'Recovering from Pregnancy & Staying in Shape' with Sheryl Swoopes

Last Editorial Review: 10/23/2003

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Recovering from pregnancy does not have to be a long and painful process. With preparation, fitness, and proper diet, recovery time is reduced. Sheryl Swoopes will discuss and give out her secret of how to recover from pregnancy.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Event_Moderator Welcome to WebMD Live. Today we will be discussing Recovering from Pregnancy and Staying in Shape with WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes.

Sheryl Swoopes is a member of the 1997 and 1998 back-to-back WNBA champion Houston Comets. She and her husband Eric Jackson were blessed with a son, Jordan, who was born just as the league began play in 1997. Swoopes began the season on the sidelines but returned to play the final nine games of the 1997 regular season, helping the Houston Comets win the first ever WNBA Championship. Swoopes started for all of the 1998 season with the Comets and help win their second WNBA title. She was named to the All-WNBA first team. In 1999, she was the WNBA's third leading scorer, leading the Comets to their third consecutive WNBA title.

Sheryl, welcome to WebMD Live.

Swoopes_Speaker  Thank you. Hello!

Event_Moderator  How far into your pregnancy did you continue playing basketball?

Swoopes_Speaker I played all the way up until my fifth month, then the doctor forced me to the sidelines. I enjoyed working out, but I didn't have complications, so I continued to do everything I did and then my doctor made me quit!

Event_Moderator What concerns did you have when you started working out?

Swoopes_Speaker I guess my biggest concern was I wanted to have a healthy pregnancy and I was concerned with continuing to work-out and if that would hurt me or my child. So, I went back and forth and talked to my doctor. He told me to continue with everything I've done, and it's instinct. If I got to a point when I was tired, I had to stop playing. Other than that, I felt good, things were normal, and I tried to stay on my everyday schedule.

Event_Moderator How have you gained support from your teammates and what do they think about motherhood?

Swoopes_Speaker You know, I got lots of support from everyone; teammates, the head office, people in the league and everyone was shocked! Oh wow, I didn't know what to say; it was the start of a new league and then all of a sudden I was pregnant. I had the support, during and after my pregnancy and they were ready for me to come back and play. They all told me to take my time.

Event_Moderator  What does your husband feel about this change in both of your lives?

Swoopes_Speaker Well, my husband and I are no longer together, but we still communicate. The most important thing is my son, to make sure he's healthy and fine. But, becoming a parent definitely brings lots of changes in your life. Now I wonder what I did with all the time I had.  Now there's not enough time in the day! I get up in the morning and work-out, then obviously I want to spend time with him and there's no time to do everything I want to do.  But, it's the most rewarding exciting thing I've ever gone through!

Event_Moderator How much weight did you gain from the pregnancy and how did you get back into shape?

Swoopes_Speaker Oh my God! My weight has always been 145-150, but I gained 47 pounds and when I came back and tried to play, that was a sight to see! I was 175 pounds and 25 pounds overweight.  I took the next season working out everyday; my biggest concern was getting the weight off.  It took me six months to get back to playing weight where I wanted to be.

Event_Moderator How long were you in the delivery room and did you think your fitness level was any contribution to the labor process?

Swoopes_Speaker You know, I honestly don't... talking to my doctor, he told me I'm in great shape, so this is wonderful.  I had no complications and was induced. Between the time they gave me the medication and the time I had the baby was about two hours. That's extremely short! He was 7 pounds, 9 ounces, and was 21 inches long.

Event_Moderator What has surprised you the most about motherhood?

Swoopes_Speaker Oh gosh! Wow ...You know it would probably be the everyday changes he goes through and I go through watching him grow up everyday. He's 2-1/2 now and we're in the terrible two's! Every day is a learning experience. Now that I have a 2-year-old, I'm constantly doing things for him and with him, and there is not enough time! The one thing it's made me do is become more patient.    

Event_Moderator  Do you get a lot of support from your family?

Swoopes_Speaker  Oh, I do! My mom is the best mom in the whole world! Well, the second best, cause I'm the best! My mom, I don't know what I would do without her. She comes to Houston and lives with me during the summer and takes care of him. She's with him right now.  Whenever I need her, she's on the next plane here. My brother is the same way ... both brothers. My family is very supportive.

