Published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS), the report suggests that exercise—such as aerobics, impact and nonimpact activities, resistance training, and swimming—eases back and other musculoskeletal pain, lowers maternal blood pressure, reduces swelling, and improves post-partum mood.
According to author Capt. Marlene DeMaio, M.D., M.C ., U.S.N., Research Director, Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia, the study indicates that the pregnant woman’s body can compensate for the changes with no harm to the foetus during low to moderate intensity exercise.
“It is important to remember that pregnancy is a temporary condition, not a disease, and that the musculoskeletal and physiologic changes that happen are normal in the majority of patients,” she said.
DeMaio, who collaborated with Capt. Everett Magann, M.D., M.C. U.S.N., Chairman in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, also at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, also believes that starting an exercise program when pregnant, is a perfect way to begin – and stick with – a fitness program.
“When a woman becomes pregnant, she often re-evaluates her lifestyle. She is motivated in a new way to deliver a healthy baby, and be healthy herself,” said Dr. DeMaio.
The researchers say that doctors may recommend that before giving birth, patients should begin or continue low to moderate exercise so as to maintain fitness and adapt exercise as needed as pregnancy progresses.
They further say that after giving birth, women should continue exercising at low to moderate levels because lactation is not negatively affected by exercise, and there are fewer reports of mothers having post-partum depression or mood changes when they are exercising.
According to Dr. DeMaio, exercise is even more important if the patient is older, as the risk for high blood pressure and increased glucose goes up the older a patient is, and exercise can help reduce these levels.
The researchers also say that physicians should discuss pregnancy as an opportunity to improve overall health, and suggest the patient start exercise for life-long health and as an example to the child when the child is older.
They say that even if a woman is under treatment for infertility, she can exercise under the supervision of her obstetrician.
If a pregnant woman is an athlete—wants more strenuous exercise, or who wants to increase training from moderate to high intensity—a qualified doctor should direct her exercise program.