Traditionally, women have avoided exercise during pregnancy because of a fear of giving birth early. However, new studies show that exercise is actually a great way for mother and baby to stay fit and keep the pregnancy as healthy as possible.
Previously, doctors worried that exercising could release norepinephrine, a chemical that can make the uterus contract and thus creating a preterm delivery. But this new study shows that exercise during pregnancy actually carries no risk of preterm delivery.
In 1985, doctors began to steer away from the norepinephrine theory and recommend that pregnant women exercise mildly or moderately, as heavier exercise was still thought to be detrimental to the pregnancy.
The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, reviewed random trials of 2,059 pregnant women. About half of the participants did aerobic exercise for 30-90 minutes three times a week, while the other half, which acted as the control group, sat out completely of exercise. The study was done for 10 weeks, or in some cases, up until the baby was delivered.
Within the exercise group, not only was moderate exercise not linked to preterm delivery, but it was also associated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes. The women who exercised had a 2.4 percent risk, while the women who did not represented a 5.1 percent risk. The control group of women who were sedentary during pregnancy were at a higher risk for hypertension than the women who exercised, with a 5.1 percent risk compared to a 1.9 percent risk in the exercise group.
Women who exercised during pregnancy were also more likely to give birth vaginally without excess complications. About 73.6 percent of the women who took part in an exercise program gave birth to their babies vaginally as compared to 67.5 percent of those who did not exercise.
Thanks to the study, doctors now recommend that pregnant women participate in 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to facilitate a healthier pregnancy. The intensity of the workout should not be extremely strenuous, as you should break a sweat, but continue to be able to talk normally during your workout.
Doctors may have different advice for women carrying multiples, so it is important to talk to your doctor about an exercise plan if you are carrying more than one fetus.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.