View Full Version : Aikido and pregnancy

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05-29-2009, 11:38 AM
I'm not currently pregnant, but my husband and I will be trying in the next year or so.

I'd like to keep training as much as possible if and when I get pregnant, but I also want to be safe. Can anyone provide their perspectives on what I "can" and "cannot" do during different stages of pregnancy? Also, is there something that I can do to supplement my aikido training when I can no longer train on the mat (say, water aerobics or stretching or some such)?

I know that my life will be changing pretty radically when kids come into the picture, but want to do my best to keep aikido in my life before, during and after my (eventual) pregnancy.

This is a question I'm going to ask at my dojo as well, but I'm the only female training right now and I'm also looking for a broader perspective (female and male).

05-29-2009, 12:15 PM
I just wrote up a long message and somehow it disappeared before posting, so this is take two:

There are two things to consider when discussing pregnancy and any exercise regimen. First: how will your old regimen adapt to the massive physiological changes you will be going through? Secondly, is there any risk of trauma or complications with the fetus as related to your exercise program (aikido or otherwise)?

As far as the first goes, that's something best discussed with your Obstetrician or Nurse Midwife, as they will best be able to provide you with the necessary education as you progress and come to term. As far as the latter, consider: with the knowledge that you are pregnant, would you be willing to take a front breakfall? To work mune-tsuki attacks? I would imagine no.

I know my teachers have recommended water aerobics and stationary bikes as good exercise alternatives during pregnancy. Walking is also great, but be sure to get very comfortable shoes for the additional weight and stress you will be putting on your joints, and remember that a lot of women get swelling in their feet, especially as they enter their third trimester. In general, exercising while pregnant is wonderful to keep your level of weight gain from becoming excessive, but your OB or CNM is likely to recommend that you don't push yourself with your exercise. Remember that your body will be going through a huge change: constant physiological exhaustion could be harmful to both you and your baby.

Fortunately, there's always plenty to do at an aikido class. Stretching, ki-no-taiso, light tumbling at the beginning of your pregnancy (as recommended by your healthcare provider), weapons work, etc. While you'll want to avoid anything too strenuous or stressful, just putting your gi on and doing what you can could help you maintain a feeling of closeness with your dohai and your art.

Assuming you have no complications with your delivery (which we all hope you will not), I imagine your Healthcare Provider will recommend that you begin exercise as soon as you feel comfortable doing so, as you can tolerate it. It's important to remember, however, that no matter how much you exercise during your pregnancy, you are going to gain some weight and your level of fitness will likely not be what it once was, so don't be discouraged if you can't jump immediately back into training as hard as you used to.

Good luck on becoming a mother, and let me know if you have any more questions!

Student Nurse (currently on OB rotation, actually)
Medical University of South Carolin

Marie Noelle Fequiere
05-29-2009, 12:42 PM
Congratulations in advance to both you and your husband, Carolyn. Of course, you will send us pictures of the baby.
Now, I found Nick's answer extremely useful, and I think that he pretty much gave you all the information that you need. I just wanted to point to a specific danger in Aikido that does not exist in most other martial arts: projections. A fellow student once crashed into me one day. I'm not pregnant, but he did slam into my bad knee, and it hurt. I think that there will be moments when it will be not safe for you to be on the mat. Weapon classes should be less dangerous, but I did get wacked more than once by a stray bokken wielded by member of a team training next to me.
Now that you got me into thinking of it, no one is totally safe anywhere, pregnant or not.
Look, just be careful.
And don't forget the pictures.;)

05-29-2009, 04:00 PM
I know at least two or three girls did 2-3 times a week aikido until 8th month. They were I think 1 or 2 nd kyu at that time.No high flying breakfalls, only quiet forward and backward rolls.

Everybody in the dojo was aware and was very careful.If I remember well from 7th month no more forward rolls.
A month after delivery there were already on the tatami again.

