The Minister in charge of Sports and former professional swimmer, Roxana Maracineanu, wants sporting activity to become a lasting part of the daily life of French women at any age in their life. However, if they already spend on average less time than men in physical and sports activities (APS) due to a lack of time or confidence, motherhood, before and after childbirth, too often remains the period of their life. where women decrease, or even stop practicing sport. A moderate and regular PSA, during pregnancy in particular, however makes it possible to significantly reduce the risk of premature birth or the subsequent risk of overweight or even obesity, and presents real benefits for the fetus. This is why the Minister in charge of Sports wished to publish a guide on the practice of physical and sporting activities during and after maternity, with the assistance of health professionals (doctors, gynecologists and midwives), with the support of the National Sport Health and Well-Being Resources Pole and the general direction of social cohesion.
Is it difficult to be a top athletic woman?
What is difficult when you are athletic in a discipline like swimming in my day, is that we did not have a professional contract. We had to realize that our hobby became our life and that it could last a long time. We start as a child, and we end up an adult without taking the time to have a private life and plan to start a family. I stopped my athletic career at 30 and that’s when I was able to start my personal life. It took me another five years to develop my professional project, which was first to set up an association when I had my first child to bring together women who needed support during their motherhood.
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What are the needs, in terms of PSA, of women during their maternity?
They already need to be motivated to resume sport and lose their extra pounds due to pregnancy. When I started my association, there were 10 of us at the start, three months later we were 70! I then realized that there was no offer to support women in these specific moments of their lives. It touched me so much that I wanted to be fully involved in my process and I made it my professional project. Now that I am at the head of the Ministry in charge of Sports, I proposed to give more space to this subject and to develop this support on a larger (national) scale.
>> Pregnancy and sport: all the answers to your questions
Should we communicate better on the subject, make it more affordable and accessible to all high-level sportswomen?
Many high-level sportswomen have given their testimony to the ministry. It was the first time that they had been asked to discuss this subject and their difficulties. We want to support sportswomen who want to start a family and continue their sports career. It is a subject which directly affects the high level. Athletes who wanted to have a child after the Tokyo 2020 Games had to wait another year and now they only have three years of preparation before Paris 2024. For me, it is unthinkable that they would be forced to move their maternity project. These women who are already 30 years old and who are ready to have a child, there is no reason that as soon as they give birth we should not be able to help them return to their highest level.
What do you think of physical and sports activity during pregnancy?
The whole point is to make top sportswomen understand that sport and pregnancy can go hand in hand. If we succeed, it will reflect on the practice for all. You shouldn’t sit back and watch your belly grow for nine months without doing anything because sport is good for mom, but also for dad by allowing them to continue to have a normal life. I think that you should never stop but know how to adapt your practice. When you can no longer run, you can switch to yoga and other forms of gentle practices. Swimming is also a sport that you can practice at any time of your life, from birth and at any age!
In order for women to be convinced of the benefits of PSA during pregnancy, we need to put in place the necessary support for them to believe in it. During the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, one of our sportswomen became an Olympic medalist while being pregnant! It is therefore possible.
Discover our article: Sport and maternity: a guide to support women in their practices
Once mothers, top sportswomen do not all return to competition, what should be done to better support them?
They must already be allowed to have a professional employment contract to support them. Sports leagues and professional staff need to link up better. There are branch agreements between leagues and clubs that have been put in place (in handball in particular) to support players during maternity. We also want to create in each CREPS, as part of the implementation of the one-stop shop for athletes, a support unit for physical and mental fitness for high-level sports women who have just given birth. We have also increased the workforce in the CREPS with this in mind. We are working with the federations and the CNOSF to better understand this subject. In our “equipment” budget, we also pay particular attention to the equipment to be adapted for women.
Is it difficult to reconcile a sports career and parenthood? How to help women in their dual family / sport project?
Sport brings the family unit together. This is why we are working with the federations so that they get involved with children from an early age. We want to develop formulas to practice outside the normal season and to offer sports time during the holidays. There are specific moments in family life that we can target with a special offer focused on family sharing.
What can the medical staff do to help them get back to top-level sport as well as possible?
What prevents top athletic women from having children today is undoubtedly that they make a mountain of pregnancy. They must be reassured with people who have been specifically trained. They are also worried that they will not be able to return to their level, thinking that it is not compatible. Sport should be part of life and life should be part of sport. I am convinced that performance is the result of personal growth at all levels. Many women have revealed to me how motherhood has allowed them to take a step back from sporting issues and gain confidence. The best moment of my life is not necessarily the gold medal but my childbirth.
The practical guide for women and those around them
In particular, he gives advice on the possible activities at the different stages of pregnancy and after childbirth, with simple exercises and movements adapted to each person’s feelings, desires and needs.
In addition, mothers will find various resources and recommendations to guide them and help them flourish in the practice of their sport: initiatives of the federations, card of Sports-Health Houses, etc.
This new guide dedicated to pregnancy for high-level sportswomen will be published in September 2021 on the website of the Ministry in charge of Sports.
Consult the guide:
Also available on: https://monenfant.fr