Is it Selfish to Exercise While Pregnant?

Thirty five year old and professional weightlifter, Lea-Ann Ellison, caused a major hoo-ha in cyberspace early this month, when photos of herself lifting weights were posted on Facebook. One visitor went as far as saying it’s the ‘most disgusting photo I’ve ever seen in a long time’, and another called her ‘selfish’ and ‘a disgrace.’ But what kind of photos had created this outrage? It’s of heavily pregnant Lea-Ann lifting heavy weights just two weeks before her due date.

Although, Ms Ellison received lots of positive feedback over her fitness, many were quite forthcoming with their criticism. One Facebook user accused Ms Ellison of being selfish and endangering her baby for her own personal gain, while another cautioned that lifting heavy objects whilst pregnant can break the placenta, cause major damage, which can result to miscarriage or early labour.

Ms Ellison is not the first woman to be criticised for doing, what others deemed as extreme exercise, whilst pregnant. In 2012, glamour model and amateur athlete, Neil MacAndrew, was also criticised for running in the marathon whilst pregnant.

The backlash pregnant women received, when doing extreme exercise, reveals that many people still believed in the myth that pregnant women should put their feet up and rest; and that exercise can damage the unborn baby or cause a miscarriage.

Obviously, it is senseless to start strenuous exercise when pregnant if you are not used to it, but it is important for pregnant women to exercise. Medical professionals actively encourage women to be physically active during pregnancy. The NHS recommends that pregnant women keep up with their normal routine for as long as they feel comfortable, and that includes running and other sports.

Personally, I know the difference that exercise makes in pregnancy. When I was pregnant with my first born, I exercised until my due date. I may not be lifting 35lbs of weight, but I was on the cross-trainer and the swimming pool daily. As a result, I didn’t gain excess weight, my labour only lasted 5 hours, no need for any pain relief, and my daughter was fit and healthy. Fast-forward four years; I was pregnant with my second baby. I wasn’t exercising much and I wasn’t fit. By 7 months, I was very big and my legs were swollen. And delivery was difficult. After 10 hours of labour, trying all the pain relief available, I ended up on the operating table.

Just coincidence? I don’t think so. Fitness makes a difference during pregnancy and delivery.

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