Over the last eight months, Serena Williams has been in the spotlight more often than normal, and it has very little to do with her tennis career. From her surprise pregnancy announcement and growing baby bump photos, to her most recent birth announcement of baby girl Alexis (congrats!), we've followed right along with Serena throughout her journey into motherhood. What's garnered even more attention in this celebrity pregnancy, however, is the focus on and curiosity over the level of exercise Serena has maintained throughout her pregnancy. The media really seems fascinated by her continuing a high level of exercise during pregnancy. But why? Let's take a look.
Historically, exercise during pregnancy has ranged somewhere between forbidden and simply not encouraged. Pregnancy was thought to be a time when people should "take it easy," stay off their feet, and certainly not overexert themselves. As information has evolved, however, we've learned that not only is exercise not dangerous for pregnant people, it is in fact, beneficial! Just this summer, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) updated their FAQs on exercise in pregnancy and stated, among other things, that while it is important to discuss exercise with your primary care provider, physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or premature birth. Further, ACOG touted the following benefits of exercise during pregnancy:
In terms of what kind and how much exercise is safe, ACOG provides a list of recommended activities for those who were not physically active prior to pregnancy and offers this advice to those who were: "If you were very active before pregnancy, you can keep doing the same workouts with your health care professional’s approval. However, if you start to lose weight, you may need to increase the number of calories that you eat." This means that Serena's famous third trimester Instagram workout videos were safely on par with her body's abilities.
What does Serena's very public pregnancy and exercise have to do with you? History shows that the more we give attention to a practice that was once off-limits because it was believed to be dangerous, the more it is normalized and becomes encouraged. Of course, we're not advocating to start an pro-tennis player level of activity at 8 months pregnant if you've strictly been walking or doing low intensity exercise like yoga throughout your pregnancy! But if you're pregnant and have been avoiding exercise out of fear or outdated information, it is worth your while to reconsider. Of course, talk with your doctor or midwife before starting any new exercise regimen (there are certain conditions that make exercise unsafe).
You can learn more about prenatal exercise with the following resources from Lamaze: