Expectant mothers can often be trapped in conflicting health advice from family, friends, and health care providers. Traditional advice, for instance, teaches pregnant women to get as much rest as possible — even prolonged bed rest, if necessary — and to gain enough weight for their baby’s healthy development.
A new report, however, has sounded the alarm against “misguided” recommendations like these.
Obesity Risk Among Pregnant Women
According to a group of researchers writing a new viewpoint in the journal JAMA, there’s a solid consensus that exercise benefits both mother and the fetus.
“Within reason, with adequate cautions, it’s important for [everyone] to get over this fear,” said exercise physiology professor Alejandro Lucia, an author of the viewpoint.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists updated its guidelines in 2015, saying that women without major health issues should get at least 20 to 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise on most days every week.
A recent study warned that most women weren’t meeting the guidelines, even when one factored in active transport such as walking to the store. Today, around 45 percent of moms-to-be also start their pregnancy in an overweight or obese state, compared to just 24 percent in 1983.
Almost half of pregnant females now gain more weight during their pregnancy term than recommended by the Institute of Medicine. This worries experts who believe that obesity proceeds through generations, where an overweight mother is more likely to have overweight children via genes and lifestyle.
The JAMA viewpoint investigated four aspects of workout during pregnancy, namely safety, benefits, timing and technique, and precautions. The authors concluded that pregnancy should no longer be deemed “a state of confinement,” emphasizing that an active lifestyle is both safe and beneficial while one is expecting.
“[S]ome of the weight gained during pregnancy was usually retained,” they wrote. “Elevated maternal weight is associated with a higher birth weight of offspring and contributes to the intergenerational transmission of obesity.”
The report also reflected on the results of a “Committee Opinion” from ACOG in December 2015, where it was stated that there is hardly any “credible evidence” to suggest bed rest during pregnancy, and to not continue exercising after giving birth.
Exercise Benefits For Mommies-To-Be
In a recent meta-analysis of research covering more than 2,500 pregnant subjects, there was no risk of preterm birth or low birth weight among normal-weight females who worked out.
The benefits are also numerous, from less gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and low back pain to fewer cesarean deliveries. In November 2015, for instance, a team of researchers urged pregnant women to exercise in order to avoid not just weight gain but also depression and gestational diabetes.
The exercise recommendation for pregnant women on their first prenatal consultation (around nine to 12 weeks) until right around delivery does not differ from those for non-pregnant ones: up to half-hour of exercise every day on most days of the week.
Certain restrictions remain, such as long-distance running, heavy weight lifting, and working out at more than 90 percent of one’s maximum heart rate.
Based on ACOG guidelines, aerobic workout should be avoided if one has significant heart condition, persistent bleeding in the second to third trimester, severe anemia, and symptoms such as dizziness or contractions.