Obstetrics and Gynaecology Parenting Wellbeing & Fitness

Serena Williams is Pregnant – will Playing Sport Endanger her Baby?

Medical specialist comments provided by Mr Mahantesh Karoshi to Doctify

It was congratulations all round for top tennis player Serena Williams recently when she announced her pregnancy. She is expecting with fiancé (and Reddit co-founder) Alexis Ohanian. At 35 years old, she is 20 weeks pregnant.

With 22 major singles titles and 16 doubles under her belt, Williams is widely considered one of the best tennis players in existence. Unfortunately for tennis fans however, she will no longer be taking part in any 2017 tournaments due to her pregnancy.

This news has ignited the conversation about the dangers of exercising while pregnant. Is Serena planning on competing again after her baby is born? If so, how safe will it be for her and her unborn child to participate in the high intensity training needed to keep in shape during her pregnancy?

We spoke to Doctify Obstetrician & Gynaecologist Mr Karoshi about the health considerations for top athletes and their unborn children.

What are the effects of exercise on a foetus?

“Maternal exercise (regardless of its intensity) will trigger an increase in the baby’s heart rate. There are several scientific reports showing abnormal heart rate recordings of babies while a mother is doing strenuous exercise.”

Mr Karoshi further states that a very high heart rate in a mother can result in a dangerously low heart rate in her unborn baby.

“In another report, the baby’s heart rate was found to be reduced during and immediately after high intensity exercise. Once the elite athletes reached 90% or more of their maximal heart rate, an abnormally slow heart rate was found in the baby. For example, if Serena’s resting heart rate is 70 per minute she needs to be careful not to go beyond a rate of 133 per minute. This will compromise baby’s wellbeing.”

Such exercise can also affect placental blood flow and impair the baby’s growth. “There is a theoretical concern that regular strenuous exercise during pregnancy can result in a transitional reshuffling of the placental blood flow to the exercising muscles. The danger of these repeated activities may impair foetal growth.”

In other words, “Serena should be cautious of being involved in regular strenuous sporting activities”Mr Karoshi concludes.  “Especially from 28 weeks as it may cause growth restriction of the baby.”

No doubt Serena has top medical specialists advising her on this topic. We wish you all the best for your pregnancy, Serena!

If you have concerns regarding pregnancy and exercise, book with top Obstetrician & Gynaecologist Mr Karoshi below.

Book an appointment with Mr Karoshi