Should pregnant women actively train?

Jouko Pirhonen, Elisabeth Rettedal, Tom Hartgill, Pelle Lindqvist

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

Abstract

Background

The aim of this review article is to examine the evidence in the literature with regard to the safety of exercise in pregnancy.

Material and Methods

A literature search revealed fourteen randomised controlled trials which were systematically reviewed. The outcome measures looked at were both short and long term consequences of training in healthy pregnant women.

Results

The methodology of all included studies was qualitatively evaluated, though few were graded as good. The majority were small and had variable compliance from the volunteers. There was a lack of standardisation of the training schedules: the frequency ranged from 3 - 5 times per week, training intensities varied from age related maximal heart rates of 50 - 75% and exercise periods ranged from 20 – 60 minutes in length. Overall however, the exercise could be classified as moderate.
The literature revealed neither the fetus nor the mother derived harm from moderate exercise in pregnancy. Pregnant women who exercised in the above manner delivered normal healthy infants. With increasing intensity of exercise it appears the children are born with a lower percentage of body fat and thereby a lower birth weight, though still within normal range. This form of training does not appear to increase the incidence of preterm birth or caesarean section. The low number of studies and small patient numbers make it difficult to draw any conclusions with regard to teratogenic effects of hyperthermia. The exclusion of women who developed obstetric complications means it is not possible to draw any conclusions as regards exercise and the risk of placental abruption or bleeding.

Conclusion

Moderate exercise seems to have positive effects on pregnancy by way of improved physical well being. Moderate exercise also appears to increase psychological well being – the women feel better. Children born to mothers who exercised regularly showed no significant difference to those born to sedentary mothers in either a positive or a negative way. There was no apparent positive or negative effect on the infant at birth. From currently available data it appears that regular exercise of moderate intensity is both safe and commendable in pregnancy.
Further research in this area is required to assess whether physical activity can increase the risks of obstetric complications or cause significant effects from hyperthermia, particularly where exercise intensity is greater than as described here.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPregnancy and Exercise
EditorsThomas B Selkirk
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Pages251-268
ISBN (Print)9781594543494
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Pediatrics/Urology/Gynecology/Endocrinology (013240400)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Clinical Medicine

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