Exercise Is Healthy for Mom and Child During Pregnancy

According to study author Capt. Marlene DeMaio, M.D., M.C., U.S.N., Research Director, Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia, data shows that the pregnant woman's body can compensate for the changes with no harm to the fetus 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.

Physicians may recommend exercise for pregnant patients in the following categories:

  • Prenatal: Patients should begin or continue low to moderate exercise. The goal is to maintain fitness and adapt exercise as needed as pregnancy progresses. (For example, runners might switch to running in a swimming pool later in their pregnancy.)
  • Postnatal: Continue exercising at low to moderate levels. Lactation is not negatively affected by exercise. There are fewer reports of mothers having post-partum depression or mood changes when they are exercising.
  • Older: Exercise is even more important if the patient is older, according to Dr. DeMaio. The risk for high blood pressure and increased glucose goes up the older a patient is, but exercise can help reduce these levels.
  • Obese: 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.
  • Infertile: Even if a woman is under treatment for infertility, she can exercise under the supervision of her obstetrician.
  • Athlete: For a pregnant woman wanting more strenuous exercise, or who wants to increase training from moderate to high intensity, a qualified doctor should direct her exercise program.

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