How you look after yourself during pregnancy can affect what happens at the birth of your baby, and beyond. It makes sense.
In the past pregnant women were told to avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting.
Today, however, women are encouraged to eat a balanced diet during pregnancy and to exercise regularly.
Exercise During Pregnancy Could Shorten Your Labour
Women are encouraged to stay generally active during pregnancy. Regular exercise during pregnancy can reduce the risk of risk of constipation, aches and pains, and help you to sleep better at night.
A new study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Reproductive Biology concluded exercise during pregnancy might also have an impact on the duration of labour.
The randomised clinical trial aimed to investigate whether there was a link between exercise during pregnancy and the length of labour.
Over 500 women took part into the study. Half of the participants were assigned to a moderate aerobic exercise class for the duration of their pregnancy. This consisted of three weekly sessions led by an instructor.
The control group was simply given the standard information about the importance of exercise and good nutrition, but participants were not enrolled into any specific exercise programs as part of the study.
Researchers found women in the exercise group, when compared with the control group, had a shorter first stage of labour (an average of 53 minutes shorter).
These women also experienced a shorter total labour time.
Women in the exercise group had an average labour time of seven and a half hours, compared with almost eight and a half hours for the women in the control group.
The researchers also found women in the exercise group were less likely to have an epidural for pain relief during labour. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a higher rate of neonate macrosomia (aka ‘big babies’) in the control group.
The researchers believed the improved muscle strength in the exercise group probably played an important role in securing shorter labours for the participants.
Yoga, swimming and brisk walking are popular exercises for pregnant women, although many women continue to lift weights and run marathons throughout their pregnancy.
The research team is now expanding its work to assess whether or not exercise affects the development of the placenta during pregnancy.