New study shows the benefits of exercise for pregnant mothers

New study shows the benefits of exercise for pregnant mothers
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Expectant mothers commonly ask: is it safe to continue exercising while I’m pregnant? According to a new study by the University Hospital Antwerp (UZA), the answer – in most cases – is yes, and in fact, sports activities during pregnancy are very beneficial to both mother and foetus.  Reducing sporting activity when you are pregnant is therefore not necessary. On the contrary: there are benefits to be gained from moving more.

Around 85% of pregnant women do not reach the standard of 150 minutes of physical activity per week, as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends, the UZA study claims. It is the job of medical experts to encourage pregnant women to safely continue their exercise regimes, or even start one, says Hedwig Neels of the UZA.

"It's obvious that you have to avoid dangerous sports and keep in mind that you have to be careful, but don't let that prevent you from continuing to exercise," she told RTBF. “We should not dissuade that.”

It is only natural to be cautious, she says, but as far as pregnancy is concerned, exercise actually helps to reduce certain risks such as premature birth, the likelihood of which decreases by 50% if you exercise, while the risk of increased birth weight decreases by 39%.

Active mothers-to-be have 30-40% less chance of high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, and less chance of severe pelvic pain, Neels adds.

There are more advantages for the pregnant woman herself. The increase in endorphins during exercise helping to lift the mood, increasing a good mental state, and reducing the chance of depression. Exercising also reduces the risk of excessive weight gain and constipation. Your baby will also benefit from a reduced risk of obesity and will be mentally stronger, the study claims.

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More exercise also ensures better blood flow to the placenta and better blood flow to the foetus, which was proven during tests carried out in the study. Women who were between 13 and 30 weeks pregnant did both exercises to improve endurance (including 30 minutes of cycling) and strength exercises to stimulate the muscles. After three to six weeks, the placenta experienced more efficient blood flow. The more frequently the women exercised moderately, the greater the benefits they experienced.

Sports are therefore healthy for an expectant mother, the study shows, but that does not alter the fact that the situation is different than usual and that certain precautions must be observed. "Avoid contact sports is an obvious one,” says Neels. “Don't bump the bump."

Swimming, cycling, walking and strength training are good options while yoga or Pilates can also be beneficial. "For other exercises, pay attention to high temperatures and high humidity,” Neels concludes. “And if you have underlying conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or another medical problem, it is best to consult a doctor first."

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