You don't have to be Serena Williams to stay fit during pregnancy

Posted at 7:42 PM, Aug 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-14 17:59:31-04

CINCINNATI -- Serena Williams, one of the most successful tennis players in the history of the sport, inspires fans all over the country with her domination of the game and her refusal to ever be limited by others' perception of her race and gender.

She won the Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant in January 2017, maintained her fitness regimen throughout her pregnancy and returned to the court this year after her daughter's birth.

Her example is one that Marissa Pender, who is 16 weeks pregnant, wants to emulate. Pender has continued to practice Brazilian jiujitsu and other types of exercise during her pregnancy -- sometimes with the assistance of her two children. 

"It's hard," she admitted. "It really is."

The key, she said, is being willing to accept changes and new limitations without losing your commitment to health. Some types of exercise are unsafe during pregnancy; some are too strenuous for a pregnant body. Others might help -- building certain types of muscle strength can make for an easier labor in some situations, according to University of Cincinnati professor of OB/GYN care Dr. Amy Thompson.

Regardless of your situation, there are ways to continue participating in the sports you love while waiting for your new family member.

"I have to listen to what my docs say," Pender said. "Sometimes, I'm forced to not be able to do something, and I have to be okay with that, and I have to put baby first. That's what Serena's doing: She's putting baby first."

Dr. Brian Grawe, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, said he'd recommend all active mothers follow her example by consulting with their doctors about the kind of fitness regimen they should pursue during and after pregnancy. 

With help from knowledgeable professionals,  any woman -- including those of us without Grand Slams to our names -- can stay active during her pregnancy.

Pender said she hopes her love of fitness will help her care for her children and set a good example as they grow up.