I’ve had a pretty fun past few days. We planted the garden on Saturday and then it snowed Sunday! Really? It was 74 last week. Then I was sick Sunday night… and Monday night. I think Little C rolls on or into my stomach and makes me want to puke. I just remind myself I am so very grateful for this baby.
Onto the article of the day. I thought I’d continue the health theme and share a paper I wrote about a year ago for my Pregnancy and Infancy class at BYU (please don’t plagiarize it but honestly, I wouldn’t know either way, it’s just bad form).
Here is a quick summary for those who aren’t interested in the academia speak:
There are tons of benefits for both the mother and child if a woman exercises while she is pregnant. Any amount of exercise is good but, it is generally recommended to switch to low impact workouts or, if you weren’t active before, to slowly start an exercise program with guidance from your doctor.
So, what are the benefits you may ask? First of all shorter labor. Women who worked out had an average of 30 minutes less of labor. Now, that’s not huge, but I bet during labor it’d be pretty nice. You’re also less likely to have a c-section. I don’t know how many of you that’s encouraging to, but I don’t want to have a c-section so I’ll offer it as incentive. There are the benefits during labor, but there’s also benefits during pregnancy and postpartum. You’ll have less weight gain during pregnancy (obviously), but you’ll also (statistically) retain less weight postpartum! Maybe I’m vain, but I like the idea of that. The final benefit mommies is that exercise reduces negative emotions (like anxiety or depression), just like they do before you’re pregnant!
What about your darling baby who is the whole point of the debacle? Guess what? You get to start taking care of him/her before they come. So, if you work out, your baby should have a higher placental weight. To contrast that, low placental weight is associated with blood problems and smaller than average children. The baby will also be at a lower risk for pre-term birth (why this is bad?). Yeah exercise!
Here are my favorite pregnancy exercise videos to give you some encouragement:
I didn’t work out the first two months of my pregnancy but, around the third I started feeling better and started doing 10 minute workout videos every night. During month 5 I moved up to 20 minute workout videos. This isn’t a lot but, it wears me out.
So, tell me gals, what do you do to keep fit during pregnancy?
Below is my entire paper for more info:
The Benefits of Exercise during Pregnancy
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states, “in the absence of either medical or obstetric complications, 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week is recommended for pregnant women” (Women’s Health Care Physicians, 2009, line 6 – 8). But, what are the benefits for pregnant women who exercise? This paper explains the mental and physical benefit to mothers as well as the benefits for babies if a women exercises while pregnant.
Synthesized Review of Literature
Benefits to Mother
Labor is a very difficult and painful time for women and many women would love to shorten their labor times. Ghodsi, Asltoghiri, and Hajiloomohajerani (2011) found that women who completed light intensity training three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes had shorter first stage labor times. There was not a large difference however. Women who trained had between 4.18 hours to 6.9 hours of labor whereas non-training women had labor between 4.7 hours and 7.5 hours of labor. There was no difference in second stage labor times. However, with thirty minutes less time in first stage labor, one may presume that a mother would have more energy to complete second stage labor. More research is needed to see if more exercise, such as the amount the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends, will lead to wider differences in labor times.
Women that are active are also less likely to have a cesarean section. Price, Amini, and Kappeler found that only 6% of their subjects that were active had cesarean section compared to 32% of the women in their control group (2012, p. 2267) Cesarean sections are invasive and also lead to longer recovery times and thus are a detriment to mothers.
Mental and Physical Benefits
There are many benefits to the mental and physical state of the mother, if the mother exercises during pregnancy. Haakstad and Bo (2011) found that not only did women who participated in an exercise program gain less weight during pregnancy but they also had significantly lower weight retention postpartum. This is both a physical benefit, for obvious reasons, and a mental benefit for women who place value on being a certain weight and bouncing back from their pregnancy weight quickly. This study also studied an exercise program that had less than the recommended amount of exercise. This study’s program consisted of aerobic exercise for 60 minutes twice a week. More research is needed to see if the benefits continue with more exercise.
