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pregnancy and sports

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Pregnancy and sports is a discussion of the safety of various strenuous sports during the 40 weeks of pregnancy. It provides the pregnant woman with ways to maintain exercise during pregnancy.

What is the information for this topic? 
Pregnancy is not a good time to start a new, strenuous sport. If a woman already participates in a sport before she becomes pregnant, then the questions become: What is safe to continue? How much is too much?

Sports safety guidelines during pregnancy

  • Avoid sports that have a strong risk of falling. Some sports are hazardous during pregnancy because of the risks of falling. The amniotic fluid cushions the baby well, but the force of an impact may cause the placenta to separate from the uterus. This very serious condition, known as placental abruption, could cause the death of the baby or a dangerous loss of blood from the mother. Pregnancy is no time to take up mountain climbing or skydiving. A woman should also avoid horseback riding, water-skiing and surfing, and bike riding on a wet pavement or windy path.
  • Avoid sports that create internal body pressure changes, such as scuba diving.
  • Snow skiing has several possible hazards, including the risk of injury. At very high altitudes, the air is thinner, which makes it harder to breathe. This can deprive both the mother and the foetus of oxygen. A ski machine is okay to use.
  • Swimming is great for a pregnant woman because it uses many different muscles while the water supports her weight. She should not to dive or jump into the water during the later months of pregnancy, however.
  • Jogging can be done in moderation. A woman should avoid becoming overheated. She should stop if she is uncomfortable or unusually tired. She should also drink plenty of water to replace what she loses through sweating.
  • Aerobics is good to strengthen the heart and lungs. A pregnant woman should only do the low impact version. Water aerobics combines the advantages of swimming and aerobics.
  • Tennis is generally safe during pregnancy. A woman should be aware that her sense of balance may change.
  • Golf and bowling are fine for recreation but they don't really strengthen the heart and lungs. With both of these sports, a woman may have to adjust to her change in balance.
  • Body-building and strength training can make muscles stronger. It can also help prevent the muscle aches and pains that are common in pregnancy. Strength training should be done under the supervision of an expert to avoid muscle and joint injuries.

General guidelines for participating in sports during pregnancy

  • A woman should dress for the occasion. She should wear clothes that are loose or that stretch during exercise. Fabrics should also let the body breathe. Well-fitting running shoes or well-cushioned sneakers will protect the joints if a woman chooses to jog or run. This is especially important in pregnancy because the hormonal changes loosen the ligaments in the body and increases the risk of injury.
  • A woman should train in moderation. She should never workout to the point of exhaustion during pregnancy. The chemical by-products of exhaustion are not safe for the foetus. This applies even to the highly trained athlete. A woman should listen to her body signals, such as pain or cramping. Uterine contractions, lightheadedness, dizziness, bleeding, nausea, or headache are also signs that a woman is overdoing it.
  • Strenuous exercise that can raise a pregnant woman's temperature more than 1 degree Celsius can be dangerous. This is because blood is shunted away from the uterus to the skin as the body attempts to reduce its temperature.
  • A pregnant woman should also avoid saunas, steam rooms, or hot tubs.
  • A woman should avoid sprinting. This requires too much oxygen too quickly.
  • A woman should stay off her back. Her enlarged uterus could compress a major blood vessel.
  • A woman should gradually reduce her level of exercise in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Author: Dr. Karen Wolfe, MBBS, MA
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 12/06/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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