Kerri Walsh Jennings: World Class—and With Child
Volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings won Olympic gold at 5 weeks pregnant—why are people up in arms?
Eating for two is one thing—but competing for two? That’s what Kerri Walsh Jennings did when she brought home Olympic gold in beach volleyball—at 5 weeks pregnant!
The public didn’t know until Walsh Jennings announced her pregnancy (now 11 weeks along) on the “Today” show. “When I was throwing my body around fearlessly, and going for gold for our country, I was pregnant,” she told host Matt Lauer.
Her admission sparked some pretty intense debate among her fellow moms-to-be. Was it safe? Should Jennings have dropped out? Let officials know? Or is this much ado about nothing?
As Walsh Jennings went on to explain, she and her husband had started to try for another baby to join their two children, Sundance, 3, and Joseph, 2, while prepping for the games. And then, just a few weeks later in London, she started feeling “moody and touchy”—and her period was 4 days late.
“I’m a pretty happy girl and I was unreasonably moody,” she said. “I thought it could have been the stress of the games and travel kind of throws your schedule off, but I knew.”
“At some point, you’re late and then you start feeling something. And I definitely started feeling something in London.”
So, was Walsh Jennings safe—or selfish—to stay in the game? According to Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, it was safe. “The risk that she put to herself and fetus was zero to none,” she tells the Health on Today blog, because “the embryo is microscopic. It’s just implanted in the lining of the uterus.”
In general, a “minimal contact” sport like volleyball is considered safe during the first trimester. At the London Games, Snyderman explains, Walsh Jennings’ 5-week-old pregnancy was well protected within the muscular uterine wall and the layers of muscles around the abdomen.
“Imagine taking the head of a pin and sticking it inside softball and then a kickball and then throwing something against it. That’s about what Kerri’s pregnancy was like at the time,” she says.
Some moms still have reservations about Walsh Jennings dive-bombing into the sand with a baby on board. But have you seen her tummy? That mama’s abs deserve their own gold medal!
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