Is prenatal exercise good or bad? Currently, about one in three women undergo Caesarean deliveries. This trend has been increasing steadily since the 1990s. If asked, most mothers would do anything they could to reduce the likelihood of Caesarean.
Exercise during pregnancy reduces Caesarean rate and normalizes birth weight
A study from University of Alberta found that pregnant women who exercise significantly lower their risk for Caesarean births. Prenatal exercise has been linked as a way to prevent childhood obesity by normalizing birth weight. The research team conducted a meta-analysis and analyzed 28 randomized control studies that included 5,322 women. They examined the influence of maternal exercise on baby outcomes. (1)
“We found that women who exercised had a 31 percent reduction in the risk of having a large baby without changing the risk of having a small baby or an earlier baby,” said lead researcher Margie Davenport, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation. “Further, the risk of having a Caesarean section was reduced by 20 percent.” (1)
A 2012 study followed nearly 300 women through the first trimester of their pregnancy to delivery. Experts developed different exercises for each stage of pregnancy. The women exercised for a total of 3 hours a week and performed aerobic resistance, strength training for muscles most affected by pregnancy, and pelvic floor exercises. The study concluded that there were fewer medical interventions in the group of mothers who completed the exercises versus the control group. (2)
Exercise also improves pregnancy experience and reduces aches and pains
Not only does exercise reduce medical interventions during pregnancy, it also boosts mood, improves sleep and reduces aches and pains associated with pregnancy. Exercise has also been found to prevent and treat gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Exercising when pregnant helps strengthen muscles associated with labor and delivery, build endurance needed during labor and delivery, and makes getting back into shape easier after the birth of the baby. (3)
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends 30 minutes of daily exercise for pregnant women. (3)
Exercises that are safe for women in all stages of pregnancy:
- Walking: Walking is low impact on knees and ankles and requires no equipment outside of a good pair of walking shoes. Walking can be done throughout the entire 9 months of pregnancy.
- Swimming: Swimming is considered one of the safest exercises for pregnant women. Swimming raises the heart rate and provides cardio benefits due to using large muscle groups within the arms and legs. A perk of swimming is that pregnant mothers feel weightless when in the water.
- Low Impact Aerobics: Low impact aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and tones the body. If participating in a prenatal low impact aerobic class, mothers can gain support of other soon to be moms!
- Dancing: Who doesn’t love to dance in the privacy of their home? Dancing is a great cardio workout, but don’t get fancy with jumps and twirls.
- Yoga: Yoga maintains muscle tone as well as improves flexibility without hard impact on the joints. Alternating yoga with cardio can help provide a balanced week of movement.
- Stretching: Like yoga, stretching keeps you limber and relaxed!
- Weight-training: If weight training was a part of your workout routine pre-pregnancy, continue lifting, but consider lifting lighter weights. Be certain that you are lifting with proper technique or this could cause injuries. If there are questions about technique, it may be best to seek out a qualified trainer. (3)
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