Exercise is important in promoting health and well-being for pregnant women. Women who exercise during their pregnancy are less likely to gain excess fat weight and have improved mood and sleeping patterns while pregnant, while after giving birth, are more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight.
Restrictions on exercise during pregnancy are less stringent then in the past. Most active women are able to continue their exercise routine while pregnant, and most athletes can continue to train for their sport as athletic performance doesn?t seem to be affected during the first 2-3 months of pregnancy.
Hockey, however, based on the intensity and movements of play, is one sport that is not recommended for pregnant women for the following reasons:
Hockey requires anaerobic effort, in which oxygen is used from the bloodstream faster then can be replaced. During pregnancy the respiratory rate is naturally increased as the body works harder to provide oxygen to the developing fetus, which reduces the amount of oxygen available for exercise. This already reduced oxygen level combined with the natural ?oxygen debt? caused by playing hockey can cause decreased endurance and breathlessness and can shift needed oxygen away from the uterus.
Hockey requires many sudden starts, stops, turns, jumps, pivots and sprints. During pregnancy the body releases a hormone called relaxin, which loosens up the joints of the pelvis to make room for childbirth. Relaxin affects all the joints in the body making the body more susceptible to injury from the sudden movements of hockey. Also, because of the enlarging womb, the women?s center of gravity shifts causing changes to balance and posture that may effect playing.
During pregnancy, the body increases its blood volume by 40% and heart rate increases by about 15 beats per minute. This allows nutrients to be transported to the fetus more efficiently. However, with the growth of the womb, the flow of blood in the body can be disrupted and lightheadedness can occur.
Also, with high-flying sticks and balls, even a mild injury to the stomach can be serious when pregnant.
While hockey may not be recommended while pregnant, athletes are encourage to remain active by performing other activities such as walking, running, swimming and/or low-impact aerobics. Pregnant women should perform a minimum of 15-20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 3-4 days per week.
In addition to cardiovascular exercise, it is also particularly important for pregnant women to strengthen the muscles of the abdomen, pelvis and back. Non-weight bearing exercises such as the Kegel exercise can accomplish this.
It is also important for all pregnant women to take iron supplements (30mgs), according to The National Academy of Sciences. Athletes are encouraged to consider additional supplements with their doctor.
By the Editors of Fitness Magazine
Three Rivers Press, September 1999
208 pages, softbound
National Maternal and Child Health Clearinghouse
Phone: (888) 434-4MCH
Web Site: http://www.nmchc.org/
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Resource Center
Phone: (202) 863-2518
Web Site: http://www.acog.org
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Phone: (800) 230-7526
Web Site: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
American Council on Exercise
Phone: (800) 825-3636
Web Site: http://www.acefitness.org/
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