A review of the literature demonstrates continued exercise during pregnancy appears to be safe for both the mother and their baby – and does not increase the risk of pre-term labour. There is however a general lack of evidence relating to the effects of exercise, especially training at an elite level, on a pregnant player and their unborn child.
Premature delivery (birth of a live born infant prior to 37 weeks gestation), is associated with a high rate of newborn death and morbidity. The rates of pre-term labour are increasing, partly due to medical advances allowing difficult pregnancies to continue further than before. Other factors are debated in the literature, and it has been suggested that ongoing physical activity during pregnancy may contribute.
Multiple observational and randomised control trials were reviewed in the IOC consensus statement for exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes looking at the effects of exercise on pre-term birth rates. The evidence consistently showed low to no change to a woman’s risk of pre-term delivery with moderate to strenuous exercise during pregnancy. No studies have looked at this in elite athletes.
Footballers may wish to continue to maintain fitness levels during pregnancy to allow an earlier return to conditioning and play post-partum. This review is reassuring for those who are comfortable exercising while pregnant to maintain activity levels with no risk of pre-term birth.
Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 2—the effect of exercise on the fetus, labour and birth
Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R, et al
Br J Sports Med 2016;50:1297-1305.