For many women pregnancy is a part of life. This is no different with the female athlete. Female athletes can and will also be mothers and wish to continue their sport while being pregnant. many women show concern about sport during pregnancy, but there is little need to be. Generally a female athlete can continue doing any sport that already do when pregnant, and can start a sport after they become pregnant with proper guidance.

There are many ways that pregnancy affects the body of a female athlete. This includes and increase in relaxin. A hormone that allows for greater flexibility. This is designed so that the pelvis can stretch as the woman gives birth, but affects all joints. This means that a pregnant athlete has a greater range of motion at their joints. This is generally not a problem, as long as the joint is not stretched beyond normal range of motion. However, if the joint is stretched further, dislocation is more likely. Sports Medicine Australia state:

Care should be taken with any activity that involves jumping, frequent changes of direction and excessive stretching. Jerky ballistic movements should be avoided. [1]

Pregnant athletes will also put on weight and have their centre of gravity shifting forward. This will make exercise a higher intensity because of the extra weight, and make the woman more unstable. For this reason sports such as ice-skating may not be advisable for an athlete in late pregnancy.

During pregnancy the female athletes blood volume and haemoglobin levels will increase. this is to ensure the baby is getting enough nutrients and oxygen, while still supporting the mother. The result is better oxygen delivery to working muscles during exercise as well. However, any benefits during pregnancy are lost with the increased weight and delivery of blood to the baby. This improved oxygen delivery continues for many weeks after pregnancy and will improve performance post pregnancy.

During pregnancy many women are worried that exercise may place the baby in danger. However, currently there is no research to say that exercise during pregnancy will affect the babies birth weight. There is also a lack of evidence saying contact sports will hurt the baby, however, it is not advisable that a woman late in pregnancy try a new contact sport or dangerous sport for the first time, such as skiing or football.

Women are advised not to exercise during the heat of the day, however, as it may cause overheating, which may be dangerous to the development of neural pathways. Though this has not been confirmed. An scuba diving is also not advised, neither are activities that involve lying on your back after the first trimester.

Female athletes do stand to benefit from sports participation and exercise while pregnant. They will have better weight control, improved mood and will maintain fitness levels. It will also help prevent gestational diabetes and will be used in the management of gestational diabetes if it does occur.

So, pregnant female athletes can continue to participate in sports they are familiar with. Should probably avoid participation during he heat of the day, and not try new contact or dangerous sports, especially late in the pregnancy.

[1] Sports Medicine Australia (2009) Exercise in Pregnancy. Accessed at on 18 December 2015.