Does Pregnancy Make You Tougher?
Is there any truth to the notion that female athletes achieve higher performance levels after having children? The idea first came from reported stories about European athletes in the early 20th century who would intentionally get pregnant in order to boost their performance. Despite limited studies, there are many anecdotal stories from athletes themselves supporting this idea.
From a physiological standpoint, there is some truth to this idea, as many of the changes happening to a pregnant woman’s body, including an elevated heart rate and an increase in her blood volume, mimics what normally happens when a non-pregnant person trains consistently over a period of time. However, it remains to be seen whether some of the reported improvements (observed most often with elite athletes) are more directly linked to how soon a woman returns to training postpartum and her accessibility to certain resources, such as a coach, personal trainer or physiotherapist. Many women do report feeling mentally stronger after giving birth, which ultimately can also lead to better performances. “I feel mentally stronger from childbirth and balancing my time between training, racing and family,” explains Kabush. The bottom line is that while achieving personal bests after giving birth is a possibility, it is not a guarantee. Jennifer Faraone is an age group world champion duathlete and coach. Together with Carol Ann Weis she wrote The Pregnant Athlete Within, due out in 2014.