Why I don’t recommend jumping rope during pregnancy

If you’ve been following my scaling recommendations during the Open, Murph and now my weekly Wednesday posts, you’ve probably noticed that I recommend scaling jumping rope to another monostructural movement during pregnancy. Well, I’m going to dive into that here.

First I’d like to say if you have any symptoms with jumping rope during pregnancy (pain, incontinence, pressure, “just doesn’t feel right”), then you absolutely should modify the movement. If you are not pregnant- whether you’re postpartum or not, you should not experience incontinence with jumping rope, sneezing, laughing, coughing, lifting, etc. While these are common symptoms, it is not normal. If you do experience these symptoms, please seek out a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor.

First, let’s talk about the “core”. When I refer to the core, I like to use a pop can for visual effect. The “sides” of the pop can are the rectus abdominus, obliques, transverse abdominus, multifidus and spinal extensors. The “top” of the pop can is the diaphragm, and the “bottom” is the pelvic floor. All of these muscles work together to stabilize during movement, manage abdominal pressure and allow us to do ALL the things.

Image courtesy of Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy

Image courtesy of Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy

Inside of the “pop can” is all of our organs except for the heart, lungs and brain- so there’s a lot of stuff in there. Let’s talk about pressure in there. The lungs are above the diaphragm, as you inhale or take a breath in, the lungs expand, pushing down on the diaphragm. The diaphragm contracts, lowering itself to make room for the expanding lungs. This increases pressure in the abdominal cavity because the top of the pop can is lowering, so the pelvic floor relaxes and lowers, allowing the pressure to stay the same. Then as you exhale, the lungs decrease in size, diaphragm relaxes back up, and pelvic floor contracts or “lifts”.

So hopefully that pressure system makes sense. Now add a growing baby in the uterus, which is located in the abdominal cavity. As that baby starts to grow, it’s going to increase the pressure in the abdominal cavity. This is why the belly grows out, and eventually diastasis of the rectus abdominus forms to allow for more room and to manage pressure. So as that baby grows, there’s increased pressure on the pelvic floor, starting to push down on it, causing it to stretch down.

Increased pressure on the pelvic floor = increased stress on the pelvic floor = increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction or issues.

Now let’s talk about jumping rope. Jumping rope is a dynamic activity, with impact as the feet land. In a healthy athlete, the impact is managed by the pelvic floor contracting/lifting at the point of contact (so breathing out & not holding breath, because that increases pressure in the abdominal cavity), decreasing risk of injury and symptoms. However in a pregnant woman, the pelvic floor’s ability to contract and lift is affected by the growing baby & the baby putting pressure on the pelvic floor, causing it to stretch.

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The pelvic floor is no longer able to respond as effectively to impact activities, due to the growing baby and the added stress it is putting on the pelvic floor. Here’s where the risk vs reward mindset Brianna Battles talks about comes into play. Is the risk of causing or increasing risk of pelvic floor injury, symptoms or dysfunction worth the reward of doing jump rope in a workout? In my opinion, no.

Let me put it in another perspective. As a physical therapist, I see a lot of individuals who have surgery. Individuals who do PT or other specific exercise before a surgery, tend to recover quicker and easier. In the PT world, we call this “pre-hab”. Giving birth is a traumatic event- no matter how smoothly it goes. There’s damage done to our bodies, and that has to heal after giving birth. Being smart about training during pregnancy, making informed decisions about risk vs reward, is a pregnant woman’s “pre-hab”. Training smart during pregnancy can help with the recovery, but also decrease the risk of pelvic floor symptoms/injury, and can make the postpartum “comeback” with exercise easier and less risk for injury/symptoms.

I firmly believe that all postpartum women should be seen by a pelvic floor physical therapist at least once after cleared by their physician to return to activity, and especially before attempting to jump rope. I personally did not try to jump rope until 12 weeks postpartum, and I noped out of that real quick because it didn’t feel right. I didn’t attempt jump rope again until March, when I was able to start performing single singles. I have slowly built up my foundation and pelvic floor strength, and just recently strung together 18 double unders with no symptoms! I’m almost 9 months postpartum.

That is my reasoning for not recommending pregnant women jump rope during pregnancy- I would recommend making this modification by the second trimester. This is not intended to be medical advice, just me sharing my knowledge as a physical therapist, Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach and CrossFit L-2 trainer. If you have additional questions or comments, please comment below, email me or reach out on social media!