October 26, 2009 in Features

Pregnancy strengthens women


When most moms think of pregnancy, they have memories of food cravings, weight gain, fatigue, maybe stretch marks and bloated ankles.

As much as I loved being pregnant and feeling my baby kick in my womb, there were also moments toward the end when it became so uncomfortable that waiting for birth felt like an eternity. (The 50-pound weight gain certainly didn’t help.)

The experience, I think, makes us tougher in the end. Talking to other moms about pre- and post-pregnancy bodies, I’m becoming convinced that the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth actually make us stronger – not just emotionally and mentally, but also physically.

A recent article from the Times in the United Kingdom explored this theory and found that for some women who already exercise and play sports, “motherhood appears to leave the female body better able to cope with extreme physical demands than ever before.”

Medical experts interviewed pointed to several factors: a surplus of red blood cells that are rich in oxygen-carrying hemoglobin during the first three months of pregnancy; an increase in blood volume, which improves the body’s ability to carry oxygen; and also a surge in hormones – more testosterone could increase muscle strength while relaxin, which loosens the hip joints for birth, could improve joint mobility.

The biggest benefit for some, however, is psychological. The article used the example of Norwegian marathon runner Ingrid Kristiansen, who said the experience of giving birth raised her tolerance for pain and therefore made her a better athlete.

Moms: What was your experience? Was it tough to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight or did pregnancy and childbirth make you physically stronger? I’m also curious about how breastfeeding might have affected your performance during sports and exercise.

– Posted by Virginia de Leon

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