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
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.
: 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.
: 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.
(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.