Participating in exercise while pregnant helps women reduce their probability of developing gestational diabetes and helps control maternal weight. Those are the conclusions of a Spanish study that analyzed the participation in exercise programs during pregnancy to curtail diabetes and weight gain. The study was recently published in the BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
The study, entitled “Gestational weight gain and the risk of offspring obesity at 10 and 16 years: a prospective cohort study in low-income women” is the result of a systematic review conducted by a Spanish research team. The investigators analyzed results from over 2,800 healthy pregnant women included in 13 trials that did little to no exercise and started engaging in exercise programs.
The research revealed that by engaging in exercise, the risk of gestational diabetes decreased over 30%. “Exercise is not something to be feared during pregnancy — the moderate levels of exercise used in these studies had significantly positive effects on health and were found to be safe for both mother and baby,” stated the lead author of the study, Gema Sanabria- Martinez, from Virgen de la Luz Hospital.
The effects are more pronounced in women who exercised throughout the entire pregnancy, as well as those who combine toning, strength, flexibility and aerobic exercise. Gestational diabetes is a common complication developed in pregnant women, which is related to high risk of developing other severe conditions, including pre-eclampsia, hypertension, preterm birth, and the need for induced or caesarean birth.
In addition, long-term effects for the mother range from glucose impairment and type 2 diabetes, while the babies may end up becoming overweight or obese, and having an increased risk of diabetes, which explains the importance of preventing the condition. Overweight gaining during the pregnancy also carries several risks and these women have less probability of properly losing the excessive weight after birth.
Regarding weight, exercising was also helpful, as women were on average a kilogram lighter, even in women who initiated the program only in the second trimester. “This careful analysis of previous studies shows a beneficial effect of exercise on healthy pregnant women who ordinarily did little or no exercise,” added BJOG Deputy Editor-in-chief, Mike Marsh. “It may influence recommendations for exercise in pregnancy in such women. Further studies are needed to establish whether this effect is seen in all pregnant women.”
Another recent study conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, and led by Anny H. Xiang, PhD, revealed that gestational diabetes poses an increased risk of autism on the fetus compared to other maternal complications. This research comes after other studies demonstrated an increased risk of metabolic and developmental disorders in children whose mothers were affected by diabetes prior to their pregnancies or during their first diagnosis of gestational diabetes.