Exercise during pregnancy does not increase preterm birth risk

Women who participated in an aerobic exercise program 3 to 4 times per week during their pregnancies were not likely to give birth prematurely.
Women who participated in an aerobic exercise program 3 to 4 times per week during their pregnancies were not likely to give birth prematurely.

Exercise during pregnancy does not increase a woman's risk of preterm birth, according to research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Vicenzo Berghella, MD, Department of Medicine, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Sydney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 9 previously conducted randomized clinical trials of pregnant women who before 23 weeks had been randomized to either an aerobic exercise regimen or a control group. Participants were of normal weight and had uncomplicated, singleton pregnancies without obstetric contraindication to physical activity.

The aerobic exercise group participated in exercise for 35 to 90 minutes, 3 to 4 times per week, for 10 weeks or until their delivery.

Nearly 2060 women were included in the meta-analysis; 49.6% were randomized to the exercise group and 50.4% to the control group. In a comparison of both groups, the researchers noted that incidences of preterm birth of <37 weeks and mean gestational age at delivery were similar, although women in the exercise group exhibited significantly higher rates of vaginal delivery (73.6% versus 67.5%) and lower rates of gestational diabetes mellitus and hypertensive disorders (2.4% versus  5.9% and 1.9% versus 5.1%, respectively). Incidences of operative vaginal delivery were the similar in both groups.

“The results of this analysis support current guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which sets the recommendations for our field,” said Dr Berghella. “However, there are many reasons women pull back on exercise during pregnancy – discomfort, an increase in tiredness and feeling winded by low-level exertion. This paper reinforces that exercise is good for the mom and the baby and does not hold any increased risk in preterm birth.”

Reference

  1. Di Mascio D, Magro-Malosso ER, Saccone G, et al. Exercise during pregnancy in normal-weight women and risk of preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016; doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2016.06.014
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