Study Shows Exercise Has Favorable Impact on Labor and Delivery

Women are often faced with many contradictory messages during pregnancy.  While continued exercise is considered healthy, there was a theory that continuing more strenuous exercise such as running or aerobics in the second half of pregnancy would have negative effects on labor and outcome.

A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology was designed to test this theory.  Researchers monitored 131 recreational athletes who “had an uneventful first half of pregnancy”.  Exercise prior to pregnancy, through the first trimester was calculated.  Eighty-seven of the women “continued to exercise regularly at or above 50% of their preconceptional level throughout pregnancy.”  Forty-four “discontinued their regular exercise regimen before the end of the first trimester.”  Labor (onset, course, and outcome) for all of the women was monitored and the two groups compared.

There was no significant difference in the incidence of preterm labor.  There was a reduction in birth weight in the exercise group compared to those who discontinued exercise.  However, rather than supporting their original theory, the other findings actually invalidated it.

The exercise group experienced:

  • lower incidence of operative delivery – abdominal (6% vs 30%) and vaginal (6% vs 20%)
  • shorter active labor for vaginal deliveries
  • reduced frequency of clinical evidence of acute fetal stress (meconium, fetal heart pattern, and Apgar score (50% vs 26%)

The researchers concluded the evidence showed “in well-conditioned women who regularly perform aerobics or run, continuation of these exercise regimens has a beneficial effect on the course and outcome of labor.”  Of course every woman and pregnancy is different, but this study shows that benefits of exercise do not end when a woman becomes pregnant.  Additionally, the benefits are not limited to the mother.  Continued exercise provides the baby with benefits as well.

Chiropractors can also be a valuable part of a woman’s prenatal care.  Helping the expectant mother maintain proper spinal alignment can not only reduce the incidence of lower back pain, but also help her to continue to safely exercise without injury.

If you or a loved one is expecting or plans to become pregnant, contact your local doctor of chiropractic about how they can assist you in staying active and pain free throughout pregnancy.  You can learn more about the benefits of prenatal chiropractic at


SOURCE: “The course of labor after endurance exercise during pregnancy” published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, December 1990.