International footballer and inspirational Mamma Helen Ward tells us why she is ‘Pregnant Not Powerless’…
I am coming to the (very) latter part of my pregnancy and ever since I announced that we were extending our family, over six months ago, I have been asked the same questions, over and over:
“Should you still be doing that?”
“Are you sure that’s safe?”
“You should have your feet up, when I was pregnant I barely got off the sofa”
and so on…
It became a bit dull, but it just goes to show the lack of knowledge or information that is out there with regards to safe exercise during pregnancy – especially at an elite level.
I have played football for over 20 years, almost 10 of those at international level so it is safe to say that my body is used to high intensity exercise. When you become pregnant, there is no reason to stop, as long as you are sensible and listen to your body.
Every woman and every pregnancy is different so it is important to remember that there isn’t one way for everyone. I wanted to learn from my first pregnancy where I was too scared to carry on and so I researched as much as possible and spoke to experienced medical and sports science professionals to work out a programme to suit me.
I knew I needed something to keep me motivated as I had no more football to keep me sane. As much as I love spending my days with my little girl, I still needed my escape and for me, that was an hour in the gym, three or four times a week. I could focus on me and what made me feel good which in turn, would have a positive effect on the little wriggler inside me.
What has also helped is having inspirations such as Jessica Ennis-Hill who returned to action after having her son. Serena Williams, Laura Kenney and Dame Sarah Storey are also hugely successful sportswomen who have or are continuing to train during their own pregnancies. It is great that the media are making us aware that this is happening and that it is OK.
As my bump got bigger and more noticeable, it became apparent that people thought I was crazy – and it was those kinds of reactions that prompted me to champion other women who have also kept up their own exercise and fitness regimes during pregnancy. Pregnancy isn’t an illness, it’s a wonderful and life changing thing, but doesn’t mean your life has to stop.
My experience has left me feeling happy both physically and mentally and has hopefully put me in a good place for when I return to playing football postpartum. Everyone has their own reasons for what they do or don’t do while pregnant and the most important thing for me is for everyone to respect those decisions and to never judge.
Since writing this Helen has given birth to a healthy baby boy. Congratulations and welcome to Charlie Daniel Ward! And thanks to Helen for supporting our Pregnant Not Powerless campaign, encouraging and inspiring women that exercise during pregnancy benefits both mother and baby.