Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Treatment Options: Exercise

Yesterday, we explored the research on bedrest. Today, we're going in the opposite direction: exercise. Much like bedrest, it has been recommended for years that healthy pregnant women exercise 30 minutes a day. The primary reason for this recommendation is to prevent complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. The reasoning is that, since exercise can have a positive effect on chronic hypertension outside pregnancy, it would have a similar effect within pregnancy.

The problem with this assumption is that the mechanism behind preeclampsia is completely different from chronic hypertension. In fact, high blood pressure is not the primary problem, only a symptom of that problem. So how does daily exercise as a prevention hold up in actual research?

Most of the research showed a small benefit to exercise before and/or during pregnancy as a prevention for PE, according to this review. It also showed no harm with regard to preterm delivery or low birth weight.

Then we come to this study, one of the largest ever done on exercise and PE. It looked specifically at exercise in the first trimester, categorized women on how long they exercised weekly, and looked both at mild and severe PE. The results were rather astonishing. After adjusting for certain risk factors, researchers found NO benefit to exercise on the rate of PE, and women who exercised the most (270 minutes per week or more) had higher rates of severe PE.

There needs to be more research done to confirm or discount this study. While exercise is an important part of healthy living, and it's especially important to be healthy while pregnant so you and baby have the best chance of surviving any complication that may come up, it doesn't appear to prevent PE. While light exercise isn't harmful, I would be careful not to overdo it.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This is provided for information only. As always, consult your medical professional before starting or stopping a treatment plan (or exercise regimen) in pregnancy.

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