05-29-2009, 04:11 PM
I know at least two or three girls did 2-3 times a week aikido until 8th month.

If they're pregnant, one hopes they're not girls.

05-29-2009, 04:42 PM
The pregnant ladies on the mat I have seen all stopped training because it didnt feel right anymore way before their pregnancy became a hinderance in their training.

This kind of lead me to believe that no matter what kind of fancy ideas we have about it, in the end the mother (to be) will do what she feels is right.

I hope your life will soon be filled with the sound of little feet

06-11-2009, 11:53 AM
Thanks for all the advice and perspectives, everyone. This is exactly what I was looking for: Multiple perspectives about what people have done in their own lives, or have seen friends and family members do.

Sorry for the late response, I was out at my first aikido summer camp.

Yes, I'll also be talking with my OB GYN about this to get her perspective and advice.

Amir Krause
06-14-2009, 03:47 AM
I am not an expert! And as time comes, you should consult with one.

We have a women trainee who kept practicing until a few days before the birth, twice, and she did not have problems. She did tell Sensei rather early and change her regime: almost no breakfalls at all, no contact to the stomach, and as the pregnancy progressed - much lower level of straining (= none).

Not sure this is the kind of things in which all are the same. I rather believe the opposite is true. Age, pregnancy type (high risk / twins / ...) and lots of other things, might decide things for you, at any stage.

I would comment that expecting matrimony not to affect your practice is not realistic. My twin girls are 1 year 4 months old and I am still more of guest then a constant practitioner at the dojo. Sickness, lack of sleep and many other reasons appear rather often and prevent me from going to train (and I am the father).

Good luck

Walter Martindale
06-14-2009, 04:25 PM
According to John Ratey in SPARK (it's on amazon) exercising well into pregnancy will have positive effects on both mother and baby, effects that last long after birth - kids more intelligent, healthier than if mum wraps herself in cotton wool and hides away. Mum's back in the real world more quickly after the birth, and post-birth exercise also combats post-partum depression. Has something to do with "brain derived neurotropic factor" that your body makes when you exercise - stimulates brain growth in both the mum and the fetus...
Note: I'm not making this up, merely citing an author. I'm not pregnant nor do I ever expect to be so... 8-)

06-14-2009, 04:53 PM
I trained with at least two of the pregnant women that Szczepan remembers. We were all very gentle with them. However, my wife has always completely ruled out training while pregnant. She can not tolerate the thought of anyone sending a strike towards her pregnant belly, even in a controlled, low intensity setting.

The breaks have certainly slowed her progression. However, she has always come back to the dojo after giving birth, and both our children spent time at the edge of the mat before they were old enough to be babysat (both were exclusively breast fed). The third is due any day now, so it looks like we will be at it again.

06-15-2009, 08:24 AM
I quit practicing while pregnant. I was nikkyu at the time and fairly competent at protecting myself, but it just didn't "feel" right to practice (neither did jogging). Went back when my son was a few months old with no problems other than childcare.

I just chatted with a woman who has two kids and she practiced with both up until the 6th month or so, no breakfalls. Each person has to judge for herself how it feels and whether there are issues with rolling.

Best, Rachel

Elisabeth Groeneveld
06-15-2009, 07:49 PM
I've been training in aikido since 2001, with four pauses, one for a fractured vertebrae (aikido injury) and three for pregnancies. I'm married to Jonathan Olson, and am the only mom who trains at our dojo.

Concerning the safety of exercise during pregnancy, high impact or intense exercise in early pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage. Here is a news article on a fairly recent large-scale study done in Denmark on exercise during pregnancy. I suggest that you read the actual study, it will help put the results in perspective.

