Being fit and healthy may sound like too much to worry about when you are pregnant, but don't think of it as an option. Staying healthy increases your chances of remaining low-risk. Being low-risk allows you the most options possible for labor and giving birth.
But the benefits for mom don't stop there. A 1992 study by Lois Jovanovic-Peterson found that mothers who were experiencing gestational diabetes could lower their blood sugar levels to the point that they no longer needed insulin shots by doing aerobic exercise for 20-30 minutes three times a week.
Dr. Tanya K. Sorensen reported in a poster session at the 2002 annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine that vigorous exercise during pregnancy appears to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia.
As for labor, a study reported in the Family Practice Research Journal way back in 1991 showed that mothers who exercised 20 minutes three times a week for at least 20 weeks of their pregnancy had shorter second stages and fewer complications during labor than mothers who didn't exercise.
James Clapp, M.D. reported in 1996 that women who exercised during pregnancy had their babies an average of 5 days earlier than non-exercisers and had less need for medical intervention. In his paper to The American Journal of Sports Medicine he stated, "The active phase of their labors is about 2 hours shorter, clinical and laboratory evidence of fetal stress is decreased, and the incidence of operative delivery (forceps or cesarean section) is reduced from 48% to 14%. "
Staying fit and healthy can also improve the outcomes for your baby. In 1993 Maureen C. Hatch and her coworkers at Columbia University in New York City found that mothers who exercised tended to have bigger babies, which can mean that the babies are better fit to handle illnesses.
In a 1997 study out of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland James Clopp, M.D. found that by age 5, the babies of mothers who exercised for at least 30 minutes three times a week had lower levels of body fat and scored higher on the Wechsler test of general intelligence and coordination as well as on tests of oral language skills.
If the physical benefits are not enough to get you off the couch, in 2003 Dacosta and colleagues published a study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology showing that mothers who exercised during pregnancy reported less depression, daily hassles, state-anxiety and pregnancy-specific stress while in the first and second trimesters.
So there you have it. Exercise during pregnancy is good for you physically and emotionally. It can keep you more comfortable during pregnancy and help you during labor. It can even help your baby be healthy. With so many good reasons to exercise, how could you say no?
Exercise Builds Big Babies American Journal of Epidemiology, May 1993; cited in AAP News, Sept 1993, p. 2)Science News, 7/17/93, Vol. 144 Issue 3, p36, 1p
Bean, Adam 1997 Running Mom = smart kid. Runner's World 32:6 p28
Clapp, James F. 1996 The effect of continuing regular endurace exercise on the physiologic adaptations to pregnancy and pregnancy outcome. (Third IOC World Congress on Sports Sciences) The American Journal of Sports Medicine 24:6 p 28(2)
Physical activity during pregnancy improves psychological well-being Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week, Sept 6, 2003 p6
Walsh, Nancy 2002 Prenatal Exercise Cuts Peeclampsia Risk by 34%. Family Practice News 32:12 p 33
Diabetes in Pregnancy? Pump Iron not Insulin Health, Oct92, Vol. 6 Issue 6, p17, 2p