Prenatal care can increase health benefits for both mother and baby as well as reduce the risk of certain complications. It not only includes seeking medical care but also adopting certain lifestyle habits. Good nutrition and regular physical activity have both been linked to a number of benefits including a healthy birth-weight for babies.
Researchers from Canada wanted to estimate the influence of structured prenatal exercise on birth weight. A secondary assessment was done on the rate of cesarean since one reason for cesarean is a larger than normal fetus. The study, published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found that that structured prenatal exercise reduces the risk of having a large newborn without increasing the risk of low birth weight babies. Exercise was also associated with a lower risk of cesarean section.
About the Study
The meta-analysis included 28 randomized trials evaluating exercise interventions in 5,322 pregnancies for which birth size information was available. Participants were assigned to a standard prenatal care group or a standard prenatal care group plus supervised prenatal exercise group of at least 1 exercise session every 2 weeks throughout the study duration.
Participants who were in the prenatal exercise group were:
- 31% less likely to have a large newborn (birth weight of 8.8 pounds)
- 20% less likely to need cesarean section
- no more likely to have a low birth weight baby than those without exercise program
The mothers that participated in the regular exercise program also gained less weight than those in the group that did not receive the exercise intervention.
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