity (eg. jogging). These changes can
and Science for Women in Sport group of Sports Medicine Australia
PROGRAM WITH MY DOCTOR? also alter balance and co-ordination,
S P O R TS M E D I C I N E AU S T R A L I A
National Office
Yes! It is essential that all women particularly in the second half of
PO Box 78 Mitchell ACT 2911 discuss their exercise plans with their the pregnancy, and for this reason
tel 02 6241 9344 Reference
fax 02 6241 1611 doctor as each pregnancy is different. activities that require a degree
SMA statement on benefits and
email smanat@sma.org.au
A healthy uncomplicated pregnancy risks of exercise during pregnancy of balance or rapid change in
website www.sma.org.au
may have few restrictions placed on (see www.sma.org.au) direction may not be advisable
Victorian Branch
Sports House, 375 Albert Road (eg. roller-blading).
South Melbourne VIC 3205
tel 03 9674 8777 fax 03 9674 8799
email general@vic.sma.org.au

The information contained in this Fact Sheet is in the nature of general comment only, and neither purports, nor is intended, to be advice on a
particular matter. No reader should act on the basis of anything contained in this Fact Sheet without seeking independent professional medical
advice. No responsibility or liability whatsoever can be accepted by Sports Medicine Australia or the authors for any loss, damage or injury that
may arise from any person acting on any statement or information contained in this Fact Sheet and all such liabilities are expressly disclaimed.