Eight months pregnant with her third child, CrossFit mom Lea-Ann Ellison proudly posted photos of herself lifting heavy weights on CrossFit's Facebook page. But instead of getting the bravos that she expected, she earned blasts and boos, reported CNN on September 23.
The former body-builder crafted a bold caption: "8 months pregnant with baby number 3." Emphasizing her pride, Lea-Ann wrote, "I have been CrossFitting for 2½ years, and ... strongly believe that pregnancy is not an illness, but a time to relish in your body's capabilities to kick a**."
Among the slams that she received:
- "This is shocking and not in a good way. Lifting heavy things during pregnancy is dangerous to you and your baby," Natalie Rose wrote.
- "Why would you risk hurting your baby just to stay in shape?" Stephanie Herrera asked. "This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
As for the experts, well, they agree that exercise is good for pregnant women in general - but proceed with caution.
"A woman's overall health, including obstetric and medical risks, should be evaluated before prescribing an exercise program," according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' guidelines. "Generally, participation in a wide range of recreational activities appears to be safe during pregnancy; however, each sport should be reviewed individually for its potential risk."
Dr. Siobhan Dolan, an ob-gyn and medical adviser for March of Dimes, told CNN that doctors typically recommend 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. But "moderate" is in the eyes (and muscles) of the beholder.
"Pregnancy is a great motivator," she says. However, women should be cautious about strenuous programs. In addition, Dr. Dolan recommends avoiding certain activities, such as skiing, scub diving and any activities that might result in abdominal injury.
But other experts are more concerned about the intensity involved in CrossFit, such as Dr. Raul Artal, chairman of St. Louis University School of Medicine's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health as well as the lead author of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' guidelines for exercise and pregnancy.
Dr. Artal warns that lifting big weights -- in excess of 15 pounds -- could put both the mother and unborn infant at risk.
When you lift weights, you divert blood flow from internal organs, including the uterus, to your muscles. The result: Oxygen may not get to the baby. In addition, bearing down as required for weightlifting could result in premature labor.
"What's important to point out is that individuals may get away with this activity and nothing will happen," he says. "What's difficult for doctors to predict is which mother will have a problem."
On the positive side: CrossFit fans typically follow a healthy diet. The official CrossFit site emphasizes lean protein, healthy fats and vegetables. "If you follow these simple guidelines you will benefit from nearly all that can be achieved through nutrition," they advise.