Stretchy pants, mood swings, and insane food cravings are what most people think about when they hear the word pregnancy. Some women view pregnancy as the nine-month-eat-all-you-can vacation, some continue strenuous work-outs to the motto “no pain, no gain”. When you mention pregnancy and BJJ in the same sentence, emotions flare, and discussions get heated. Some support pregnant women in jiu-jitsu, and some are completely against it. Sophia Drysdale, and bloggers Meg and Ana have written extensively about training during, and after pregnancy. Black belt Emily Kwok also had a positive experience training, and teaching while pregnant with her first child. To train or not to train is a personal choice which should be respected.
When Melanie from Vancouver, BC, sent us a picture of her growing baby bump in the gi, we asked her to share her story. She is 31 weeks pregnant with her fourth child, and writes a two-part article about how training has been possible for her*.
I must admit, when I first saw the double line on my pregnancy test that I had just taken in the bathroom at Starbucks, I nearly fainted. Selfishly, my first thought was, but I just got back to jiu-jitsu! Seriously, after three kids in four years, and five and a half years away from BJJ, I was just beginning to get my groove back. I thought I was going to have to quit cold turkey again, and that was going to be the end of it. No more jiu-jitsu for Mel ever, ever again. During my first pregnancy I had no idea that pregnant women could do anything other than swim, walk, and go to special mommy-to-be yoga classes.
My second thought was, FOUR KIDS! What the heck was I thinking! Hey, big families totally rock. Just think of the little jiu-jitsu clan I will have on my hands in the next few years. I just never pictured myself as a mom of so many. Not long after I met with my awesome midwives, and I was fully prepared for them to shoot me down, and tell me that I was crazy for even wanting to continue with jiu-jitsu. I tried to prepare my thoughts, how I would try to argue my thinking, my rationalizing.
However, they totally surprised me, and told me that I should just listen to my body, and continue within reason for as long as I was able to. Um. What? Mind blown. Listen to my body? They reassured me that my body was used to the intense training, the drills, and the movements. It would be entirely different if all of a sudden at four weeks pregnant I decided to start running marathons or something completely brand new. My body was used to jiu-jitsu, it was part of me. They reassured me that I was low risk since I had no previous injuries, and that the baby was fully protected inside my body. I could continue for the time being, and we could always re-evaluate as needed at my regular midwifery visits.
Next I talked to my main coach. He laughed at me at first, but then told me he supported me 100%, and would help me continue training for as long as I could. Another score! I was so afraid that he would tell me I was a hazard to the club. You know how your mind just always jumps to the worst conclusions first. With a big sigh of relief began googling pregnant jiu-jitsu girls, and started to feel less nervous, and upset about being pregnant. I know this makes me sound completely selfish.
However, if you are like me, jiu-jitsu is your outlet. Especially after becoming a mother, and feeling like you have to re-discover who you are all over again. It is your time to re-charge, to feel human again, to be a better human again, and to de-stress. It is your time to think about the moves, and where your body should be next. There is no drama on the mats. Jiu-jitsu doesn’t care if you have one baby or four. Turns out a lot of women train during their pregnancies, so I wasn’t so awful for wanting to continue. Here is an article about an awesome running mom, and here’s one about Alysia Montano competing at 34 weeks pregnant.
My first trimester was rocky but not awful. I actually found that I felt better when I went to class. I could go from being dead tired, and feeling nauseous to energetic, and happy within minutes of my feet touching the mats. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is magic, I tell you, magic! I found that my body was just as capable as before. Pregnancy actually has relaxed my muscles, and increased my flexibility! The only thing that I found especially challenging in the first trimester, and into the second one was the shortness of breath. When I was rolling, and my training partner’s gi was covering my face, I could not breathe, and I felt panicky. I had to tap or just stop.
Breathing during pregnancy is affected due to the increase of progesterone, which may make it feel as if you are working harder than usual to get air. In my case, I found this to be the case times 1000. It is important to remember that even though your baby bump may not be showing yet, your uterus is becoming bigger. It takes up more space, and creates pressure against your diaphragm. I tried to keep calm, wear looser fitting tanks, and sports bras under the gi, and breathe deeply.
*Training jiu-jitsu while pregnant is not for everyone, please contact your doctor to discuss your work-out plan.