Objectives To enhance knowledge on pregnancy and return to sport in the postpartum period in elite female athletes.
Methods 34 Norwegian elite athletes (33.1 years) and 34 active controls (31.5 years) were asked about training and competitive history, pregnancy-related issues, injuries, body dissatisfaction (BD), drive for thinness (DT), eating disorders (ED) and practical experiences, through a questionnaire and interview. Independent samples T-tests or χ² tests for between-group differences and paired-samples T-tests and repeated measures analysis of variance for within group differences were used.
Results No group differences in fertility problems, miscarriage, preterm birth or low birth weight were found. Both groups decreased training volume all trimesters and the first two postpartum periods compared with prepregnancy, and more athletes returned to sport/exercise at week 0–6 postpartum. We found no group differences in complications during pregnancy and delivery, but athletes reported fewer common complaints. Four athletes experienced stress fracture postpartum. Athletes had higher BD and DT postpartum, while controls reduced DT score. Number of athletes with clinical ED was reduced postpartum, while constant in controls. Athletes were not satisfied with advice related to strength training and nutrition during pregnancy.
Conclusion Elite athletes and active controls get pregnant easily, deliver healthy babies and decrease training during pregnancy and the first postpartum periods compared with prepregnancy. Most athletes and every third control returned to sport or exercise at week 0–6 postpartum. Athletes report stress fractures and increased BD and DT, but decreased ED postpartum. However, since relatively few athletes were included these findings need further investigation.
- eating disorders
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Contributors This study is a multidisciplinary cooperation between experts in exercise medicine from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and the University of Agder. JS-B generated the original research idea, in collaboration with MKT, GM, CS-B and NS. JS-B, GM, MKT and CS-B developed the questionnaire package and CS-B recruited participants. CS-B and NS were responsible for the statistical analyses and JS-B for the interviews. JS-B wrote the main manuscript with assistance from all the other authors. All authors have approved the final manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request.
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