Maternal & Fetal Benefits

It was a super fast and super intense labor lasting approximately five hours total! All went well with the exception of his head being turned to the side, making the pushing out much more difficult. My doula said that many babies would have to be vacuumed out in this scenario however, attributing my strength to the awesome exercise classes during most of my pregnancy, I was able to push him out on my own! Thank you again for your help in keeping me healthy and strong during my pregnancy!Jennifer N.
  • Limited pregnancy weight gain
  • Decreased musculoskeletal discomfort of pregnancy, such as back pain
  • Decreased incidence of muscle cramps and leg swelling
  • Improved placental growth and function
  • Attenuation of gestational diabetes mellitus and gestational hypertension
  • Improved strength and cardiovascular function as well as muscle mass maintenance
  • Enhanced mood stability, perception of health status and quality of life
  • Decreased fetal fat mass without decreased overall growth
  • Improved fetal stress tolerance, and advanced neurobehavioral maturation
  • Improved intrauterine oxygenation and aerobic capacity
  • Improved physiologic ability for both mother and baby to deal with expected and unexpected physical stresses of labor
  • Decreased incidence of instrumental and/or operative delivery
  • Increased likelihood of shorter, less complicated labor


Maternal & Fetal Benefits of Regular Physical Activity: In Depth

“The influence of physical activity on pregnancy outcomes is widely debated. Traditionally, pregnant women were advised to reduce their levels of physical activity. This advice was based on concerns that exercise would affect pregnancy outcomes by raising core body temperature, by increasing the risk of maternal musculoskeletal injury due to changes in posture, centre of gravity and ligamentous laxity, and by moving transport of oxygen and nutrients to maternal skeletal muscle rather than to the developing fetus. In the meantime, research has provided a significant amount of new information about how a pregnant woman and her fetus respond to regular engagement in moderate physical activity. New investigations have shown no adverse maternal or neonatal outcomes, no abnormal fetal growth and no increase in early pregnancy loss or late pregnancy complications. On the contrary, regular physical activity has proven to result in marked benefits for mother and fetus.” (1)

Maternal Benefits:

“Improved cardiovascular function, limited pregnancy weight gain(2), decreased musculoskeletal discomfort(3), reduced incidence of muscle cramps and lower limb oedema(4), mood stability(5), attenuation of gestational diabetes mellitus and gestational hypertension(6).

Improved strength, muscle mass maintenance, and reduction in the incidence of low-back pain and other musculoskeletal complaints. (7)

Increased circulatory reserve, which in turn improves their ability to deal with both anticipated (exercise, work) and unanticipated (hemorrhage, trauma, anesthesia, and so forth) circulatory stress. (7)

“Clinical trials find positive effects of physical exercise on depressive symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum, quality of life, mainly with regards to physical and pain components, and maternal perceptions of health status.” (8)

Fetal Benefits:

Decreased fat mass, improved stress tolerance, and advanced neurobehavioural maturation. (9)

The interactive effects of exercise and pregnancy adaptations are both additive and protective for mom and baby. Regular exercise during pregnancy improves intrauterine oxygenation and aerobic capacity. (7)

The placentas of women who exercise regularly throughout early and mid-pregnancy grow faster and function better than those of women who are healthy but don’t exercise regularly. (7)

Continuing regular, vigorous exercise throughout pregnancy decreases fetal fat without decreasing overall growth. (7)

Benefits for Labor & Delivery:

Women who continue regular weight-bearing exercise throughout pregnancy tend to have easier, shorter, and less complicated labors. (7)

“Few studies that have directly examined the effects of physical activity on labour and delivery indic

ate that, for women with normal pregnancies, physical activity is accompanied with shorter labour and decreased incidence of operative delivery.” (1)

A prospective cohort study of 466 women published in April 2014, found “physical activity levels influenced the type of delivery, with lower activity levels increasing the risk of instrumental delivery.” This study concluded, “increasing maternal physical activity levels will lead to a reduction in the number of instrumental and cesarean deliveries.” (10)

“Functional changes from exercise either compensate for or complement the functional changes of pregnancy and vice versa. Therefore, the combination produces physiological change that creates an extended margin of safety for both mother and baby under conditions of cardiovascular, metabolic, thermal and mechanical stress. As such, these adaptations would protect both should unanticipated medical problems arise in late pregnancy, labor, or delivery.” (7)



1.Meltzer, K., Schutz, Y., Boulvain, M., & Kayser, B. (2010). Physical Activity and Pregnancy Cardiovascular Adaptations, Recommendations and Pregnancy Outcomes. Sports Med, 40(6), 494

2. Mottola MF. (2009). Exercise prescription for overweight and obese women: pregnancy and postpartum. Obstetrics Gynecology Clin North Am, 36: 301-16. viii

3. Pivarnik JM. Chambliss HO. Clapp JF. et al. (2006). Special communications, roundtable consensus statement: impact of physical activity during pregnancy and postpartum on chronic disease risk. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 38: 989-1006

4. Arena B, Maffulli N. (2002). Exercise in pregnancy; how safe is it? Sports Med Arthroscop Rev 2002; 10; 15-22

5. Poudevigne MS. O’Connor PJ. (2006). A review of physical activity patterns in pregnant women and their relationship to psychological health. Sports Med, 36: 19-38

5. Poudevigne MS. O’Connor PJ. (2005). Physical activity and mood during pregnancy. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 37: 1374-80

6. Artal R. (2003). Exercise: the alternative therapeutic intervention for gestational diabetes. Clinical Obstetrics Gynecology, 46: 479-87

7. Clapp III, J. F., & Cram, C. (2012). Exercising Through Your Pregnancy: A compelling case for exercise before, during, and after pregnancy (2nd ed.). Omaha, NE: Addicus Books

8. Nascimento, S. L., Surita, F. G., Cecatti, J. G. (2012). Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 24(6), 387-394

9. Clapp III JF. Lopez B. Harcar-Sevcik R. (1999). Neonatal behavioral profile of the offspring of women who continued to exercise regularly throughout pregnancy. Am J Obstetrics Gynecology, 180: 91-4

10. Morgan et al. (2014). Physical Activity and Excess Weight in Pregnancy Have Independent and Unique Effects on Delivery and Perinatal Outcomes. PLOS ONE, 9(4), 1-7

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