Should a woman exert her body when there’s another body growing inside of it? My gut reaction is that it seems risky—maybe that’s just because TV has given me an image of pregnancy as a time of bedrest and ice-cream eating, and very little exertion. And pregnant women are often told about the importance of rest.
Previously, doctors thought that exercise could lead to preterm birth, because when you work out, you release the hormone norepinephrine, which could cause contractions. Starting in 1985, The New York Times reports, doctors began to cautiously recommend light exercise, and today, moderate exercise is thought to be safe. And a new meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology adds to the evidence in favor of pregnant gym time. Researchers reviewed the randomized clinical trials that have been done on a total of 2,059 women who either did aerobic exercise during their pregnancy or didn’t. It concluded that not only was exercise not associated with preterm birth, it was associated with a lot of good outcomes.
Exercise was linked to a lower risk of gestational diabetes (a 2.4 percent risk compared to 5.9 percent in the control group) as well as a lower risk of hypertension (1.9 percent compared to 5.1 percent risk). The women who worked out were also significantly more likely to give birth vaginally than to have a C-section: 73.6 percent of exercising women had vaginal deliveries, while 67.5 percent of non-exercising women did.