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Sport and exercise recommendations for pregnant athletes

Updated: Apr 8

A scoping review published in November in the BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine Journal, written amongst other authors by Anneke Klostermann.

In Cooperation with University Hospital Balgrist and the University Hospital Zurich, Anneke Klostermann was researching on the topic how to exercise in pregnancy as an athlete.



What is already known about this topic? What can be added? And where should we go from here in the future?


Becoming pregnant as an athlete:


An increasing number of elite and competitive amateur female athletes are reaching their career peak during the period of optimal fertility and do not want to postpone having children until they end their athletic careers. This is particularly the case in endurance disciplines where training age plays a relevant role. Moreover, if possible, these athletes want to time their pregnancy to not coincide with potential career highlights (eg, the Olympic cycle with a peak every 4 years).


Recommendation from literature:


However, there is only sparse evidence and anecdotal reports of best-practice recommendations to help handle this issue in elite female athletes. Due to the lack of direct evidence for female athletes and the gaps in knowledge regarding the safe frequency, duration and intensity of training and competition, recommendations can only be made individually and under close observation of maternal and child well-being. The need for practical information regarding what type of sports and to what extent the can be continued safely and without risk for mother or child is of great importance, especially for female athletes who have great uncertainty in this regard, but also for trainers, coaches and healthcare providers. Moreover, such information is needed for both elite and competitive amateur female athletes.


Goal of our study:


In this scoping review, we aim to

(1) identify and evaluate the current scientific evidence of literature regarding sport and exercise recommendations for elite and competitive amateur female athletes,

(2) summarise the available evidence for the volume and intensity of physical activity for continuous exposure and acute exposure to physical exercise in terms of performance testing as well as for high-risk sports and their effects on pregnancy outcome parameters in female athletes and

(3) point out existing knowledge gaps.

What to conclude from our research?


Nonetheless, as in principle, there are no known significant negative consequences of physical activity for mothers or children; both individuals who adhere to exercise recommendations or engage in higher impact activities during pregnancy and pregnant elite and competitive athletes are encouraged to approach sporting activity with more confidence.


Read the full article under:



Author:

Anneke Penny

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References:

1.Allen SV, Hopkins WG. Age of peak competitive performance of elite athletes: a systematic review. Sports Med 2015;45:1431–41

2.Davenport MH, Nesdoly A, Ray L, et al. Pushing for change: a qualitative study of the experiences of elite athletes during pregnancy. Br J Sports Med 2022;56:452–7

3.Bo K, Artal R, Barakat R, et al. Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016/2017 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 5. recommendations for health professionals and active women. Br J Sports Med 2018;52:1080–5

4.Solli GS, Sandbakk Øyvind. Training characteristics during pregnancy and postpartum in the world's most successful cross country skier. Front Physiol 2018;9:595

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