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Exercising prevents excessive birthweight


Two recent studies have shown that exercising while pregnant can prevent excessive birth weight in babies, resulting in fewer risks during birth and also less likelihood of later obesity in the child. A study by the University of Auckland in New Zealand,


published in April 2010, assigned 84 fi rst-time mums to either an exercise or a control group. The exercisers were given a maximum of fi ve sessions of 40 minutes’ exercise per week – depending on their ability – to carry out until at least 36 weeks’ gestation. They found that regular, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise led to a small reduction in the birth weight of the baby – babies born to mothers in the exercise group were an average of 143 grams lighter than infants born to mums in the control group, and also had a lower body mass index. “Given that large birth size is associated with an


increased risk of obesity, a modest reduction in birth weight may have long-term health benefi ts for offspring by lowering this risk in later life,” says co-author of the study Paul Hofman, MD. In the other study, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology


in Sept 2009, Norwegian researchers reviewed data of nearly 37,000 women. They discovered that the odds of delivering a too-big baby dropped by as much as 28 per cent in women who exercised regularly in their second and third trimesters during their fi rst pregnancy. The researchers said that a heavier birth weight –


known medically as foetal macrosomia – poses a risk to both the baby and the mother. If a baby weighs more than 8.8lb, the risk of delivery problems, C-sections, postpartum haemorrhage and low Apgar scores all increase, according to background information in the study. They also state that larger birth weights have been associated with an increased risk of obesity later in life.


US doctors didn’t know exercise guidelines for pregnant women


Exercise after birth can help prevent post-natal depression


Specialised exercise routines could help new mothers lower their risk of depression by up to 50 per cent. Scientists at the University of Melbourne in Australia


carried out a study of 161 new mums, none of whom had any previous depressive symptoms. They were split into two groups and asked to take part in an eight- week mother and baby programme. One group’s course included parenting education and exercise classes, the other group only received the parenting education. The fi rst group fared signifi cantly better. The number


of women in this group identifi ed, pre-intervention, as ‘at risk’ of postnatal depression was reduced by 50 per cent by the end of the intervention, and four weeks later. The study was published in Physical Therapy, the scientifi c journal of the American Physical Therapy Association.


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A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health showed that medical experts in America were seriously lacking in their knowledge about exercise recommendations for pregnant women. Sixty per cent of medical doctors (MDs) and 86 per


cent of doctors of osteopathy (DOs) weren’t familiar with pregnancy exercise guidelines, it was found. The study by James Pivarnik and colleagues surveyed


93 MDs, DOs and midwives. “Study after study has shown exercise to be benefi cial for both mother and baby, but some doctors seem reluctant to trust that body of evidence,” says Pivarnik. The offi cial recommendations for pregnant women in


America were published in the US Physical Activity (PA) Guidelines for Americans, released in autumn 2008. This states: “Current evidence shows that PA performed by women undergoing a normal pregnancy is associated with very little risk, may decrease a woman’s risk of complications during pregnancy (hypertension, gestational diabetes), and may enhance weight loss postpartum. Thus, women are encouraged to perform the minimum amount of PA suggested for all Americans – that is, 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.”


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