Summary of an article comparing pregnancy and postpartum outcomes of elite female athletes and active women.
Norwegian females pregnant within the last 5 years aged 25-40 years.
Cross-sectional study: interview and/or questionnaire
Training during pregnancy, return to training, injury, baby’s outcomes
The Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI-3), Eating Disorder Examination (EDE)
- Both groups decreased their endurance and strength training volume during pregnancy and 0-6 months postpartum, and both groups had mostly babies within a normal birth weight.
- Elite athletes had higher endurance and strength training volume before and during pregnancy and postpartum than active controls.
- 71% of elite athletes and 32% of active controls returned to sport within 6 weeks postpartum, 24% elite athletes and active controls returned between weeks 7 and 12, 6% of elite athletes 41% of active women returned to sport between 13 and 18 weeks.
- 21% of elite athletes and 27% of active controls experienced postpartum urinary incontinence.
- Four elite athletes (12%) experienced training-induced injuries during pregnancy (all in the third trimester); 12% reported stress fractures (all returned to sport within 6 weeks postpartum and breastfed).
- 0% of active controls reported training-related injuries during pregnancy or the first 9 months of postpartum.
- Elite athletes on average increased their body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness from pregnancy to postpartum. Active controls decreased their body dissatisfaction from pregnancy to postpartum.
- 26% of elite athletes and 12% of active controls experienced eating disorders.
- When compared to 6 months before pregnancy, 44% of the elite athletes reported the same performance, 26% reported decrease and 5% reported better performance in postpartum.
- 82% of active controls reported the same performance, 12% decreased performance, and 6% reported better performance.
- Elite athletes reported “time to recovery” (74%) and “having the right partner” (62%) as main factors for a successful return to sport at a high level.
Take home message
Sundgot-Borgen J, Sundgot-Borgen C, Myklebust G, Sølvberg N, Torstveit MK. Elite athletes get pregnant, have healthy babies and return to sport early postpartum. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine. 2019 Nov 1;5(1).