The gender gap in sport medicine research - pregnancy, health, training and motherhood in elite athletes

There is little information about health and training in pregnant elite athletes, and there is minimal knowledge on what dose and intensity elite athletes can train at without putting themselves or their developing foetus at risk.

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Formal title

The gender gap in sport medicine research - pregnancy, health, training and motherhood in elite athletes

Formal

For most athletes, the training regimes start in the adolescent years and usually continue until the mid-30s. Hence, pregnancy and motherhood will clearly be a consideration for many athletes during their sports career. In 2015, an IOC expert group concluded that there is little information about health and training in pregnant elite athletes, and there is minimal knowledge on what dose and intensity elite athletes can train at without putting themselves or their developing foetus at risk. Today’s guidelines are therefore based mainly on research with non-athletes and less active women, and it is unlikely that data from this research can be generalized to highly fit elite athletes who have spent years preparing for competition by participating in high levels of training . Thus, sport physicians and health professionals provide advice and recommendations which are based on very few studies and conservative assumptions.

The primary aim of this project is to explore the acute effect of performing high-intensity interval training (treadmill running, stationary bicycling and heavy load resistance exercise) on maternal and foetal health in pregnant elite athletes and frequent exercisers. The secondary aim is to assess elite athletes’ experiences of pregnancy and return to sport, including maternal and foetal health aspects, sport performances, and practical challenges.

Description

Part 1 of the project will be an experimental study to investigate foetal and maternal physiological responses to submaximal (endurance) and maximal (strength) exercise testing in elite athletes and frequent exercisers.

Part 2 will be a large-scale longitudinal cohort study of elite athletes’ experiences of pregnancy, health aspects, pregnancy complaints, medical conditions, sport performance, birth and foetal outcomes.