Furthermore, Guszkowska, Langwald, and Sempolska compared exercise to relaxation techniques and showed that both resulted in, “the emotional state of pregnant women improve[ing]” (2013, p. 129). However, there were notable differences in the way each variable affected the women. Guszkowska, Langwald, and Sempolska state:
Relaxation caused a distinct decrease of negative emotional states – anxiety and tense arousal and an increase of hedonic tone – while energetic arousal did not increase. In the physical exercise group, the decrease in anxiety and tension was smaller, the increase in pleasure feeling was not as distinctive, but the increase in energetic arousal was more significant …Therefore, physical exercise seems to be less effective in reducing negative emotional states than relaxation sessions, but more successful in increasing positive states. (2013, p.129)
Women that have anxiety and depression benefit more from relaxation techniques because of the decrease in negative emotions but also benefit from exercise as a way of lowering the amount of anxiety and depression they feel while raising their energy levels. Women who feel lethargic and exhausted during pregnancy benefit most from exercise because they feel “a surge of vitality, vigour and vital energy” (Guszkowska, Langwald, and Sempolska, 2013, p. 130). Thus women who exercise during pregnancy, contrary to what one would suppose, feel more energized rather than more fatigued.
Benefits to Baby
Many women are more concerned about how their actions during pregnancy will affect their baby more than themselves. Exercise during pregnancy also benefits the baby. Firstly, Price, Amini, and Kappeler found that, “[a]lthough the exercise regimen was vigorous enough to improve fitness, it had no adverse effect on overall pregnancy length, fetal birth weight, Apgar scores, or placenta weight compared with sedentary controls” (2012, p. 2267). Thus, women seeking to change from a sedentary lifestyle to an active lifestyle during pregnancy can do so without risking harm to their baby. Price, Amini, and Kappeler furthered their research by stating, “placenta weight was slightly higher in the active group, consistent with evidence that exercise augments placental growth during early and mid pregnancy” (2012, p.2267). Low placental weight is associated with short umbilical cord length and velamentous cord insertion (McNamara, Hutcheon, Platt, Benjamin, and Kramer, 2014, p. 102). It is also associated with “high hemoglobin values in neonates and lower-than-expected body size in later childhood” (Naeye, 1987, p.387)
Other findings suggest that maternal exercise while pregnant decreases the risk of pre-term delivery. Guendelman, Pearl, Kosa, Graham, Abrams, and Kharrazi found that, “each incremental hour per week of moderate exercise during the second trimester was associated with a reduced risk of PTD. Furthermore, the benefits of moderate exercise appeared strongest for those with a pre-pregnancy BMI C 24 kg/m2” (2013, p.726). While exercise benefits babies from all mothers, mothers were overweight before pregnancy benefit even more than those that had normal weight. Owe, Stigum, Nystad, and Bo’s findings also support this claim. They found that engaging in regular exercise during pregnancy shifts the GA distribution slightly upward resulting in a moderately reduced risk of preterm births and a few more postterm births (2012, p.1072)
It is evident that exercise is beneficial for both a pregnant woman and perinatal baby. There
are multiple applications for this research.
Delivery Outcomes for Mother
Mothers that are at risk for long labors and cesarean sections would benefit from exercise
(Ghodsi, Asltoghiri, and Hajiloomohajerani, 2011 and Price, Amini, and Kappeler, 2012). Labor is
generally a long an arduous process and any woman would benefit from shortening it. However, first
time mothers, who generally have longer labors, will benefit from the shortening the most Long
labors can lead to exhaustion and necessitate non-natural labors in mothers that wish to have natural
labors. Doctors, midwives, and birthing class instructors can also this as an incentive to mothers to
exercise. One of the most dreaded parts of pregnancy is the long labor. Pregnant women that are not
encouraged to exercise by the other benefits noted may exercise to reduce their own pain.
Mental and Physical Benefits to Mother
Pregnant women can benefit physically and mentally from exercise and relaxation training
(Guszkowska, Langwald, and Sempolska, 2013). Birthing class teachers can learn from this research
and encourage or implement exercise and relaxation training to lower stress levels. Doctors that are
treating clinically depressed or anxious mothers should encourage and teach relaxation techniques
and/or exercise either as an alternative to medication or in conjunction with lower medication dosage
depending on the severity of the depression and anxiety and the type of medication the mother is
taking. Stress during pregnancy can result in low birth weight or preterm delivery which leads to
possible negative outcomes for the infant, so, it is important to decrease stress for pregnant women.
