World Rugby supports moderate to low impact exercise during pregnancy. However, Rugby is not recommended during pregnancy due to the potential increased risk of injury to both unborn child and mother.
If a woman requests permission from a Union to participate in Rugby whilst pregnant, it should be highlighted that this is against the recommendation made by World Rugby. If this request is repeated, then it is recommended that this request be supported by written confirmation from an appropriately qualified medical practitioner who has highlighted the risks of participation in Rugby whilst pregnant and confirmed in writing that it is safe for this woman and unborn child to participate in Rugby.
Current research supports the recommendation that a moderate level of exercise during an uncomplicated pregnancy has minimal risk for the foetus and beneficial cardiovascular, metabolic and chronic disease effects for exercising women 1 5 6.
Pregnancy has an impact on women that can increase the predisposition to injury during exercise. Hormonal changes are known to increase elasticity of muscles and ligaments which can affect lower back and pelvis structures. As the uterus enlarges, balance and co-ordination can also be affected due to a shift in the centre of gravity 2.
Studies related to women's Rugby confirm that the abdomen is responsible for 1.6% of all injuries 3. There are no evidence-based studies quantifying the risk to a pregnant woman or unborn child whilst playing Rugby. There is evidence, however, that blunt abdominal trauma does pose a risk of placental abruption, preterm labour and uterine rupture 4.
1 Dr J Alleyne & Dr P Peticca. Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine. Exercise and Pregnancy Discussion Paper. 2008.
2 Ireland, M.L., Ott, S. The Effects of Pregnancy on the Musculoskeletal System. Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research. 2000; 372: 169-179.
3 Schick et al. Injuries during 2006 Women's RWC. BJSM 2008;42:447-451.
4 Williams JK, McClain L, Rosemurgy AS, Colorado NM. Evaluation of blunt abdominal trauma in the third trimester of pregnancy: maternal and fetal considerations. Obstet. Gynecol. 1990; 75(1): 33-37.
5 Zavorsky GS, Longo LD. Adding Strength Training, Exercise Intensity, and Caloric Expenditure to Exercise Guidelines in Pregnancy. Obstet. Gynecol. 2011; 117(6): 1399-1402.
6 Pivarnik JM et al. Impact of Physical Activity during Pregnancy and Postpartum on Chronic Disease Risk. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2006: 989- 1006.