Heavy exercise miscarriage link (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7014828.stm)

Strenuous exercise early in pregnancy could triple the risk of miscarriage, according to Danish researchers.
The research found jogging, ball games and racket sports all increased the risk - as did more than seven hours of exercise a week. The study was carried out at the University of Southern Denmark, who quizzed more than 90,000 women on their exercise regime, then linked the answers to the outcome of their pregnancies. Compared with those who did no exercise at all, women who played "high-impact" sports or who exercised for more than seven hours a week were approximately three-and-a-half times more likely to miscarry. Miscarriage is far rarer later in pregnancy, and after the 18-week mark, the link between exercise and miscarriage disappeared."

Here is how maternity and aikido have worked for me:

While trying to conceive I trained but did not take breakfalls. Once pregnant I stopped training in aikido altogether. It is possible to train while pregnant, but for me, the risk of accidental injury was too high.
Even if you say "no breakfalls", sometimes you have no option but to take a breakfall to protect yourself because of a momentarily thoughtless nage. This happened a few times while training when we were trying to conceive. Had I been pregnant the embryo could have been damaged or killed (there's always at least two weeks between conception and a positive pregnancy test when you don't yet know that you are pregnant).
You could have an unfortuante collision, or someone could land on you - I've had two female aikido friends injured this way, though not while pregnant
The thought of someone throwing a punch towards my stomach, even in slow motion training, was unbearable to me.
I had very bad morning sickness, and could not have trained without throwing up from the sweaty gi smell.
Joint injuries are more likely while pregnant. Your body produces relaxin which loosens your ligaments in preparation for birth.
Finally, I think that it puts unfair pressure on your dojo mates to practise while pregnant - if they make a mistake with you, it could cost you your pregnancy.

First pregnancy: I continued exercising until the very end - prenatal yoga and cross-country skiing. Labour lasted 7 hours (very short for a first baby). I resumed training 5 weeks post-partum.

Second pregnancy: Exercise just felt wrong - it hurt and gave me contractions. I went into preterm labour, was hospitalized and put on strict bedrest from weeks 30 to 37. I gave birth at home to a huge healthy baby at 40 weeks, labour only lasted 1 hour 10 minutes even though physically I was weak from bedrest. I resumed training 3 months post-partum.

Third pregnancy (due date 22 June): On bedrest again from weeks 20 to 37. I just got off of bedrest and am very weak physically (except for my uterus which has been through 1000's of contractions in the last few months...) I obviously would have preferred to stay active, as labour is demanding physically. When I start training again (probably in September), we'll hire a sitter for the older two, and park the newborn by the tatami. It's easy to breastfeed a newborn while wearing a gi on the side of the tatami, though being pinned chest down is uncomfortable during training. I usually manage 2-3 classes per week while on maternity leave, then maybe 1-2 classes per week once I go back to work (after a year).

Best wishes with your family project and training. Children are wonderful.

06-16-2009, 06:58 PM
Elisabeth forgot to mention one way that she contributed to training at our dojo while pregnant. She made it possible for me to continue my training. Her support, patience and understanding cannot be overstated. I even made it to a seminar while she was on bedrest this spring. This won't be forgotten when it will be my turn to stay home and watch the kids so that she can go out and train.

Eva Antonia
06-17-2009, 02:27 AM
Dear Elisabeth,

that was a great contribution you wrote there!
I started aikido after having my four kids, but I always wondered if I would have had the discipline to interrupt training for the safety of the pregnancy (very hypothetical to think about in retrospoective). Your narrative makes me see the issue a bit clearer, thanks a lot!

Best regards,


Elisabeth Groeneveld
07-16-2009, 10:48 AM
As a follow up to my previous post...

Emerick Jan Peter Olson was born at home on June 24th, 2009, weighing 8 lbs 11 oz and measuring 20".

A funny note about uses of aikido techniques to help with labour: Towards the end of this intense labour I paced back and forth clutching my husband's arms - master bedroom - hall- kid's room - turn - kid's room - hall - master bedroom - repeat. The space was small, and my eyes were shut. In a calm moment between contractions, I suddenly realized that Jonathan, my aikidoka husband, was steering me around furniture using a double yonkyo! This was both immensly funny and unfair. I had him remove his watch so I could return the technique between contractions. The joys of being an aiki-couple!:)

07-16-2009, 11:01 AM
Hi Jonathan and Elisabeth,

I just wanted to say congratulations on your new addition to your family!

