Serena Williams: How can you win a Grand Slam while pregnant?


With or without the benefit of hindsight, Serena Williams’ victory at the Australian Open in January was sublime.

The  `greatest female tennis player of the open era` won her 23rd Grand Slam without dropping a set.

But when you learn she did it while in the early stages of pregnancy, the feat becomes exceptional.

So how is it possible to win a Grand Slam while pregnant?

The physiological challenges

Dr Markos Klonizakis, a senior research fellow at Sheffield Hallam University, says the triumph at that stage of pregnancy is “amazing”.

“It is not easy for any woman to adapt to changes in her body, let alone while playing sport at an elite level,” he said.

“Physiologically, the main challenge women face within about five weeks of pregnancy is in adapting to changes to the cardiovascular system.

“These are rapid and ensure blood and oxygen supply to the foetus.

“Many women feel they cannot breathe as easily as their heart rate increases.

“The nature of a Grand Slam tournament, where players have to recover to play consecutive matches, would have been a challenge for her, if you take into account nausea as well.”

Professor Janice Rymer, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, added: “For elite athletes, a tailored training and nutrition plan would normally be developed with a specialist team.

“High levels of exercise at around eight weeks gestation should not affect pregnancy for these athletes and those used to high levels of exercise.

“During the first few weeks of pregnancy these hormones may actually boost physical performance as a woman’s natural production of steroids will increase slightly.”

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