Heavy physical activity during pregnancy can cause fetal macrosomia, gestational diabetes, finds study

Previous studies have found links between chemical exposure and pregnancy outcomes and self-reported effects of various physical activities such as repeated bending, standing for long hours and lifting weights have also been included

Myupchar November 11, 2020 14:46:46 IST
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Heavy physical activity during pregnancy can cause fetal macrosomia, gestational diabetes, finds study

Representational image. Reuters

Pregnant women are often confused and apprehensive when it comes to physical activity due to concerns about their and the baby’s health.

Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggest that all pregnant women should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. This can include exercises like brisk walking that are paced enough to increase your heart rate but not cause sweating.

Now, in a study done at Leigh University, a group of researchers have found that the strenuousness of a pregnant woman’s activities could lead to adverse fetal outcomes.

The findings of the study are published in the journal Review of Economics of the Household.

Previous evidence

Over the years, more pregnant women are continuing to work for longer hours and much farther into their pregnancy. This makes it really important to understand the effects of work-related stress on pregnancy and childbirth. Previous studies have found links between chemical exposure and pregnancy outcomes and self-reported effects of various physical activities such as repeated bending, standing for long hours and lifting weights have also been included in certain studies.

However, no study yet has compared the effects of the overall stress and strenuousness of physical activity on pregnant women and pregnancy outcomes.

Also, in most of the previous studies, the physical activities reported included both leisure and work-related activities, which did not really give as effective evidence since recreational physical activities are said to have more health-promoting effects than those related to one’s job. Also, the study indicated that more intense job-related activities crowd leisure and recreational physical activity, so combining them is potentially problematic.

The new study

In the latest study, researchers collected data for maternal and fetal health and matched it with job data from the Department of Health in New Jersey. It was found that women who are engaged in physically strenuous jobs are 17 percent more likely to have fetal macrosomia. Babies with fetal macrosomia are more than 8 pounds or 4,000 g at birth and are at a higher risk of being overweight or developing obesity in their adolescence. At the same time, it puts the mother at the risk of developing breast cancer later on.

Additionally, the study found a link between gestational diabetes, which is a possible risk factor for fetal macrosomia, and intensive physical activity during pregnancy. The researchers indicated that sleep deprivation due to excessive physical activity leads to gestational diabetes, which, in turn, causes fetal macrosomia. Though the link had been known previously, it is still understudied and needs more attention from the medical community.

To work out or not to work out

As per the CDC, USA, it is best that pregnant women consult their doctors to know what levels of physical activity are best for them as women with certain underlying health conditions may have specific needs.

Also, if you do not work out at all, do not start exercising suddenly when you’re pregnant. Instead, begin slowly with 5 minutes a day and gradually increase your activity level by adding 5 minutes per day until you reach the recommended daily duration advised by your doctor.

For more information, read our article on Exercise during pregnancy

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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