Exercise beneficial for pregnant women

04 August 2016
Jenna 7

A review of studies looking at physical activity in pregnancy has found that regular aerobic exercise is beneficial for mothers.

The meta-analysis, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, examined clinical trial data on more than 2,000 pregnant women.

It found that healthy weight women with singleton pregnancies who performed aerobic exercise three to four times a week for between 35 and 90 minutes had no greater risk of pre-term birth.

But they experienced a range of benefits attributed to exercise, including:

  • A significantly higher chance of having a vaginal delivery
  • Lower rates of gestational diabetes
  • Lower rates of hypertensive disorders. 

The trials reviewed all involved women who were randomly placed into either an aerobic exercise group or a control group.

Women in the exercise group were much more likely to have a vaginal delivery: 73% compared with 67% in the control group.

Exercise was also protective against gestational diabetes.  Nearly 3% of women in the exercise group developed gestational diabetes compared with 5.6% of those in the control group.

Similarly, cases of hypertensive disorders were lower in the exercise group: 1% compared with 5.6% in the control group.

The director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University and a senior author on the study, Dr Vincenzo Berghella, says the benefits of exercise for pregnant women mean that it should be encouraged.

“Earlier thinking was that exercise releases norepinephrine in the body, which is a chemical that can stimulate contractions of the uterus, and thus lead to preterm birth.

“But numerous studies including this new meta-analysis, have shown that exercise does not harm the baby, and can have benefits for the mom and baby."