Event_Moderator Does he show any athletic attributes?

Swoopes_Speaker Well, you know, of course! I'm trying to put the basketball in his hands, but his dad loves football. Right now he's playing golf and bowling. Whatever he decides to do, I'll support him.

Event_Moderator  Do you consider yourself a role model for young girls?

Swoopes_Speaker Definitely! I feel very blessed and honored to be in the position I'm in today. It does allow me to be a positive role model for girls. I try to consider myself as a role model for mothers who think it's hard and there's no way they can do both; how do they balance being a wife, mother, or athlete, and having a career. It's all possible. Unfortunately, I'm not married anymore, but I have a career, and am a mother and I'm successful at it. Nothing comes easy, but when you get knocked down, you have to get up and keep going. There are days when you think you can't do it, but it just happens! You believe you can do it and put your mind to it. 

Event_Moderator When did you start playing and how old were you?

Swoopes_Speaker I was 7-years-old. I grew up playing on a 'little dribblers' team in West Texas, played with the boys and I still do! I've been playing for quite a while now.

Event_Moderator What are your plans for the future? Are you going to slow down and be a full time mother?

Swoopes_Speaker You know, people ask me how much longer I want to continue to play.  I say as long as the Good Lord gives me health and strength. But because I'm a mom, I want to be around for him, especially when he starts school. I want to travel now while he's with me and show him things, but I want to play basket ball for about 4-5 years more. It's important for me to be around day, noon, night for him.

chartres_WebMD Did you experience any postpartum depression or similar problems? Do you have any advice to people who have?

Swoopes_Speaker You know, I didn't. And that was my biggest concern. I was really worried about that, bought every book about pregnancy on the market. I didn't want to experience that. But, after I had him, I continued to keep myself busy. I talked to people and they say I miss feeling him in my stomach and that's what I thought I would go through, but while he was there with me I'd wake up and look at him and say I helped bring this child into this world! I surrounded myself with friends and positive people who would help me get through that. 

Event_Moderator Did you nurse your son, and what effect did it have on the length of time it took for you to return to play?

Swoopes_Speaker  Yes, I did until he was 9-months-old. Actually, it helped me lose extra weight and I guess it really; I felt like I was in the right place at the right time. That first year, I missed most of the season, played 6 games, but I would nurse him at half time, come back out and it was time for him to eat again. When I was traveling around the world, I had to have my breast pump with me cause it was painful! I thought I wasn't going to be able to do it, but I hung in there and he's a healthy baby.

Event_Moderator Would you encourage others to breast feed whenever it was possible?

Swoopes_Speaker  Definitely. If at all possible. I think the best thing I got out of it was the bond between me and my son. It's good to bottle feed cause the dad can help, but there's a special bond that you get with breastfeeding. Breastfed babies are much healthier than bottle-fed babies. I'm sure there are people who would love to be able to do that and they can't.

Event_Moderator How do you think playing basketball and being a mother is different than other mothers in professional sports?

Swoopes_Speaker Well, I think it's hard. It takes a lot of work on your part. I wouldn't say that it's a lot tougher than other sports as far as being a mom, but, I think if you do what I do compared to someone who works 9-5, then I can say that I can take my son with me everyday if I choose to do that. Unfortunately, other moms out there can't do that. But, you have to find a babysitter or nanny that you trust. For me, being a basketball player and a mom work together for me. Playing a long day, I'm going to be frustrated, and I know I have to be patience for him at the end of the day. And, working-out I have to have patience there, too. They go hand-in-hand.

Event_Moderator Do your teammates fight to hold him?

Swoopes_Speaker Well, everyone wants to hold him, but I don't want anyone holding him now. I say "No, let him walk"!, but everyone on the team loves him! It's great.

Event_Moderator How do you feel about protecting from the media?

Swoopes_Speaker  I've had friends, celebrities, and people who have kids and family and they refuse to put them in the media and take pictures of them. We've done commercials and I don't mind that but I try really hard not to. I don't want to say I try to keep him out of the public, cause I feel like everyone out there helped me have this child cause my pregnancy was so public!  I get cautious and picky about who and where I let people take pictures of him. You never know, there are crazy people out there and I've had bad experiences out there. For the most part, I feel my child is very protected.

