sprigs & sprogs

I s becoming a mum, good for your health?
May 27, 2010, 21:45
Filed under: Fitness, Health, Kids

It is true when you become a parent your life change radically. But don’t fear, you are still you and some things stay the same. But your outlook on life change and your priorities.

I remember that life changing moment when my first child was born. It was magical to see this new life. Still I felt like I had been run over by a bus and at the same time so physically strong I could have been superwoman. On the exterior I might not been looking my best to start with.  The amazing journey from carrying my baby for nine months until birth, gave me the chance to get to know my body better.

I have read that some female athletes say that they are performing better since having children. It’s an interesting thought… so I decided to do some research.

I found this interesting article in http://www.timesonline.co.uk ;

Sportswomen benefit from pregnancy

We may associate pregnancy with weight gain and fatigue but mothers run best

Stretch marks, weight gain and overwhelming fatigue are the side-effects of pregnancy with which most women are familiar. But for some, motherhood appears to leave the female body better able to cope with extreme physical demands than ever before. Kim Clijsters, the Belgian tennis player, became the latest elite sportswoman to add credence to the theory that, far from signalling the end of a woman’s athletic career, pregnancy can enhance her performance. Clijsters took a two-year break from tennis to give birth to her daughter but, at the US Open last week, she defied expectation to trounce Venus Williams, the No 3 seed.

She is certainly not the first high-profile athlete to discover that becoming a mother somehow spurs an already high-achieving body on to even greater things. Among those to have experienced the “‘motherhood effect” are the distance runners Paula Radcliffe and Liz McColgan and Catriona Matthew, the Scottish golfer who won this year’s women’s British Open ten weeks after giving birth. All claim that the demands of pregnancy and childbirth made them stronger of body and more wilful of mind, suggesting that in some way the rigours of the process heightened their athletic powers. But beyond the anecdotal, is there any evidence that such a boost takes place?

Medical experts are in little doubt that hormonal and other changes in pregnancy impact on physical performance during the pregnancy itself. In the first three months it is known that a woman’s body produces a natural surplus of red blood cells, the type that are rich in oxygen-carrying haemoglobin, to support the growing foetus. James Pivarnik, a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University, has studied athletes during and after pregnancy at his Human Energy Research laboratory and found there is a 60 per cent increase in blood volume and that this could improve the body’s ability to carry oxygen to the muscles by up to 30 per cent.

“This could improve aerobic capacity, enabling a woman to run, cycle or swim at a certain pace for longer,” says Greg Whyte, professor of applied sport and exercise science at Liverpool John Moores University. But there are other adaptations in the first trimester that could also make a difference: “A surge in hormones — predominantly progesterone and oestrogen, but also the male hormones including testosterone — could increase muscle strength,” Whyte says. “Increases in other hormones like relaxin, which loosens the hip joints to prepare a woman for birth, could also improve joint mobility to a beneficial degree.”

But Dr David James, a researcher in exercise physiology at the University of Gloucester’s faculty of sport, says that the effects of pregnancy on performance are notoriously difficult to study. “Neither researchers nor pregnant women are enthusiastic about participating in studies in which they could possibly endanger babies,” he says. “Consequently, there are few confirmed findings on the subject.”

But results of studies that have been published suggest childbirth is beneficial to sportswomen. A 1991 analysis of recreational runners revealed that the efficiency with which the body uses and processes oxygen increased by 7 per cent in the eight months after childbirth. And researchers reporting in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports in 1997 revealed that 11 per cent of elite endurance performers, such as cross-country skiers and runners, performed significantly better after having a baby while 61 per cent returned to compete at the same level at which they had performed before pregnancy. Dr Jorma Penttinen of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University Hospital of Kuopi in Finland, concluded that each woman’s body responds differently to pregnancy but that it is unlikely to have a negative impact on their athletic comeback.

But perhaps the greatest benefits to athletic mothers are the psychological changes that come from experiencing labour itself. Ingrid Kristiansen, the former marathon runner from Norway, confirms the hunch of many sports scientists in her belief that childbirth aided her sporting success by raising her pain threshold.

Whyte says: “Women re-evaluate where they can anchor pain and many psychologists believe that woman’s pain threshold is effectively reset so that when she resumes or takes up training again, nothing ever seems as uncomfortable.” “

If you would like to read the whole article click on the link below;


I have an example that I personally experienced. I ran a few charity fun runs before I became a mum. Interesting enough I did another one when my son was nine months old, I improved my time, although I had not been running at all. My workout at the time was “only” pram-walking.

There are a few things that do take its toll too; like this new stress; is my child ok, have I done everything I can and need to do etc. And of course the lack of sleep.

But apart from that it’s mainly positive; you are helping shaping the future through your children, you re-connect with your playful-self and most important of all you start to live in the present more. And that’s where we should be with children, right here right now. If you blink you might miss your child growing up…


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