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Pregnant Women Who Exercise Might Have Shorter Labor, Says New Study

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Exercising while pregnant may yield benefits once the woman finally gives birth, at least according to a new study.

Researchers from Spain divided around 500 women into two groups — the first group was asked to participate in moderate exercise sessions three times a week with the help of a professional. Their routine was based on recommendations by the American Congress of Obstetricians.

Meanwhile, the other group had no such physical intervention, merely routine education about proper nutrition and physical activity during prenatal checkups.

Exercise May Lead To Shorter Labor Periods

The results? Women who exercised even just three times per week while they're pregnant are more likely to experience shorter labor than those who don't. The researchers discovered significant changes when it comes to the labor room. The first stage was, on average, 53 minutes shorter for the women who exercised compared with the other group.

The changes go beyond the first stage. The total average labor time of the first group was also nearly an hour shorter than the other group. Plus the woman who exercised were also less likely to require an epidural, a procedure where a drug or contrast agent is injected into the spinal cord's epidural space to block pain.

The results were published in The European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology.

"A supervised physical exercise program throughout pregnancy decreased the duration of the first phase of labor as well as total time of the first two phases together, leading to a decrease in total labor time," the study concludes.

Another difference between the two groups the researchers noticed was that the women who didn't exercise during their pregnancy reported higher weight gain.

Exercising While Pregnant

Exercise is an important part of pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women engage in physical activity for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week. These activities include brisk-walking, dancing, housework, and other chores. The CDC says "you can break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. As long as you're doing your activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time."

Needless to say that pregnant women should not partake in exercises willy-nilly. They must first approach their doctor to avoid complications as much as possible. Especially for women who already have certain diseases, exercising might cause more harm than good. Pregnant women who were very active before their pregnancy may continue doing the same physical activities but must first check with their health care provider.

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