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Guidelines on physical activity or exercise and pregnancy encourage pregnant women to continue or adopt an active lifestyle during and following pregnancy.1–3 Two systematic reviews of pregnancy-related guidelines on physical activity found similarities between recommendations from different countries, but noted that the guidelines differed in focus.4 ,5 The guidelines provided variable guidance on prenatal exercise, or on how pregnant women might approach continuing or adopting sport activities.6 However, most guidelines did not include important topics such as prevalence and known risk factors for common pregnancy-related diseases and complaints, and the role of exercise in preventing and treating them.
Importantly, the focus of most previous guidelines has been on healthy pregnant women in the general population, in whom there is almost always a decline in physical activity during pregnancy.7 ,8 Indeed, a high proportion of pregnant women follow neither physical activity nor exercise guidelines,9 putting them at increased risk of obesity, gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), and other pregnancy-related diseases and complaints.1
On the other hand, there are enthusiastic exercisers and elite athletes who often meet and exceed general exercise recommendations for pregnant women, but there are no exercise guidelines specifically for these women. Important questions for such women are unanswered in current guidelines: Which activities, exercises and sports can they perform, for how long and at what intensity, without risking their own health and the health of the fetus? How soon can they return to high-intensity training and competition after childbirth?
The IOC and most National Sports Federations encourage women to participate in all Olympic sport disciplines. The IOC promotes high-level performance, and it is also strongly committed to promoting lifelong health among athletes10—not just during their competitive sporting careers. With an increasing number of elite female athletes competing well into …
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