First off, I will make the disclaimer that you should ultimately follow the advice of your Care Provider about anything pregnancy-related. It would be irresponsible of me to say to take matters into your own hands. But the reality of the situation regarding Pregnancy and Fitness is that most of the information handed down to you is outdated. And let’s not forget, CrossFit has only been around for a pretty short while, all in all. Furthermore, CrossFit has become more “above ground” only in the last couple of years. So we have to remember that most people, doctors/midwives included, have only seen CrossFit on ESPN2 or heard about it from a friend. Just last month I was at a birth and when the OB found out what I did, she said, “Oh! You can do CrossFit while pregnant?!”
This “issue” of whether CrossFit is safe or not or if Moms are harming their babies and putting them at risk has about 50% to do with exercise itself, but it also has to do with, in my very vocal opinion, trusting that Women know what they are doing in regards to their bodies. Sure- there are lots of women who aren’t sure how to go about exercising during pregnancy. I’m sure there are even women who go about it recklessly. What I have seen is this:
Women don’t usually take their pregnancy lightly. For most, pregnancy is a long-awaited, exciting event and they are so nervous about doing everything just right so as to not harm the Baby or themselves. Pregnant moms are research Queens.
And most Women err on the side of caution. Period.
Having said all that, let’s look at CrossFit.
What is the definition of CrossFit?
“Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive…..The Crossfit program is designed for universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience…We’ve used our same routines for elderly individuals with heart conditions and cage fighters one month out from televised bouts. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs… The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree not kind.”
- from CrossFit.com
Ok. I don’t believe for a second that pregnant women are sick or injured, but just as coaches will scale for an injury, a good CrossFit coach will also scale for a pregnant woman’s growing and changing body. As it says above, we scale load and intensity. As a pregnant woman’s body grows, she can no longer keep perfect form for barbell snatches and cleans. So we modify. She uses dumbells or kettlebells in order to keep good form and prevent injuries to her back from an unavoidable arc in the bar path. She also may lower the weight- all depending on how she feels that particular day. As her pregnancy progresses, the weight may get lighter and lighter. She may even choose to not even do that movement anymore.
Because of the hormone, Relaxin, which courses through a pregnant woman’s body throughout pregnancy and for months after, ballistic movements are modified in CrossFit as well and as needed. Some women feel comfortable running and jumping rope, others may choose to row or walk. As the definition above states, “we scale load and intensity, we don’t change the program.” This is why you’ll see a pregnant woman doing the exact same workout along with the rest of the class, albeit at her own pace and with scaled movements and load.
The main point I want to get across is that women are smart and intuitive. If they’ve been in our community (CrossFit as a whole) for any length of time they tend to know their bodies, their limitations, and probably spend more time scouring the internet for Pregnancy resources than you can imagine. Are there women who take it too far? Most likely. Are there women who do CrossFit throughout their pregnancy? Definitely. There have been multiple Moms at our gym who worked out the day of delivery. One even worked out the morning of her delivery with her OB in the same class!
Which brings me to my next point.
The majority of the women who have continued to do CrossFit throughout their pregnancy have had extremely short, relatively easy labors. Hands down. In all the births I’ve attended I’ve noticed CrossFit Moms having a great deal of stamina, mental focus and endurance, and with all the squats we do- shorter pushing times. Oh and let’s not forget recovery. CrossFit moms have shorter, easier recoveries. All of this can be attributed to exercise but let’s not forget about diet. CrossFitters usually eat very clean, minimally processed, high quality diets. THIS MATTERS.
Ok, But What Does the Research Say?
In 2002, the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) lifted the advisory for keeping a pregnant woman’s heartbeat below 140 beats per minute. Now, the thinking is that if you have been doing a form of exercise for at least 6 months prior to getting pregnant, you can continue to do it as long as you don’t feel too exerted. According to the ACOG website,
“Twenty years ago, very little research was done on the effects of exercise on the pregnant woman and fetus. Therefore, doctors erred on the side of caution and recommended a sedentary lifestyle for pregnant women.
Now, numerous scientific studies have shown no correlation between moderate or even vigorous exercise and miscarriage or pregnancy-related complications. In fact, ACOG says if a woman is accustomed to vigorous exercise, she can continue to do it as long as she feels ok.”
Wow. So we should be letting women set the pace for deciding how much and what kind of exercise to do during pregnancy? Maybe we should also allow them to vote and drive a car. Oh wait…
To end this post, I want to know where the articles and outrage is towards the moms who are eating McDonald’s every day while pregnant? Drinking soda after soda after soda? Smoke? Yeah, people still smoke while pregnant. When do they get shamed and called names for endangering their babies? Why do they get a free pass?
When something is mis-understood there is Fear. Where there is Fear there is unnecessary and uneducated backlash. Let’s start trusting women. Let’s believe that they are doing their best for their pregnancies and their baby’s health.
This is why I started presenting CrossFit and Pregnancy workshops. This is why I want to help women in our Community. The way a woman gives birth matters. It sets her on a certain path to parenthood and can really affect the way she sees herself both as a woman and as a mother. Now, more than ever, I am called to work with these women. It’s my passion. It’s my One Thing.
If you have any questions about CrossFit and Pregnancy, please contact me. I would love to help you!
To sign up for my next CrossFit Pregnancy Workshop on November 2 in Austin, Tx, please go to this link.