Vitality

Good News For Fit Pregnant Women: New Study Says Moderate Exercise Reduces Risk Of Gestational Diabetes, High Blood Pressure

Pregnant women get lots of attention on their bodies, whether they've gained excess weight or look emaciated. Although baby bumps are bulging, several "Fit Moms," like six-pack model Sarah Stage and no-excuse mom Maria Kang, have respectively shown that you can be super-fit through pregnancy and quickly get back in shape postpartum. Now, a recent study published in the journal American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology suggests that moderate exercise during pregnancy can be beneficial for both the mom and newborn baby.

Previously, women were discouraged from physical activity while pregnant, because it could carry the risk of preterm birth — delivery before 37 weeks. Exercise is known to increase circulating levels of norepinephrine and epinephrine. Norepinephrine has been shown to increase both the strength and the frequency of uterine contractions. Meanwhile, epinephrine has an inhibiting effect on uterine activity.

"But numerous studies including this new meta-analysis, have since shown that exercise does not harm the baby, and can have benefits for the mom and baby" said Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, senior author of the study, and director of maternal fetal medicine and professor at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, in a statement.

Berghella and his colleagues gathered data from nine randomized controlled studies in which pregnant women were divided into two groups. Out of 2,059 women included in the analysis, about half (1,022 women) did aerobic exercises for 35 to 90 minutes, three to four times per week for 10 weeks, or up until their delivery. The other half (1,037) engaged in no exercise.

The findings revealed there was no significant increase in preterm birth in women who exercised than in those who did not. However, working out led to 73 percent of exercising women to deliver vaginally, whereas 67 percent of non-exercising women delivered vaginally. In other words, women who exercised during pregnancy had fewer C-sections — 17 percent of exercising women had a C-section compared to 22 percent of those who did not.

Woman exercising Women who exercise during pregnancy may increase their chances of having a natural birth. Pixabay, Public Domain

C-sections bring a host of potential complications, including blood clots, infection, and placental problems with future pregnancies. There are also risks for the baby, such as breathing problems, specifically transient tachypnea, which is marked by abnormally fast breathing during the first few days after birth, according to the Mayo Clinic. The baby also faces an increased risk of becoming obese, and developing allergies, asthma, and Type 1 diabetes.

The researchers also found pregnant women who exercised had a lower incidence of gestational diabetes, and lower rates of high blood pressure.

"The results of this analysis support current guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which sets the recommendations for our field," said Berghella.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, which the study supports. Moderate intensity means you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating. In other words, you can still talk normally, but you cannot sing.

It’s important to remember women included in the analysis were carrying a single baby, not twins, were a healthy weight to start with, and had no other complications that prevented them from exercising. Women who are expecting twins or triplets, or have complications like high blood pressure or anemia, may be told by doctors to remain relatively sedentary during pregnancy. Staying fit while expecting can lead to healthier pregnancies for the mom and baby.

So, exercise on your own accord.

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