Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy

There are numerous benefits to exercising throughout pregnancy! For the mother, there is improved comfort throughout pregnancy, decreased risk of developing a prenatal complication, faster labors, and improved birth outcomes. For the baby, improved stress response, better transition from womb to world, and leaner at birth.


Even though there is a lot of research to support exercising throughout pregnancy is safe and beneficial, there can still be worry of doing something wrong or harmful!


Exercising during pregnancy is not only safe for most low-risk pregnancies, but also recommended! ACOG recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week throughout pregnancy. Their latest guidance now includes strength training as a recommended form of exercise, alongside yoga and walking.


BENEFITS OF EXERCISING DURING PREGNANCY:


Benefits for Mom

Exercising throughout pregnancy has several benefits for the mother during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum periods.


During pregnancy:

  • Less likely to suffer from a prenatal complication such as hypertension (39% decreased risk), pre-eclampsia (41% decreased risk), or gestational diabetes (38% decreased risk)

  • Less likely to suffer from low back or pelvic girdle pain

  • Can help to gain an appropriate amount of weight

During birth:

  • Lower incidence of labor augmentation, instrument assisted delivery, higher likelihood of going into spontaneous labor

  • Can lead to shorter active labors

  • Help maintain pelvic and hip mobility that can help baby move through the pelvis smoothly

In the postpartum period:

  • More likely to have a quicker recovery due to improved body awareness and mindfulness

  • Maintain connection between breath/core/PF muscles to help improve coordination and proper function postpartum

  • Enhanced mental health benefits from exercising throughout pregnancy into the postpartum period

Benefits for Baby


Baby reaps the benefits of your prenatal exercise! Baby better tolerates stress during pregnancy and labor because of conditioning from exercise induced stress throughout pregnancy. When you train, they are training!


But what do we see that indicates that baby better tolerates labor? Here are some examples:

  • After birth, baby’s hormone levels, red blood cell percentage, and acid accumulation in the blood were lower, demonstrating that they were better able to tolerate the stresses of late pregnancy and labor

  • Lower occurrence of meconium at birth, indicating less stress

  • Better regulation of body temperature

  • Regained birth weight quicker

  • Maintained appropriate blood glucose levels after birth

Your Placenta - the connection between you and your baby!


Exercise throughout pregnancy has been linked to increase blood vessel formation in the placenta, which could mean an increase in functional capacity. This means that the placenta has a better capability to transport oxygen and nutrients to baby, and then also transport metabolic waste away from baby. Having more blood vessels, or roads to baby, will increase the efficiency of the system.


Now, does it matter if you exercise at a mild (30%) or moderate (70%) intensity? Maybe, maybe not. Currently, research is showing that there is not a significant difference between exercising at a mild or moderate intensity level throughout pregnancy to have the benefits of increased blood vessel formation in the placenta. Which means that even going for easy walks can be beneficial for you and baby!







REFERENCES:

Clapp, J. F. (2006). Influence of endurance exercise and diet on human placental development and fetal growth. Placenta, 27(6-7), 527-534.


Hardy, D. B., Mu, X., Marchiori, K. S., & Mottola, M. F. (2021). Exercise in Pregnancy Increases Placental Angiogenin without Changes in Oxidative or Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.


ACOG. (2020). Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2020/04/physical-activity-and-exercise-during-pregnancy-and-the-postpartum-periodClapp, J., & Cramm, C. (2012). Exercising Throughout Your Pregnancy. Omaha, NE: Addicus Books. Clapp, J., Kim, H., Burciu, B., Schmidt, S., Petry, K., & Lopez, B. (2002). Continuing regular exercise during pregnancy: Effect of exercise volume on fetoplacental growth. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 186(1), 142–147. https://doi.org/10.1067/mob.2002.119109 Elden H, Ladfors L, Fagevik Olsen M, Ostgaard HC, Hagberg H. Effects of acupuncture and stabilizing exercises as adjunct to standard treatment in pregnant women with pelvic girdle pain: Randomised single blind controlled trial. BMJ. (2005): 330(7494):761 Davenport, M., Poitras, V., Gray, C., Barrowman, N., Skow, R., Meah, V., … Mottola, M. (2018). Prenatal exercise for the prevention of gestational diabetes mellitus and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(21), 1367–1375. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099355 Schoenfeld, B. (2011). Resistance Training During Pregnancy: Safe and Effective Program Design. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 33(5), 67–75. doi: 10.1519/ssc.0b013e31822ec2d8


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