Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum and CrossFit – The Pregnant NICU Nurse: Part 2

I always knew having a baby would be difficult, but I always thought that it would be the delivery that would prove to be the most difficult aspect. After experiencing an unmedicated delivery that turned out to be much easier than I would have expected, and then facing the challenges of being the mother of a newborn (which I had expected would be easy due to my training as a NICU nurse), I have come to the realization that caring for a baby is the most difficult aspect of bringing life into the world. Why the discrepancy between the physical part that I thought would be difficult and the caring part, which I felt certain would be the easy part? I can say with certainty that the ease of my pregnancy and delivery experience can be attributed to that fact that I did CrossFit before and all throughout my pregnancy Before pregnancy I had been doing CrossFit for approximately a year and a half, so I would consider myself an intermediate athlete. I knew what I was doing, but also what my limitations were. I competed in the Beachside Beatdown last year, and shortly afterward found out I was pregnant (on an exciting side note, doing the competition, even though intense, did not in any way interfere with me getting pregnant, which was initially a concern of mine. It was nice to find out I was wrong!) I shared my exciting news with my coach in the early weeks and he immediately made the needed modifications to accommodate my growing belly while following doctor’s guidelines.

When I first became pregnant I was fearful that any working out would harm my developing baby. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, exercise is safe during pregnancy as long as there are no contraindications such as high blood pressure, anemia, cervical insufficiency, etc. Furthermore, exercise is recommended during pregnancy to relieve back pain, reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, reduce weight gain and more!

Having a good CrossFit coach is key! My coach worked with me every day I attended class and made modifications based on how I was feeling and what my body needed.

I actually worked out the day before I delivered, and, as it turns out, I was actually already (unknown to me) in labor at that time. I spent the next 24 hours thinking what would soon turn out to be my daughter was a set of bad gas pains…I guess if you want objective proof that CrossFit improves your threshold for discomfort, that would be it!During delivery the foundations of CrossFit came into play because I treated each contraction like I do any WOD. I knew they would only last a short period of time before I would get a rest. I could hear my Coach in my head talking about how CrossFit is measurable, observable and has repeatable results and I remembered why I worked so hard during pregnancy: to have a delivery I could tolerate. While neither pregnancy nor delivery is easy, CrossFit (and a good coach) is something that can give you the foundations for success while teaching you to push through the pain to achieve something you never thought you could.

-Jessica is a new mom to a healthy baby girl, a NICU Nurse and CrossFitter


When CrossFit emerged in 2006 it was a mostly underground hard core fitness enthusiast world, filled with 20 something year olds who lived for nothing more then to do the hardest workouts possible day in and day out. As CrossFit continues to age the average demographic has shifted those 20 something year olds grow up and the women ultimately become mothers. In our gym alone we have gone through 7 pregnancies since 2010.

But what about CrossFit, pregnancy, birth and post par-tum? Is it safe? Is it beneficial? We set out out get in the trenches and go right to the experts. The highly educated and respected female pediatrician, the female CrossFit coach and the CrossFit athlete.

Our first author will be our Pediatricain Dr. Alison Shuman.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ali Shuman (aka DOC) and I am a Pediatrician in Ventura and Oxnard. I completed my training in Pediatrics at Cornell New York Presbyterian Hospital in 2003 and then went on to two years of Pediatric Critical Care training. I have been the director of Pediatric Hospital medicine at Community Memorial Hospital since 2012 where my partners and I admit and treat children who are all and care for the vast majority of new babies born at the hospital.

As a doctor I get lots of friends coming to me for advice about a lot of things. One of the more common questions I get from my friends who have recently found out they’re pregnant is wondering what activities are safe or unsafe to engage in during this time of life. During pregnancy there are so many things for a woman to consider; her own health, the health and safety of her baby, the amazing multitude of changes that are happening to her body every day… it can be a time of great uncertainty!

The good news is, many studies show that it is very safe for pregnant women to continue to engage in the activities and level of activity they were involved in prior to pregnancy. Women who have been marathon runners have actually continued to run marathons up to the time they deliver! Infants born to mother’s who have exercised do not have increased risks for issues after birth. In addition to the health benefits to a mom during the pregnancy itself (maintaining healthy blood pressure, cardiovascular health, weight and blood sugars), exercising in pregnancy can make for easier labor and delivery. Exercising during pregnancy has been shown to

* Reduce back pain

* Ease constipation

* May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery

* Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy

* Improve your overall general fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels

* Help you to lose the baby weight after your baby is born

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) actually recommend that pregnant women get 150 minutes of exercise per week through their pregnancy!

If you have been doing CrossFit prior to your pregnancy then it is perfectly safe to continue this during your pregnancy without interruption.

Many people are concerned about exercising in the first trimester, but studies do not support that exercising or elevating your heart rate to specific levels increase the risk of miscarriage. Most miscarriages that occur in the first 12 weeks are related to a genetic abnormality in the fetus, and have nothing to do with what a mother does or does not do. If you specific risk factors (pregnant with multiples, placenta previa, cervical insuffiency are a few of them) then the best choice is to speak with your OB-GYN about what is right for you.

There are very few absolute things one would need to avoid, and a good coach will work with you to adjust your workouts as you need to keep yourself and your baby safe. If you have concerns or questions, ask a coach about what you should or shouldn’t do at the gym and how you should modify or change your workouts. In the meantime – get out, get active, and have fun with this incredible time!

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