This is the first in a two part series on pregnancy and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, based on an interview with Rosi Sexton. Read Part 2
2002 saw a shift in the medical community’s views on exercise and pregnancy. In that year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) released new guidelines, which emphasised a positive role for exercise in pregnancy; while pregnancy is a time when behaviour may need modification, older notions that pregnancy necessitates little activity have been thoroughly revised. Today’s wisdom suggests that while there are types of activity that should be avoided, for a normal pregnancy, there is a important role for exercise to play. With this in mind, I sat down with Rosi Sexton, BJJ brown belt, world class MMA fighter, competitor at the 2011 ADCC and mother to discuss her experience of training through pregnancy.
Pregnancy and Exercise
Its not a question of playing it safe and just putting your feet up for 9 months, and I don’t think that is the safe option. I strongly believe that that can have more negative repercussions than staying active in the right way. Obviously you need the information to be able to do that safely.
In 2004, when Rosi undertook her own investigation into how to train safely while pregnant, information was thin on the ground apart from James F Clapp’s Exercising Through Your Pregnancy which encapsulated the newer thinking around exercise in pregnancy. UK readers can find Clapp’s book here and US readers should go here. While a comparative wealth of evidenced-based work has been undertaken on diet and pregnancy, it is more recently that a body of work has emerged around pregnancy and exercise; a 2005 study concluded that physically active women had significantly reduced chances of gestational diabetes or preecalmpsia as compared with nonactive women, while a 2011 study with pregnant mice concluded that activity during pregnancy can provide protection against Alzheimer in offspring. While there is mounting evidence for the importance of exercise during pregnancy, a 2011 study of Olympic level athletes suggests that intense training (at a 9 out of 10 level of perceived exertion) can have negative effects. Importantly too, for grappling women, current guidelines advise against activity where one lies on her back, which has clear implications for what positions a pregnant BJJ woman may wish to drill.
In sum, for a normal pregnancy, the evidence increasingly suggests that exercise – within certain parameters – is positive and healthful, and if you were an active woman before pregnancy it may be advisable, in Rosi’s words: ‘As much as possible, maintain the lifestyle that you’re used to’. But what about grappling?! Surely that is a whole different consideration than simply staying active.
The content of this article is not meant as medical advice or as a replacement for seeking medical advice regarding pregnancy and exercise or pregnancy and BJJ. Pregnany women should consult their physician before embarking on an exercise regime.