Exercise Proven Safe, Beneficial in Pregnant Women

Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Monday, July 18th, 2016
Although many expectant mothers may be hesitant to exercise, clinicians can assuage their concerns by educating them about the benefits of doing so.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology set out to determine whether or not vigorous exercise during pregnancy could increase the risk of preterm birth.
Researchers examined data from 9 studies including a total of 2059 pregnant women. All included women were carrying a single child, had a healthy starting weight, and had no complications that prevented them from exercising.
About half of the participants exercised for 35 to 90 minutes 3 to 4 times per week for 10 weeks or up until their delivery, while the remaining patients partook in little to no exercise.
Although some health care professionals suspected that the release of norepinephrine during exercise could cause contractions and potentially trigger a preterm birth, the researchers found that women who regularly exercised during their pregnancies were no more likely to deliver before 37 weeks than those who did not.
The researchers also uncovered several notable benefits to exercising during pregnancy. For example, expectant mothers who exercised were less likely to require a C-section, with 73% of women in the exercise group delivering vaginally compared with only 67% of those in the other group.
Women who exercised while pregnant were also less likely to develop gestational diabetes or high blood pressure than expectant mothers who were more sedentary.
“The results of this analysis support current guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which sets the recommendations for our field,” said senior study author Vincenzo Berghella, MD, in a press release. “However, there are many reasons women pull back on exercise during pregnancy—discomfort, an increase in tiredness, and feeling winded by low-level exertion. This paper reinforces that exercise is good for the mom and the baby, and does not hold any increased risk preterm birth.”
Exercising while pregnant, when accompanied by positive dietary changes, has previously been linked to a lower risk of moderate to severe respiratory distress syndrome, reduced odds of low birth weight, and shorter hospital stays after delivery.

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