Exercise And Low Birth Weight In Newborns

Mother’s are often concerned about the effects of exercise or other activities on a fetus, and luckily there has been much credible research on this topic in the past several years.  I have good news to report.

It is true that women who exercise have children with a lower birth weight than women who are sedentary.  But before you jump to conclusions, let me shed some light on the big picture, and you will then see that exercise is the kindest thing a mother can do both for herself and for her baby.

When the mother is an exerciser, her baby may weigh about 14 ounces less than a woman who is sedentary, but do not confuse this with the medical condition of “low birth weight” (under 5 pounds, 8 ounces), where health risks for the baby are increased. Exercising has not been linked to low birth weight in babies, they just may weigh a little less, and this is primarily due to less subcutaneous body fat, which is fat under the skin.

The most significant follow-up study on this topic showed that exercise during pregnancy did not result in any long-term growth or development problems in the children.

I have been proclaiming the benefits of exercise every week in this column and when on the topic of pregnancy, I proudly step onto my soapbox.  It is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and for your baby.  Let me share some information!

Benefits of exercise on maternal health:
Cardiovascular health.  Cardiovascular training improves a woman’s ability to handle the stresses of pregnancy and the physical event of labor and delivery.

Muscular health.  Muscle strength and endurance helps support increased breast size, abdominal weight, and postural changes, all of which stress the body.

Physical well-being.  Exercising women have less nausea, fatigue, leg cramps, round ligament pain, and backaches.  Exercise also helps avoid excessive weight gain, constipation, varicose veins, and general discomfort.

Psychological well-being.  Exercise can elevate mood, stimulate energy levels, and counteract feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Labor and delivery.  Women who exercise have higher rates of uncomplicated, spontaneous delivery, and their length of labor was shorter by nearly one-third!

Also, exercisers had a C-section rate of 6.7%, compared to 28.1% with non-exercisers.

Benefits of exercise postpartum:
~The majority of exercising women return to pre-pregnancy fitness levels after just 6 months.

~More than half of women returned to pre-pregnant weight and body fat after 6 months.  After one year, 75% returned to pre-pregnant levels, compared to only 30% of non-exercisers.

~Weight retention among non-exercisers was 3 times greater and fat retention was twice that of exercisers, after one year.

~After one year, non-exercisers regained 48% of muscle tone in their abs compared to 85% of regained muscle tone with exercisers!

A person could almost write a lengthy book to share all of the incredible things that exercising can do for you and your child.  I am serious, it is amazing what research is uncovering on this topic.

As you might imagine, you should always consult your physician before exercising during pregnancy, and seek a qualified professional in setting up a prenatal or postpartum program.

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