-- Jun

Elisabeth Groeneveld
07-16-2009, 11:02 AM
And a few pictures...




Larry Cuvin
07-16-2009, 11:02 AM
"The joys of being an aiki-couple!"

I am jealous! :D

07-16-2009, 01:29 PM
I'd be terrified to train while preggers.
I'd most likely only be willing to train with those I could trust to go slow and not tear me up, which is a short list of a few trusted Sempai, my husband or Sensie. To tell you the truth I might not work a whole bunch with beginners. It might sound horrible for me to say this, but to be truthful the only time I've had to take an unwanted break fall or sustained a serious/ painful injury was when working with a 6th kyu. (Well in our dojo there is 1st kyu Corne's seriously unexpected nikkyos lol, but that's only momentary pain!)
I don't know but I think maybe for the first few months a student's intuition and enthusiasm just don't match up.

Adorable babies by the way! ^_^

07-16-2009, 08:25 PM
What Elisabeth may not have realized is how strong her grip on the "double yonkyo" was DURING the contractions. There are disdvantages to having your wife train with you. First she learns all your tricks, second she learns lots of fun ways to inflict pain.

On a more serious note, I spent alot of time propping up Elisabeth during the birth and I found that being able to stay calm, centered, relaxed and strong was very beneficial.This is an "application" of aikido you don't generally see advertised in dojo litterature.

07-17-2009, 10:50 AM
Hi Jonathan and Elisabeth,
Congratulation!!!!!! I'm very happy everthing went well. :)
And Elisabeth, I'm very interested in your new discovered "double yonkyo" technique, please don't forget to apply it on me next time(september?) we meet on the tatami LOL

Amir Krause
07-19-2009, 06:32 AM

Happy to read (and see) all went well (beautiful baby)


07-19-2009, 09:36 PM
Thank you everybody for the positive feedback.

Szczepan, though Elisabeth should restart training in September, with Emerick parked by the side of the tatami and us running off the mat every time he squawks, she is not likely to get to any seminars until after he is weaned. At the very ealiest, maybe I can convince her to do part of next year's May seminar. We shall see. At any rate, I'm sure we'll both be seeing you around somewhere eventually.

07-19-2009, 11:29 PM
I started a wiki for this. I had to convert a word doc to html and then to wiki format, so there is a bit of clean up to do (any help would be appreciated).



07-19-2009, 11:34 PM
Thanks for the addition to the wiki, Rob.

-- Jun

07-20-2009, 06:47 AM
I would like to humbly request that you please make a sticky link to that wiki article in this training and possibly the general section. -Rob

07-27-2009, 03:56 PM
Wow, I go out of town for a couple weeks and my topic thread explodes!

Wish I could contribute more to the conversation, but I'll happily sit back and soak it all up.

07-29-2009, 01:22 PM
Oh, wow, I totally missed the birth announcement! Congrats to you and your family.

Krista DeCoste
03-02-2014, 01:49 PM
Thank you so much for this! I am 41 years old and in my first trimester and have been too exhausted to even think about going to class. I suspected I might be pregnant almost right away because of my intense exhaustion. The thing is, I was training for my Ikkyu and feeling some pressure to at least try to slow my practice down and not take breakfalls, however, knowing how people can forget that for whatever reason, injury or pregnancy, they have to be more careful with you is a reminder that you can't always control what happens on the mat. I too have witnessed the occasional accident where there was lots of space on the mat yet people still collided. I am trusting my instincts on this and am not going on the mat, there is just too much to risk.

The typical suggestion to talk to your Doctor is ok, but most people don't know much if anything about Aikido so it does come back to your own instincts. The article on exercise in pregnancy was helpful because it lends support for my more protective reaction.