Exercising during pregnancy was safe for both moms and babies in a new study of heavy women in Brazil, but fitness classes and at-home exercises didn’t keep moms-to-be from gaining too much weight.
The finding is “not surprising,” according to Dr. Patrick Catalano, a maternal-fetal medicine researcher from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.
“Lots of studies have not shown any benefits relative to weight gain in pregnancy using either diet or exercise,” said Catalano, who didn’t participate in the new research.
The U.S.-based Institute of Medicine recommends that overweight women should gain between 15 and 25 pounds during pregnancy, and obese women 11 to 20 — less than the amount recommended for normal-weight women.
Being overweight or obese while pregnant, or gaining too much weight during pregnancy, increases the chance of having a large baby and needing a Cesarean section. It also ups the risk that babies will have birth defects or grow up to be obese, researchers said.
Plus, women who gain a lot of weight during pregnancy tend to keep in on afterwards, Catalano told Reuters Health.
He said that starting an exercise or diet program mid-way through pregnancy probably isn’t as useful as intervening very early in pregnancy — or better yet, before.
‘MODERATE EXERCISE IS VERY GOOD’
In the current study, researchers led by Simony Nascimento from UNICAMP Medical School in Campinas recruited 82 heavy women who were already between three and five and a half months into their pregnancies.
They split those women into two groups. Half went to weekly exercise classes and got counseled on nutrition, weight gain and home exercises or walking they could do daily. The other women received standard prenatal care advice, but no extra information on exercise.
Regardless of whether they were assigned to do group and at-home exercise, about half of the women gained more weight than recommended upper limits.
On average, obese women gained 23 to 24 pounds in both groups. Overweight women gained an average of 22 pounds when they exercised and 36 when they didn’t, but the researchers caution that those findings were based on a small group of only 14 women.
The majority of all babies were born by c-section, but there was no difference in their health at birth based on whether or not moms exercised, Nascimento and colleagues report in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Catalano said the findings don’t take away from the fact that, “moderate exercise is very good, no question about it.” But he said that the farther women get into pregnancy, the harder it is for them to stick to an exercise program. That’s why starting with exercising and diet improvement early is so important.
One of the problems is that historically, women have been given the wrong message about eating and physical activity in pregnancy, said Dr. Raul Artal, head of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
“Pregnancy is not a state of confinement and indulgence. It’s an ideal time for behavioral modification for the benefit of both mother and the baby,” Artal, who wasn’t involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.
He considers pregnancy an opportunity to address unhealthy behaviors in patients. “In general women are more prone to adopt healthy lifestyles in pregnancy because of the concern for the unborn child.”
Nascimento’s team also pointed out that women typically have more contact with health providers when they’re pregnant.
But, Artal added, “The sad thing is that as a society we have become more sedentary and more overweight and obese. This is not confined to pregnant women.”
In an email to Reuters Health, the researchers recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day for overweight and obese pregnant women, along with stretching and nutrition counseling.
Source: Reuters Health
Experts want urgent research to see if the position a woman chooses to sleep in during late pregnancy affects still-birth risk, as a study suggests a link.
The University of Auckland compared 155 women who had late still-births with 310 who had healthy pregnancies.
Sleeping on the back or right side, rather than the left, doubled the risk – but only to almost four in 1,000.
Left-side lying aids blood flow to the baby, as the mother’s major blood vessels are unimpeded by a heavy womb.
The New Zealand study, published in the British Medical Journal, called for larger studies to test the findings.
Ms Daghni Rajasingam of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: “There are many factors which are linked to still-birth including obesity, increasing maternal age, ethnicity, congenital anomalies and placental conditions. A significant number are unexplained.
We would like to see further research into sleep in pregnancy encouraged and funded as a matter of urgency”
Janet Scott of the stillbirth charity Sands
“This small-scale study looks at another possible factor. However, more research is needed into sleep patterns before any firm conclusions over sleeping positions can be made.
“In the meantime, women should speak to their midwives if they are concerned.”
The UK has one of the highest still-birth rates in the developed world. Every year here 4,000 babies are still-born.
A third of still-births have no clear cause.
Janet Scott, of the still-birth and neonatal-death charity Sands, said: “We would like to see further research into sleep in pregnancy encouraged and funded as a matter of urgency.
“The study will require further validation before any widespread public health campaign could be justified.
“Mums want to know what they can do to reduce the chance of this happening to their baby.
“A simple message which mums could follow, which would reduce their risk of still-birth, would be very welcomeBy Michelle Roberts Health reporter, BBC News
Restless Legs in Pregnancy Likely to Recur, Researchers Say
Among those who developed syndrome, many had later occurrences, study found
Women who experience restless legs syndrome (RLS) during pregnancy are at increased risk for having it again during future pregnancies or developing a chronic form of the condition later in life, researchers have found.
RLS causes unpleasant sensations in the legs. Symptoms are generally worse at night and tend to progress with age. Movement generally relieves symptoms.
Italian researchers recruited 74 women who had RLS during pregnancy and 133 who did not. Six-and-a-half years later, the women were interviewed about RLS symptoms, additional pregnancies, occurrences of other diseases and medication use.
Of the women who had RLS during pregnancy, 18 (24 percent) also had the disorder at the end of the study, compared to 10 (8 percent) of the women who did not have RLS during pregnancy, the investigators found.
About 60 percent of the women who had RLS during a first pregnancy had the disorder again in a future pregnancy, compared to 3 percent of the women who did not have RLS during a first pregnancy, according to the report published in the Dec. 7 issue of the journal Neurology.
"This is the first long-term study to look at a possible connection between restless legs syndrome in pregnancy and repeat occurrences in later years or future pregnancies," study author Dr. Mauro Manconi, of Vita-Salute University in Milan, said in an American Academy of Neurology news release.
"Most of the time, when a woman experiences RLS in pregnancy, it disappears after the baby is born. However, our results show that having the condition during pregnancy is a significant risk factor for a future chronic form or the short-term form in other pregnancies down the road," Manconi added.