Working out during pregnancy wards off muscle pain

By Helen Albert, Senior MedWire Reporter

Not enough healthy pregnant women are doing the recommended amount of physical exercise, suggest study findings.

The benefits of such exercise are clear, say the researchers, who found that women who exercised sufficiently were less likely to report pelvic girdle pain, low back pain, and depression.

As long as they have no medical or obstetric contraindications, pregnant women are advised to exercise three to five times a week for 15-30 minutes at moderate intensity, in line with current recommendations for the general population.

In addition to the more obvious health benefits, exercise has been suggested to reduce the risk for gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and depression, and has also been linked with shorter delivery time and a higher likelihood of having a vaginal delivery.

Kristin Gjestland (Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, Norway) and colleagues analyzed data collected from 3482 women participating in the Akershus Birth Cohort study. They collected information on the amount of exercise women participated in as well as their general health information between weeks 17 and 21 of pregnancy, at week 32, and at birth.

As reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the team found that only 14.6% of the women followed guidelines suggesting that they should exercise three times a week or more for at least 20 minutes at moderate intensity.

When women who exercised less than once a week were compared with those who exercised more than once a week, they were less likely to be having their first child, had a lower level of education, and were more likely to have a prepregnancy body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or more.

Notably, compared with women who exercised less than once a week, women who exercised three times a week or more were a significant 24% less likely to report pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy, while those exercising once or twice a week were a significant 20% and 44% less likely to report low back pain and depression, respectively.

Gjestland and co-authors say that their results suggest significant benefits can be obtained by exercising sufficiently during pregnancy, but concede that "to further examine whether exercise has a causal relationship with such health outcomes will require randomized controlled trials."

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