Moderate-intensity activities like pickleball are safe during pregnancy. In fact, doctors recommend aerobic exercises like pickleball for pregnant women. If you're looking to play pickleball or do other exercises during pregnancy, consult with your doctor before and during the process.
Can you play pickleball while pregnant?
Yes, pregnant women can play pickleball. Since pickleball is a relatively new sport, there is academic research available specifically covering pregnancy and pickleball. However, there is a good amount of guidance around continuing to play tennis during the different stages of pregnancy. Due to the similarities between the sports, the advice for tennis can be used for pickleball.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) says it is safe for pregnant women to continue physical activity, including sports such as tennis, during their pregnancy.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) backs up this conclusion. They quote Doctor Alejandro Landa’s advice:
“What I tell most of my patients is don’t start anything new during your pregnancy that you weren’t doing before,” Landa says. “If you’re used to playing tennis multiple times every week, that’s fine to keep doing.”‘
If you do play pickleball during pregnancy, make sure to speak to your gynecologist or obstetrician about it, and continue to have regular check-ins as your pregnancy progresses.
Benefits of playing pickleball when you’re pregnant
In the past, pregnant women were advised not to exercise. That conclusion has now been thoroughly debunked.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (ACOG) recommends exercise during pregnancy:
‘Ideally, pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. An aerobic activity is one in which you move large muscles of the body (like those in the legs and arms) in a rhythmic way. Moderate intensity means you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating. You still can talk normally, but you cannot sing. Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity include brisk walking and general gardening (raking, weeding, or digging).’
Pickleball falls nicely into this category. Contact sports are advised against, but pickleball, like tennis, is a low-impact, non-contact game that pregnant women can enjoy safely.
In fact, it is arguably safer than tennis, as the pickleball ball moves less quickly than a tennis ball, meaning less chance of a strike to the bump.
There are several health benefits to exercise during pregnancy, including:
- Reduction of back pain
- Decreased risk of gestational diabetes
- Controlling healthy weight gain
- Improvement of overall fitness
- Speeds up recovery and return to fitness post-pregnancy
Exercise has also proven to be extremely beneficial to mental health and well-being. During pregnancy, a time that can be scary and stressful, this can be a crucial factor in maintaining your mental health.
Even the pros play while pregnant
For an example of someone who kept on playing racquet sports to the highest level while pregnant, look no further than the accomplished pro tennis player Serena Williams.
Williams has won every tournament under the sun, including the Grand Slams (US Open, Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the French Open). Perhaps her most incredible achievement was winning her record-breaking 23rd singles grand slam title at the Australian Open in 2017 – while 20 weeks pregnant!
For many women, exercise while pregnant is simply too much to bear. However, if you’re desperate to get back out on the pickleball court during your pregnancy, use Serena as an inspiration.
When should pregnant women stop playing pickleball?
Some women will be able to safely and comfortably exercise until birth, while many others will need to stop during the third trimester.
The only way to be sure when to stop playing pickleball is to consult regularly with your healthcare provider.
If you experience any of the following symptoms when playing pickleball, you should stop exercising immediately and consult with an obstetrician/gynecologist:
- Bleeding from the vagina
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Shortness of breath before starting exercise
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
- Fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina
Risks of playing pickleball while pregnant
Pickleball is a great, low-risk physical activity for pregnant women. But that doesn’t mean it’s risk-free. A few risks to be aware of are:
- Being struck on the belly: Pregnant women should take all precautions to avoid getting struck on the belly, especially during the second and third trimesters. Luckily, pickleball balls are light and don’t move as fast as tennis balls, meaning the risk is low.
- Risk of falling: Something else to be aware of is that during pregnancy, your center of gravity changes dramatically. This makes quick movements difficult to execute safely, as they can lead to falls. Falling on the belly can be dangerous during pregnancy. Make sure to play within your limits. Losing a point is not worth your health and safety.
- Overheating: Pregnant woman have a naturally higher body temperature. They overheat and sweat much more quickly than usual and may require more breaks to maintain a consistent body temperature. This is no reason not to exercise, but it does mean it’s important to avoid pushing too hard.
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