Findings of a new analysis of 36 studies, which involved more than 12,500 women, suggest that adopting a healthy diet and engaging in physical exercise can lower pregnant women's likelihood of having C-section delivery.
Diet And Exercise
The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), also suggests that these lifestyle practices during pregnancy can reduce a woman's risk of developing gestational diabetes. Researchers found that healthy diet and exercise reduce the risk of diabetes in pregnancy by 24 percent.
Researchers found that dieting, which involves restricting sweetened beverages, eating more fruits and vegetables, and switching to low-fat dairy, combined with exercise significantly reduces a woman's weight gain during pregnancy by about 0.7 kg.
Weight Management During Pregnancy
Managing weight during pregnancy is important. Overweight women are known to have increased pregnancy risk and childbirth complications. They are also at higher odds of developing high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, blood clots and diabetes.
Obesity during pregnancy has also been associated with increased risk of miscarriage, neonatal death, stillbirth, premature babies and severe bleeding after birth.
"What we found was a healthy diet and moderate physical activity in pregnancy does reduce the risk of increased [excessive] weight gain, and this benefit is actually accessible to every pregnant woman, regardless of [pre-pregnancy] body weight," said study researcher Shakila Thangaratinam, from Queen Mary University of London.
Thangaratinam and colleagues said that the findings are important since it is often thought that pregnant women should not exercise as this may harm the baby. Their study showed that the babies are not affected by dieting or physical activity, and these practices during pregnancy even come with additional benefits such as reduced risk for diabetes and lower odds for C-section birth.
Risks Linked To C-Section Birth
Earlier studies have found unwanted consequences related to C-section delivery. A 2015 study found that infants who were born via caesarean section are at greater risk for asthma compared with their counterparts born via normal spontaneous delivery. A 2016 study also found evidence suggesting a potential link between pre-labor caesarean delivery and childhood leukemia.
Women also face potentially unwanted consequences as a result of giving birth via C-section. For one, they are at increased risk for wound infections and severe blood loss that may necessitate blood transfusion.
The findings of the new study suggest of an intervention that can reduce odds for C-section birth.
"This should be part of routine advice in pregnancy, given by practitioners as well as midwives. Now that we're able to link the advice to why it's beneficial for mothers-to-be, we hope mothers are more likely to adopt these lifestyle changes," Thangaratinam said.