Exercise During Pregnancy: a Discussion

Lea-Ann Ellison, 35, has been an avid follower of CrossFit training for several years.

Today I was at a loss for what to write about… until this story showed up on Google News: Health.

The article discusses the debate started when Crossfit posted pictures of Lea-Ann Ellison, 8 and a half months pregnant, doing Olympic lifts to their Facebook. There are around 2000 comments debating the merits of Lea-Ann’s routine, but I wondered, what does science have to say?

As usually it seems there are no definitive answers. 

Before I continue, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you all that…

I am not a doctor. Take any conclusions I draw or allude to as you would from a friend, not a medical professional.

Phew, anyways. Continuing with the subject at hand…

Main Facts

  • She is 35 years old and a former body builder
  • This is her third pregnancy
  • The images were taken 2 weeks before her due date
  • She has been actively training since she was 16, and a Crossfitter for the past two and a half years.
  • Her OBGYN approved her continuing exercising, as long as she met certain guidelines, such as staying at low weights (usually using no more than 35lbs–the barbell in the picture only weighs 45), never doing lifts she did not feel totally in control of, and not “pushing to the limit” such as the style of Crossfit usually dictates.

Ellison’s claims that by staying active, she has avoided getting many of the common ailments that are common with pregnancy…

No back aches. No sciatic nerve issues. No sickness or cravings. I attribute this all to being healthy and strong. And studies show that strong fit mums have strong healthy babies. Exercise keeps weight issues down and that of course keeps diabetes rates low. Exercise also produces endorphins from the mother that get passed along to the baby. Happy mom equals happy baby.

Last note on the case for Ellison: a caller in this interview did bring up that if the pictures were of her holding a young child “who may even weigh up to 100 pounds” over her head, “no one would say a thing, it would be totally normal.”

Science Approves of Brawny Mommies…to a Point

Scholars tend to agree with Ellison, with the caveat that she doesn’t push herself too hard. It is not recommended to start Crossfit, at least in it’s usual form, during pregnancy, but many doctors believe that women who exercise on a regular basis have no reason to stop because they are expecting. (Hartmann)

The current advice accepted by the general medical community is for mothers to continue the exercises that they were doing previous to conception, but to be very aware of their level of exertion. (WebMD)

  • You should be able to speak full sentences at any time during an exercise
  • Beware of warning signs
  • Don’t try to set a PR! Keep in mind that as your pregnancy progresses, you won’t be able to do as much. Don’t try to keep up with previous times or lifts–you’re exercising for the health of you and your child, not competitively.
  • Abdominal exercises are fine to perform during pregnancy, but as with any exercise, pay attention! If it feels “weird” or uncomfortable, stop. Past the first trimester, it’s not a good idea to lie on your back, so substitute conventional abdominal exercises with modified or standing versions.

Danger Signs to Watch For

If you experience any of these while working out during your pregnancy, stop and call your doctor immediately:

  • Nausea that persists after you’ve cooled down
  • Sudden change in body temperature
  • Heart palpitations
  • Swollen calves
  • Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking –contact a health provider immediately, or go to the ER
  • Fainting
  • Sharp pains in your chest or abdomen

As always, workout smart, not hard, especially when you’re making a new person! (Babycenter)

Parting Thoughts

I’ve yet to boot up the ol’ in-unit 3D printer, but this information makes me a little less scared of it. I feel for Ellison, though I’m not sure what my opinion of her actions are. Sure, she wasn’t actually lifting that much in the picture, and the images were originally taken for a personal photo shoot. But how will a non-informed mom take this? Will she do her research and see that Ellison was careful? What about a mom with body-image issues?

What do you think of Ellison’s action?

If you’ve been pregnant, what exercise, if any, did you do?

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One thought on “Exercise During Pregnancy: a Discussion

  1. Alex L says:

    Interesting topic. I don’t have any information to weigh in, having obviously never been pregnant, but I can say that I’m a fan of the first image you used ;)

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