Pregnancy and BJJ with Rosi Sexton Part 1

This is the first in a two part series on pregnancy and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, based on an interview with Rosi Sexton. Read Part 2

Rosi Sexton

Rosi Sexton

2002 saw a shift in the medical community’s views on exercise and pregnancy. In that year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) released new guidelines, which emphasised a positive role for exercise in pregnancy; while pregnancy is a time when behaviour may need modification, older notions that pregnancy necessitates little activity have been thoroughly revised. Today’s wisdom suggests that while there are types of activity that should be avoided, for a normal pregnancy, there is a important role for exercise to play. With this in mind, I sat down with Rosi Sexton, BJJ brown belt, world class MMA fighter, competitor at the 2011 ADCC and mother to discuss her experience of training through pregnancy.

Pregnancy and Exercise

Its not a question of playing it safe and just putting your feet up for 9 months, and I don’t think that is the safe option. I strongly believe that that can have more negative repercussions than staying active in the right way. Obviously you need the information to be able to do that safely.

Rosi Sexton and Leoni Munslow

Rosi Sexton and Leoni Munslow

In 2004, when Rosi undertook her own investigation into how to train safely while pregnant, information was thin on the ground apart from James F Clapp’s Exercising Through Your Pregnancy which encapsulated the newer thinking around exercise in pregnancy. UK readers can find Clapp’s book here and US readers should go here. While a comparative wealth of evidenced-based work has been undertaken on diet and pregnancy, it is more recently that a body of work has emerged around pregnancy and exercise; a 2005 study concluded that physically active women had significantly reduced chances of gestational diabetes or preecalmpsia as compared with nonactive women, while a 2011 study with pregnant mice concluded that activity during pregnancy can provide protection against Alzheimer in offspring. While there is mounting evidence for the importance of exercise during pregnancy, a 2011 study of Olympic level athletes suggests that intense training (at a 9 out of 10 level of perceived exertion) can have negative effects. Importantly too, for grappling women, current guidelines advise against activity where one lies on her back, which has clear implications for what positions a pregnant BJJ woman may wish to drill.

Rosi Sexton and Sarah Merriner

Rosi Sexton and Sarah Merriner

In sum, for a normal pregnancy, the evidence increasingly suggests that exercise – within certain parameters – is positive and healthful, and if you were an active woman before pregnancy it may be advisable, in Rosi’s words: ‘As much as possible, maintain the lifestyle that you’re used to’. But what about grappling?! Surely that is a whole different consideration than simply staying active.

Read Part 2 where we learn about Rosi’s own training regime during her pregnancy, or subscribe to the feed!


Photographs by Lisa James from Rosi Sexton Seminar at Urban Kings, Nov 2011.


The content of this article is not meant as medical advice or as a replacement for seeking medical advice regarding pregnancy and exercise or pregnancy and BJJ. Pregnany women should consult their physician before embarking on an exercise regime.

12 Responses to “Pregnancy and BJJ with Rosi Sexton Part 1”

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  1. slideyfoot says:

    Coel: m Werestin

    • Meg Smitley says:

      Thanks for this Slidey. Yes, absolutely found those posts in my research. This piece was initially created as a mag piece, so I’ve been retrofitting links to online resources in the process of making it ‘blog-ready’; it didn’t make sense to mention those links in a printed piece, but there’s a collection of ‘further reading links’ to BJJ bloggers looking at this topic at the bottom of Part 2 (out soon)= :D

  2. Anne Evans says:

    I ran 3-5 miles 3-4x a week until I was 36 weeks in my last pregnancy. While it was not my first pregnancy (some girl parts being more ‘experienced’ makes things easier), I thoroughly believe the whole 3 pushes needed had alot to do with my fitness level.

    I chose not to grapple in pregnancy based on how accident prone I normally am (always walking something off). My back has been a serious issue for this pregnancy, so walking is more my speed. As soon as I can run 2 miles w/o stopping & can do half my max in weightlifting, I can get back on the mat as a mop to train back up!!

    About a month ago a woman ran a marathon at full-term in about 6 hours! It’s all about not working past a ‘light glisten’ rather than pouring sweat!!!

    Great article! I can’t wait until the next!

    • Meg Smitley says:

      Awesome Anne, thanks for sharing your experience! Your experience reflects Rosi’s in many ways as part two will make clearer, as she stayed very active but avoided grappling for the most part and moderated her level of exertion; all very much inline with the recommendations for keeping active while pregnant. So helpful to have positive, active women as role models for those considering how to balance training and pregnancy. Thank you for adding your story.

      PS 3 pushes?! Champion!

  3. Stephanie says:

    Very cool! Having another child isn’t totally outside of the realm of possibility for me. I am curious to hear about her training while pregnant, as I am sure I would want to train as much as I safely could whilst pregnant.

    • Meg Smitley says:

      How wonderful for your family! I do hope part two provides some good ideas and resources to inform your research into training during pregnancy.

  4. Monica h says:

    This article is so on time for me. Right now i’m in the “thinking” stages.

  5. Ashley says:

    As weird as it is, I started thinking about this as soon as I started training. Even though my baby carrying years are a ways away, nine months is a long time to not train.

    Look forward to reading more. I’m especially interested about the “activities on the back” thing because my first thought was pre-natal yoga…do they not do poses on the back?

  6. Meg Smitley says:

    How exciting, Georgette! My best wishes to you both as and when you embark on that journey. What you describe in terms of moderating activity and working with a trainer echoes Rosi’s experience as you’ll read in part two. She also stressed the importance of undertaking an investigation of the evidence-based work that is out there. Clapp still seems to be the main place to start along with the ACOG website. Clapp’s book is derived from his academic work but is pitched at a popular audience. Making an informed choice and knowing what to avoid in order to identify what is okay for you, seems key (all assuming consultation with your medical pros and the pregnancy is ‘normal’).


  1. [...] This is the second in a two part series on pregnancy and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, based on an interview with Rosi Sexton. Read Part 1 [...]

  2. [...] only share my personal experiences for readers’ interest and point to some research around pregnancy and exercise, there are some general principles I’ve shared when [...]

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