The encouraged exercise and resulting invigoration is also beneficial for women who feel extremely
lethargic, which is common during pregnancy.
Women can encourage themselves to participate in exercise programs by committing to work
out with a pregnant friend or their partner. There are also many gyms that offer pregnancy work-out
classes that women can participate in and gain not only the benefits mentioned here of exercise but
also the benefits of having an emotional support group.
Benefits to Baby
Babies benefit from having healthy and happy mothers, which exercise during pregnancy adds to. But, babies also benefit physically from their mother exercising. Pregnant women who exercise at least one hour a week decrease their risk of preterm delivery (Guendelman, Pearl, Kosa, Graham, Abrams, and Kharrazi, 2012). “This modest amount of exercise seems clinically important given that women are mainly sedentary and PTD remains a leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality” (Guendelman, Pearl, Kosa, Graham, Abrams, and Kharrazi, 2012, p.726). Furthermore, according to the Mayo Clinic, preterm delivery can cause breathing problems, heart problems, brain problems, temperature control problems, gastrointestinal problems, blood problems, metabolism problems, immune system problems, cerebral palsy, impaired cognitive skills, vision problems, hearing problems, dental problems, behavioral and psychological problems, or other chronic health issues (2014). By exercising a woman can decrease the chances that her child will suffer from these because of their decreased chance of preterm delivery.
Numerous studies show that exercise during pregnancy is beneficial to both mother anc child (Ghodsi, Asltoghiri, and Hajiloomohajerani, 2011, Guendelman, Pearl, Kosa, Graham, Abrams, and Kharrazi, 2013, Guszkowska, Langwald, and Sempolska, 2013, Haakstad and Bø, 2011, Owe, Stigum, Nystad, and Bø, 2012, Price, Amini, and Kappeler, 2012). Doctors, midwives, and birthing instructors should all encourage exercise to those women who are able to do so. Pregnant women should understand the benefits of exercising during pregnancy and not believe in the myth that exercise hurts infants.
Ghodsi, Z., Asltoghiri, M., & Hajiloomohajerani, M. (2011). Exercise and pregnancy: Duration of labor stages and Perinea tear rates. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 31, 441-445. Retrieved March 8, 2015, fromhttp://www.sciencedirect.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/science/article/pii/S1877042811030114#
Guendelman, S., Pearl, M., Kosa, J. L., Graham, S., Abrams, B., & Kharrazi, M. (2013). Association between preterm delivery and pre-pregnancy body mass (BMI), exercise and sleep during pregnancy among working women in Southern California. Maternal And Child Health Journal, 17(4), 723-731. doi:10.1007/s10995-012-1052-5
Guszkowska, M., Langwald, M., & Sempolska, K. (2013). Influence of a relaxation session and an exercise class on emotional states in pregnant women. Journal of Reproductive And Infant Psychology, 31(2), 121-133. doi:10.1080/02646838.2013.784897
Haakstad, L. H., & Bø, K. (2011). Effect of regular exercise on prevention of excessive weight gain in pregnancy: A randomised controlled trial. The European Journal Of Contraception And Reproductive Health Care, 16(2), 116-125. doi:10.3109/13625187.2011.560307
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, November 27). Premature Birth: Complications. Retrieved March 9, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premature-birth/basics/complications/con-20020050
McNamara, H., Hutcheon, J. A., Platt, R. W., Benjamin, A., & Kramer, M. S. (2014). Risk Factors for High and Low Placental Weight. Paediatric & Perinatal Epidemiology, 28(2), 97-105. doi:10.1111/ppe.12104
Naeye, R. (1987). Do placental weights have clinical significance? Human Pathology, 387-391.
Owe, K., Stigum, H., Nystad, W., & Bø, K. (2012). Does Exercise during Pregnancy Affect Gestational lenght at Birth. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 44(6), 1067-1074. Retrieved March 8, 2015, from OvidSP.
Price, B., Amini, S., & Kappeler, K. (2012). Exercise in Pregnancy: Effect on Fitness and Obstetric Outcomes—A Randomized Trial. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 44(12), 2263-2269. Retrieved March 7, 2015, from OvidSP.
Women’s Health Care Physicians. (2009, January 1). Retrieved March 7, 2015, fromhttp://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Exercise-During-Pregnancy-and-the-Postpartum-Period