Strenuous Exercise During Pregnancy 'Unlikely' To Prolong Labour Or Increase Risk Of Premature Birth

Were you worried about exercising during pregnancy?

Women completing “strenuous” exercise during pregnancy is “unlikely” to prolong labour or increases chances of having a premature birth.

The statement has come from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), published online in the ‘British Journal of Sports Medicine’.

The committee has said the overall quality of the evidence is “not strong”, but “moderately good”.

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The statement draws on a review of published evidence, presented by an international panel of experts in Switzerland in September 2015.

It focuses on the potential effects of strenuous exercise on both mother and child in the periods immediately before and after birth, in bid to address some of the prevailing concerns.

These include fears that high intensity exercise and weight training may weaken the blood supply to the developing foetus.

“While strenuous exercise speeds up foetal heart rate, this is only temporary, with the heart rate returning to normal once exercise is stopped,” the statement reads.

“Elite athletes who want to become pregnant might want to consider limiting the intensity of high impact training routines in the week after ovulation and during the first three months of pregnancy.”

The statement said there is “strong evidence” that exercise during pregnancy reduces excessive birthweight, without boosting the risk of underweight at birth.

There is “moderately good evidence” that it doesn’t boosts the risk of premature birth.

There is also “moderately strong evidence” that exercise during pregnancy does not increase the rates of induced labour, the need for surgical widening of the vaginal opening (episiotomy) or an epidural (anaesthetic injection into the spine).

The committee released a summary showing an overview of their findings with exercise during pregnancy:

  • Elite athletes planning pregnancy might want to consider reducing high impact training routines in the week after ovulation.

  • Baby birth weights of exercising women are less likely to be excessively large (>4000g) and not at increased risk of being excessively small (<2500g).

  • Exercise does not increase the risk of premature birth.

  • Exercise during pregnancy does not increase the risk of induced labour; epidural anaesthesia; episiotomy or perineal tears; forceps or vacuum deliveries.

  • There is some encouraging evidence that the first stage of labour (before full dilatation) is shorter in women who exercise regularly.

  • There is also some encouraging evidence that exercise throughout pregnancy may reduce the need for caesarean section.

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