Heavily pregnant weightlifting mum attacks her critics: 'My baby will be healthy and strong'


With two weeks to their due date, most mums-to-be are happy to put their feet up with a nice cup of tea.

But at eight and a half months' pregnant, Lea-Ann Ellison insists on keeping active as possible – as these incredible, spit-your-tea-out photos show.

Yes, that really is a heavily pregnant woman WEIGHT-LIFTING – just two weeks before she is due to give birth.

The photos are so amazing – and many say, shocking – that the moment they were uploaded to her gym's Facebook page, they went viral, with some observers saying the 35-year-old mother-of-two from Los Angeles was risking losing her baby, and others branding her 'a disgrace' and the photos as 'sickening'.

But in an interview with Parentdish, stay-at-home mum Lea-Ann, who has two other children, aged 12 and eight, defended the 'kick-ass photo of me doing an overhead squat' and attacked her critics for spouting 'garbage' about pregnant women exercising.

She said: "People will always talk negatively about something they don't understand. I am OK with that and it seems like the most ignorant people have the loudest mouths.

"The majority of people are positive and supportive. I have had so many thank you notes and fan mail that I feel overwhelmed.

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I think it is sad that people would compare my weight lifting with smoking and drinking. Or call me a poor mother for keeping fit and strong during pregnancy. "There is an obesity epidemic in our country with diabetes on a rampage. People need to embrace a healthy lifestyle and for babies it starts in the womb.

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"Fitness begins early and pregnancy is not an illness. Mums need to quit being suppressed into a weaker role and take their health back. Move their bodies! Whether it is walking, swimming or weight lifting it doesn't matter. As long as they eat healthy and exercise, their bodies will gain what weight is necessary to support their pregnancy.

"Labour is a huge task on a mother's body and there is no better time to be strong than in preparation for childbirth - especially if your goal is a natural drug-free birth.

"I have had two drug-free births with my first at a birthing centre and my last a home water birth. I plan a home water birth for my upcoming baby."


Lea-Ann's photos have attracted thousands of 'Likes' on her own Facebook page, with fans applauding her dedication to the exercise regime she follows, called CrossFit, which describes itself as 'the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide'.

One fan, Heather Bales, wrote: "Wow you have taken on a big responsibility to inspire and prove the system wrong."

Another,
Carol Metzger Bolliger wrote: "I'm 6 months pregnant with triplets and am still CrossFitting as much as I can!"

And another wrote: "I think that we should all be more concerned about a mom who eats McDonalds every day of her pregnancy, and doesn't exercise one bit. This woman is not just concerned about herself, she is concerned about her child [sic] future and the example she sets for her other children about overcoming adversity."

But there are many critics, too.

Ava Szlamas wrote: "This woman is a disgrace. Pregnancy is a time to take care of your body and be gentle, not test it to the limits."

While Megan Smith wrote: "Stupid female..."

Evan Kennedy wrote: "This is a good way to lose your baby."

And Amanda Cinq-Mars added: "This is actually sickening, I hope pregnant around the world do not do this kind of c***. I am a CrossFit enthusiast but I DO NOT recommend this at all. Doctors always strongly suggest to not lift heavy because you can sever your placenta and cause major damage an early labor and it miscarriage .... Posting this picture goes people the wrong message that this is OKAY when it's not!!!!"

However,
Lea-Ann said she didn't set out to court controversy when she had the photos taken by her friend, Nick Stern.

She explained: "I wanted to do some maternity photos to document my pregnancy and my best friend Liz had the idea to do them at our gym since it is a big passion of ours. I thought it was brilliant so I asked Nick if he would do it for me.

"These were strictly for personal use with no intention of causing such a stir. I just wanted some super cool photos to remember my awesome belly with!


"But when Nick sent them to me I loved them so much that I sent them to CrossFit headquarters as a thank you for their sport.

"They then posted it to their main Facebook page and it went viral. I am shocked that something so simple to me has had so much response."

She dismissed critics who said the heavy weights she is lifting in the photographs could be harmful to her unborn baby.

"The weights I am lifting in the photo are not heavy at all," said Lea-Ann. "They were very light because I was doing a photo shoot, not a work out! I think its hilarious how people assumed I was lifting heavy weight when in fact it was 35lbs."

However, she admitted: "I would normally use 65lbs if I were doing a workout with that lift."

Lea-Ann explained she has been doing CrossFit for two and a half years, and is now a qualified coach in the sport.

"It is an exercise programme that revolves around constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity," she said.

"It has nine foundational movements. Dead lift, sumo deadlift high pull, clean, squat, front squat, overhead squat, press, push press, and jerk. A typical workout may include anything from running or rowing, to pull-ups and Olympic lifting.

"Of course all work outs are totally scalable and modified for your athletic ability. Needless to say I don't go all out anymore. My belly tends to get in the way!"

And despite the critics, she insists here workouts do both herself and her unborn baby a power of good.

"CrossFit benefits my health and well-being by keeping me mentally and physically strong and fit," she said.

"I have none of the ailments that most pregnant women complain. No back aches. No sciatic nerve issues. No sickness or cravings. I attribute this all to be healthy and strong.

"And studies show that strong, fit mums have strong healthy babies.

"Exercise keeps weight issues down and that of course keeps diabetes rates low. Exercise also produces endorphins from the mother that get passed along to the baby. Happy mom = happy baby."

Lea-Ann says she already has the proof – in the shape of her two kids, Lily, 12, and eight-year-old Blair.

"I ran and did some weight training with my other children," she said.

"They were both perfectly healthy drug free births that produced happy healthy smart kids."

She has this advice for other expectant mothers: "Continue doing what your body is used to doing and focus on staying healthy and strong for your baby.

"It isn't a time to take a break by sitting around eating and being lazy. There is no other time in a woman's life more necessary to be strong. Take this time to empower your body and mind with exercise and healthy eating. And stay away from the sugar!"

While the online storm rages around her, Lea-Ann insists she is calm and in control and will continue to exercise as long as she can. So will her latest addition be a boy or a girl?

"We have a feeling it's a girl but don't know for sure," she said.

"We love the surprise when they are born and look so forward to meeting our new addition. We have picked the name Skylar regardless of sex."

IS LEA-ANN'S REGIME AS SAFE AS SHE THINKS?


Official NHS guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day for expectant mothers, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says recreational exercise can be beneficial during pregnancy.

The RCOG advocates exercise where there are no complications in the pregnancy and precautions are taken such as not exercising at a high intensity to raise the heart rate to its maximum and not running while it's too hot due to a risk of overheating.

It states: "In most cases, exercise is safe for both mother and foetus during pregnancy and women should therefore be encouraged to initiate or continue exercise to derive the health benefits associated with such activities."

It adds that it's a fallacy that exercise increases the risk of miscarriage or damage to an unborn baby stating 'women should be advised that adverse pregnancy or neonatal outcomes are not increased for exercising women'.

It explains that exercising while pregnant has numerous benefits for the mother's health and wellbeing.

It says: "Maternal benefits appear to be both physical and psychological in nature. Many common complaints of pregnancy, including fatigue, varicosities and swelling of extremities, are reduced in women who exercise. "

Additionally, active women experience less insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression."

Women who exercise while pregnant will also gain less excess weight, lowering the health risks associated with obesity.

Lea Ann gave birth to daughter Skyler three weeks after her due date. She describes her new arrival as 'perfect'.