Is Soccer a Safe Sport During Pregnancy?

Alexandra Powell Allred's picture

QUESTION

Dear Fitness Expert,
Hi. I just started up another season of soccer and am 5 weeks pregnant. It's a recreational league. What are your thoughts?

Thanks,
Ellen

ANSWER

Without knowing much of your background, let's lay some ground rules.

If you have been playing for some time and are already conditioned to the sport of indoor or recreational soccer and if your OB/GYN and primary physician have given you the green light (this is important because we don't know if you have other medical issues to be factored in) and if you feel strong...here are my thoughts.

You go, girl! BUT...ah, there are usually many buts involved. A few things must be considered and you must tell you coach so that you can be rotated frequently.

Inner core temperature. This is an important topic. As your body heat spikes, your inner core temperature rises, leaving the baby no way to sweat. Your baby cannot sweat AND your baby's own body temperature is one degree Celsius hotter than your own. Therefore, you should not allow your body temperature to go above 101 degree F.

So... you're wondering, how will I know. The biggest mistake athletes make is thinking, "Well, I'll know when I get really hot." Not so. Particularly in sports like kickboxing, soccer, basketball... where sprint work and sudden burst of energy are required. This spikes your inner core temperature and there is no way for you to know exactly how hot you are until you are officially beyond the point of safety.

  1. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, not just during the sporting event.
  2. Carry with you a rectal thermometer. I know, I know... you're thinking, "Icky" and your baby is thinking, "Whew! She's going to find out how hot it is in here!" Dash off behind the bleachers, in the trees, in the bathroom, in a car... where ever you can go to check your inner core temp. It's not very pleasant but it is the best way to ensure the safety of your baby. What's more important than that? Within a one hour event, you should check yourself twice.
  3. Watch your sprints. You will frequently read that your heart rate should not go beyond 140 beats per minute. This is torture for women who are athletes. The reality is this -- You may exceed 140 bets per minute, however, you may not stay above 150-160 beats per minute for more than a minute. Translation: You can have your break away with the ball, run it down the field, shoot and score! Then, you need full recovery. As long as you allow yourself recovery time, you should be fine. The danger is keeping your heart rate elevated for prolonged periods of time.

I want to recommend getting a copy of Entering the Mother Zone (which can be achieved through Pregnancy.org). The book profiles athletes from all walks of life, even US soccer stud Joy Fawcett, who talk about how they trained, what they did, ate, drank and recovered from sport. Its a great resource for the pregnant athlete.Finally, let's talk about how physical the game of soccer can be. We can keep you hydrated, get you to carry and use a rectal thermometer, check your heart rate, heat index and overall strength. We can't estimate the jerk who is going to slam into you, knock you down and steal the ball. This must be your decision. Talk to your teammates and coach and ask them how they feel about you playing...Let us know what you decide. IF you play... we want pictures!

Good luck.

-- Alex