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As these women box on, do they risk becoming mothers?

Most women boxers gathered here for the ongoing World Championships seem to be too keen to excel, ignoring the fact that they stand a chance //of rupturing their womb muscles that could prevent them from conceiving.

While some are simply after medals, for others, mostly foreign boxers, marriage is not on their radar at all.

The married Indian pugilists - M.C. Mary Kom, 24, who is seeking a third successive gold medal in the 46 kg at the World Championships, and 26-year-old Aruna Mishra (66 kg) - are at the moment not thinking of motherhood.

While Mary Com dreams of representing India at the Olympic Games and possibly win a medal, Aruna aims to win more medals.

"People think that it is fine to carry on with the sport, until we get married. But we have to change this mentality. In the European countries, some women carry on with boxing even after they become mothers," Mary Kom told IANS, justifying her decision not to venture into motherhood for now.

"I don't want to think about it (having children) now. I have a long way to go. I can only think of it after I do the country proud in the Olympics," she said.

But Mary Kom might never get to realise her dream of fighting at the Olympics as women's boxing is not part of the programme - certainly not in the 2008 Beijing Games, by which time she will be 26.

Even if the women's boxing is included in the 2012 Olympics in London, there is no guarantee that the woman from Manipur will remain injury-free and in the same physical condition as she is now, plus selection will also play a major part.

Doctors say the constant battering that boxers receive on their lower abdomen can cause grave injuries, including rupturing of muscles that might affect the womb and prevent them from conceiving.

Even if a woman becomes pregnant, they could develop complications during pregnancy.

"The punches on abdominal muscles, which supports the womb, could result in complications during pregnancy," said gynaecologist Anita Kaul of Indraprastha Apollo Hospital here.

She said that since boxing is a muscle-based sport, the use of performance enhancing drugs might further complicate pregnancy among women boxers.

"In this sport the intake of drugs like steroids is very high. This creates an imbalance in women's hormone system and also increases testosterone, a male hormone, in the female body," she said.

"The imbalance in the hormone system makes periods irregular and due to that they have less chances of getting pregnant. Even if they conceive and if there is a female foetus the high level of testosterone in the mother's body will lead to masculine features in the child."

Kaul also said that the chances of osteoporosis among the female boxers was high due to the imbalance in the hormone system. Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and are more likely to break. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly till a bone breaks. Women have four times more chances of developing this disease than men.

But Aruna, who got married this June, is also not thinking about children right now.

"I am happy with what I am doing. If I have a child now I won't be able to concentrate properly on my career," said the woman from Jamshedpur who is also competing in the World Championship.

"Even if I want to make a comeback after having a child I don't know whether I would be successful in it," she averred.

Another Indian boxer, 24-year-old Laishram Sarita Devi, is not thinking about marriage.

"Never in my wild dreams do I even think of marriage. I only dream of knocking down my opponents in the ring," was the candid confession of the boxer who is competing in the 52 kg.

Not just the Indians, but New Zealanders Dawn Chalmers and Kelly Wadriah seem to be so e ngrossed in their sport that they have not even giving a thought to marriage, leave alone becoming mothers.

"In New Zealand the culture is very different. We are professional boxers and until and unless we feel that we have excelled in this sport we don't think of marriage and children. Our culture is like this only," said 30-year-old Wadriah, who is competing in the 63 kg.

Chalmers, 27, agreed with her team-mate. "We do think of settling down and having a family but not until we feel that our professional career is over. We want to accomplish our mission in boxing and then we can settle down," said the boxer who is in the 66 kg category.

Indian coach Anoop Kumar said the choice of marriage or of having children ultimately lay with the boxers.

"I have been with the team for a few years and also saw a couple of them getting married. Till now I haven't seen them facing any problem and they haven't missed a single camp since then," he said.


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