Event_Moderator How much has your diet changed during the pregnancy and what did you have to adjust to afterwards?

Swoopes_Speaker  We don't want to talk about eating habits! To be honest with you, the only thing I changed when I was pregnant, was I usually drink about 5-6 Coca Colas a day, but I only had 1 Coke a day cause I just couldn't get rid of them. The caffeine mainly and Cokes are bad for you anyway! I didn't want to do that to my son. I tried to drink a little more milk. I ate so much junk food when I was pregnant and I still do!  Pickles and ice cream and pop tarts is what I wanted. And, actually snow cones, I had one of those every day and my mom says that's why my son loves ice. I am probably not the person you want to talk to about nutrition. I've never been the type of person to watch what I eat. I know I'll go to the gym and work it off the next day!

Event_Moderator Do you have a nutritionist on-staff for the comets?

Swoopes_Speaker  We do, yeah. The team does. I stay away from her! She's trying to get to me, but I stay away from her.

Event_Moderator What advice do you have for other new moms who are struggling to get back into fitness?

Swoopes_Speaker Well, the first thing I'd say is no one is going to do it for you. I knew how important it was for me to get back in shape and this is my job. But there were so many people who doubted that I'd be able to come back and play on this level. That was incentive.  Working-out is a way to relieve stress and tension and I just went to the gym everyday and worked-out extremely hard. It made me feel good about myself.

You have things that make you feel good about yourself, i.e., shopping, reading; you need to find things that you do well, and spend time doing that, concentrate on that.  It's tough after having a child. Seven weeks after giving birth, I was in the gym working out. Not doing a lot of hard heavy stuff, but working my way back into a routine  

Event_Moderator How long after delivery was it before you resumed working out? 

Swoopes_Speaker  7 weeks later. I didn't listen to the people who said, "She can't do it"! I believed in myself.

chartres_WebMD Do you feel that women's athletics takes a second seat to men's?

Swoopes_Speaker I don't think that's in basketball, it's just in life. But, we, as women, have just accepted that. I wouldn't say we've taken a second seat. We don't need the NBA or to play with men. We're very successful in what we're doing! People have been saying "What next"?  I think people are looking over that the NBA took a while to get to where they are, and as long as we keep doing what we're doing, enjoying it and having fun, being more fan friendly, we'll get to that level and be successful.

chartres_WebMD What can be done to increase the respect for women's athletics?

Swoopes_Speaker You know, I think our time is coming.  I think it's only a matter of time. I don't think there's one particular thing that we can do as athletes to get more respect.

Event_Moderator What is the daily routine in your home?

Swoopes_Speaker Well, right now I've been on this schedule for a month. I work out at Fonde Recreation Center. I play with the guys over there everyday Monday-Thursday from 9-1pm. Then I leave there and Mondays and Wednesdays I'll go to the Westside tennis courts and lift weights there. I'm not into weights much, but I do it cause I have to do it. 30 minutes max, I do what I've got to do, then I'm out of there. I've always worked out on my own, so I can get in there and get it done. That's just the way I've always been. I usually get the results I'm looking for.

Event_Moderator What aspirations did you have for becoming a mother?

Swoopes_Speaker You know, my biggest thing when I found out I was pregnant was I wanted to be as healthy as possible for myself and my son. It was weird cause I started not to take things as seriously any more.  As much as I love basketball, it's not the most important thing anymore. If someone said I wasn't playing basketball anymore, I'd get over it even though it would hurt. I have a degree and I'd spend time with my son. He's the most important thing to me.

Event_Moderator How do you think your child has affected you in your basketball career and would you do it again if you had the chance?

Swoopes_Speaker Great question. You know, I've always been the type of person. I've never believed in parents trying to live their dreams through their child. I know I'd never do that. But, because I am who I am and he's my son, there'll be pressure on him to be an athlete. Society might not want to accept that, but I am cause I want him to be his own individual. Whatever he decides to do, he needs to give 100% and I want him to be successful at that. The older he gets, I'll explain it to him. I'll tell him to make his own decisions and I think he'll be successful in whatever he decides to do.

Event_Moderator Thank you for joining us today, Sheryl. 

Swoopes_Speaker You're welcome. Thank you!


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