Decrease in performance:
May occur during your pregnancy due to physiological changes in the body such as swelling (due to increased blood pressure), anemia, shortness of breath (may be related to elevated resting heart rate and or blood pressure changes), nausea, heartburn, weight gain, an altered center of gravity (which will change balance and coordination and add load to the lumbar spine), and musculoskeletal aches and pains related to the ligamentous softening necessary for the birthing process. These factors may cause you to experience reduced speed and endurance on the court and/or cause you to have less agility and coordination to stop or make rapid direction changes.
Training loads, scheduling, and recovery and rest ratios should always be monitored by athletes to maintain in peak performance condition. During pregnancy, some women will experience poor sleeping patterns, excess fatigue, nausea or heartburn, varicose veins, increased injury risk, musculoskeletal soreness, changes to blood pressure, and a faster resting heart rate. These factors need to be carefully considered and monitored so that training and recovery loads can be adjusted to optimize performance.
Risk of overheating/hyperthermia:
Increased body temperature (hyperthermia) is one result of intense training and can be dangerous for your baby's health if core temperature is raised above 39 degrees Celsius (103 F), especially during the first trimester. If you are pregnant you should avoid prolonged, intense practice or competition outside in hot, humid environments (greater than 90F or 32C). You should avoid steam rooms, saunas, sunbeds, and hot tubs. You should also practice good cooling strategies and stay well hydrated when exercising. Consult your OB-GYN or a Sports Dietitian and read "Play it Cool" and "Liquefy your Assets" for more information.
Dietary considerations for healthy weight gain:
A healthy pregnancy weight gain is important to ensure a healthy baby. Weight gain between 10-15 kg (22-33 pounds) is normal. This gained weight is from the baby, the placenta, amniotic fluid, and increased blood volume. Too much and too little weight gain can cause poor health outcomes for both you and your baby. The dietary requirements of pregnant tennis players and players who are breastfeeding differs from those who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. You should see a Sports Dietitian during your pregnancy and post pregnancy (while breastfeeding) to receive a custom training meal plan to ensure you are meeting the needs of you and your baby's.
Increased risk of injury:
Due to hormonal changes, including increase in relaxin, there is an increased risk of injury during pregnancy. These hormonal changes can lead to laxity of ligaments and joints, which can elevate the risk of injury especially to the low back, sacroiliac (SI) joint, pubic symphysis joint, and shoulder. Balance is altered during pregnancy as the center of gravity changes with the growth of the fetus. One-third of all pregnancy injuries are due to physical activities. The twists and turns, sudden stops, changes of direction, and sideways lunges, all of which are necessary when playing tennis, can cause injury to pelvic joints. Be mindful of swollen joints and ankles and wear proper shoes.
Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week. Many miscarriages occur because the fetus isn't developing normally. It is estimated that between 10-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. The rate could be much higher as many occur before the woman realizes she is pregnant. There is some evidence that high intensity training in the first trimester may increase miscarriage risk in non-athletic populations. There are no conclusive studies with respect to professional athletes. However, a previous history of miscarriages is associated with an increased risk of subsequent miscarriages. Follow your OB-GYN's advice regarding intensity and volume of training for your pregnancy.
Potential risk of preterm labor (early birth): The risk of preterm labor exists for any woman who has a history of preterm labor. There is no solid
evidence that professional athletes have a higher risk of preterm labor. Recent Danish studies suggest that physical activity may be associated with a reduced risk of preterm birth. However, the amount by which preterm birth risk was reduced was not significantly lower in women competing in sports versus women performing regular levels of physical activity. You should consult your OB-GYN if you have previously experienced an early birth.
Proper hydration is essential for peak tennis performance. Pregnant players should monitor their hydration status for competition and training with fluid balance and USG (urine specific gravity) testing. You should consult with a Sports Dietitian to receive a personal hydration plan to ensure you are getting all the fluid, salt and electrolytes you need to compete safely and with energy.
Compromised blood flow to placenta:
A healthy placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to the baby as it forms in a mother's womb. Pregnant tennis players who engage in repeated sessions of heavy weight lifting or repetitive intense isometric exercises, which require the Valsalva maneuver and cause a rapid increase in blood pressure and intra-abdominal pressure, may temporarily reduce placental blood flow. Reduced placental blood flow is associated with birth defects, learning disabilities, premature labor, and in extreme cases death. The implications of temporary, reduced fetal blood flow are not known. Follow the advice of your OB-GYN. If in doubt, avoid heavy weight training entirely.
Pelvic floor injury:
The pelvic floor is vital to the support of the pelvic organs. The pelvic floor reduces risk of pelvic organ prolapse, as well as reduces the risk of urinary or anal incontinence and enhances sexual health. Pelvic floor injury may result from repeated sessions of heavy weight training which
causes large increases intra-abdominal pressure, which may overload the pelvic floor support. Research indicates that Olympic and elite athletes have increased incidence of urogenital hiatus, which can increase the risk of prolapse (where the pelvic organs descend into the vagina) when they are training pre- and post-delivery. There is no evidence that elite athletes have any greater risk of pelvic floor injury or trauma from childbirth. Read "Pelvic Floor and More" to learn more.
STOP exercising immediately and call your OB-GYN if you experience any of the following symptoms while exercising when pregnant: vaginal bleeding or fluid leakage, feeling dizzy or faint, chest pain, persistent headache, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, regular or painful contractions, and decreased fetal movements. You should have regular check-ins with your OB-GYN to monitor the baby's health.
The benefits of motherhood for an athlete may include: improved psychological wellbeing, improved bone health, lowered cholesterol levels, healthy
weight management, and optimal blood glucose level. However, juggling the demands of being a new parent with returning to play can be challenging.
Additionally, some new mothers may experience degrees of urinary incontinence, low back pain, postpartum depression, and challenges with
breastfeeding. Therefore, if you plan to return to play after giving birth, you should first have a full evaluation with your doctor. Additionally, you should return to competition following a graduated training program supervised by a health care provider to ensure you are ready to restart competition.
After giving birth it is recommended that you:
Appropriate postpartum exercises should include:
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