Playing rugby whilst pregnant is a bad idea – that’s a given.
But for Warrington Wolves centre Beth Cox, news of her impending motherhood came as a complete surprise – and after she had played 80 minutes against her team’s fierce rivals Wigan!
Cox would take a pregnancy test not long after the end of the game, and after that came back positive it turns out that the 22-year-old was in fact four weeks pregnant during the match.
Happily, everything has turned out okay and mother and baby are both doing well.
“It was a bit worrying at first to know I was pregnant during the match,” she said. “I was panicking a bit because I’d done a game with full contact for 80 minutes.
“I rang my doctors and they reassured me that I’ll be fine and they’ll get me in for a scan, which I went for and everything was ok thankfully.”
Having been a Warrington fan all her life, Beth has said that it was a ‘dream come true’ to represent her hometown, and she’s already plotting her comeback to rugby action – the 2022 season starts in March, just three months after her due date, and Beth is determined to be back in training.
“Not many women have been able to do this, so it feels incredible,” she confirmed.
“I want people to know not to give up. Just because you’re a girl and you get pregnant, doesn’t mean you can’t follow your dreams.”
Playing rugby league while pregnant is, clearly, not a good idea – of course, Cox’s pregnancy was wholly unexpected. But actually, she could continue playing other non-contact sports, as the general biological theory is that gentle exercise whilst pregnant should be absolutely fine.
Can You Play Sport While Pregnant?
Generally speaking, the guidance is that you can enjoy some gentle exercise while pregnant – competing in a tennis Grand Slam event, or the Olympics, is perhaps not best advised (not that that stopped Serena Williams or Anky van Grunsven – more on them shortly).
The NHS encourages light exercise during pregnancy, helping mums-to-be to cope with their changing shape, aiding them during labour and helping them to get fit and active again after giving birth.
Prospective mothers are encouraged to keep up non-contact exercise for as long as they feel able to, and that this isn’t dangerous to the health of the baby. The benefits could be realised further down the line too:
“There is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour,” guidance from the NHS reads.
Of course, common sense should be applied. Mums should not tire themselves out and should, probably, lighten their exercise regime towards the end of their term. The key is that a workout or playing sports does not need to be taxing on the body in order to be beneficial.
As for professional sportswomen, FIFA made steps in the right direction in 2020 by introducing minimum maternity conditions for expectant mothers in the game.
Serena Williams – Conquering the World While Pregnant
There are a few examples of women competing in professional sport while pregnant.
But winning a major while carrying for eight weeks? That is a physical feat like few others, and is testament to the enduring brilliance of Serena Williams.
She found out she was pregnant just prior to the Australian Open in January 2017, but after consulting her medical team she was cleared to compete.
For Serena, the positive test came as something of a shock.
“[I] did a double take and my heart dropped. Like literally it dropped. Oh my God, this can’t be – I’ve got to play a tournament. How am I going to play the Australian Open?”
In true Serena fashion, she found a way. She took out the dangerous Belinda Bencic in the first round, former quarter-finalist Lucie Safarova in the next and proceeded swiftly to the final without dropping a set.
There, it was perhaps fitting that she would meet big sister Venus given that this was very much a family affair. Pregnant or otherwise, Serena had the edge on her sibling and was soon celebrating a 6-4 6-4 victory.
As if her legendary status could not be heightened yet further, Serena went and achieved a feat that nobody else in tennis can lay claim to.
Anky van Grunsven – Taking a Calculated Risk
One of the greatest Dutch Olympians in history had a decision to make in 2004.
Anky van Grunsven, the dressage legend, found out she was pregnant with her first child – not ideal preparation for the defence of your gold medal earned four years prior.
And this wasn’t the early days of pregnancy like Serena – Van Grunsven had been carrying for five whole months when she decided to compete in the Athens Games.
Dressage is fairly low octane fare – it’s dancing horses, at the end of the day, but there is the possibility that you could fall from your mount, and when heavily pregnant that would be less than ideal.
Taking a calculated risk, Van Grunsven decided to compete – and would win the second of her three individual dressage gold medals.
When later quizzed on whether she would have competed at the next Olympics while pregnant, the Dutchwoman confirmed that such plans were not on the agenda.
Martina Valcepina – Keeping the Twins On Ice
Competing at the Olympic Games when pregnant is small fry compared to the achievements of Martina Valcepina, who won a bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi while pregnant with twins!
To make matters all the more incredible, the Italian was a speed skater – a sport that takes an incredible amount of physical conditioning and bravery given the rapid pace that the competitors travel at.
Valcepina gave birth as planned and soon returned to action, and by 2018 she was representing Italy again in her chosen sport – in the Winter Olympics in Pyongchang she would clinch a silver medal to go with her bronze of four years earlier.
That was double cause for a twin celebration….