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This is Part 3 in the series of reviews from the IOC expert committee on exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes. Part 1 focused on the effects of training during pregnancy and on the management of common pregnancy-related complaints experienced by athletes1; Part 2 addressed maternal and fetal perinatal outcomes.2 In this part, we review the implications of pregnancy and childbirth on return to exercise and on common illnesses and complaints in the postpartum period.
The postpartum period can be divided into hospital-based (during hospital stay), immediate postpartum (hospital discharge to 6 weeks postpartum) and later postpartum (6 weeks to 1 year, corresponding sometimes to cessation of breast feeding).3 In the literature, the postpartum period is usually defined as the first 6 weeks after pregnancy, during which time women have not typically been encouraged to exercise, except for strength training of the pelvic floor muscles. However, 6 weeks is an arbitrary time point and, anecdotally, many elite athletes report starting exercise inside that period. For the purpose of the present review, we consider the postpartum period to be up to 12 months following birth.
The aims of this paper are to present (1) the findings from a systematic review of the scientific literature on factors related to returning to exercise after childbirth in recreational and elite athletes, and (2) the prevalence, risk factors and evidence for prevention and treatment of common postpartum conditions that may affect sport performance and overall quality of life.
For each section of the document, a search strategy was performed using search terms such as ‘pregnancy’ OR ‘pregnant’ OR ‘postpartum’ AND ‘exercise’ OR ‘physical activity’ OR ‘leisure activity’ OR ‘leisure’ OR ‘recreation’ OR ‘recreational activity’ OR ‘physical fitness’ OR occupational activity’ AND terms related to the condition under study (eg, ‘pelvic …
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