The Risks (or lack-there of) Involved With Exercising During Pregnancy

In the past women have been directed not to exercise by their primary care physicians, peers, and scientific researchers.  With the rise in popularity of elite female athletes, however, this predisposition is being called into question.  A news article in the Washington Post delves into the (relatively) new rise in exercising while pregnant, the risks involved, and any connections to complications during pregnancy and labor that intense exercise may have on an individual.  This interest has been brought up by many female athletes such as Serena Williams, Beth Rodden (a Mountain Climber), and Alysia Montaño (a world-class runner) who have not only competed while pregnant, but have managed to excel in their sports while in different stages of their pregnancy.

One might think that exercising while pregnant could be harmful to the fetus, because it would increase the levels of CO2 in the blood as well as lactic acid and even free radicals.  Studies by the University of Iceland seem to put science on a tract to disprove this notion.  Of all of the test subjects in the exercise and non-exercise groups there was no significant difference in the pregnancies between the individuals who exercised and those who did not.  While the study was too small to come to any firm conclusions about the population as a whole it could be hypothesized that exercise does not, in fact, have any negative side effects on someone’s pregnancy.

I have thought through the article, and have come to some conclusions myself.  One women made a statement that I feel is important to take note of.  Margie Davenport, of the University of Alberta, stated that it “We need to start changing the conversation away from what are the risks of exercising during pregnancy to what are the risks of not exercising during pregnancy.”  I feel that this is an important comment, because it pushes the readers of the article to stray from the traditional notions.  I agree with her, and I feel that exercising while pregnant is important to the health of the mother and her unborn child.  However, I also feel that women who are not used to exercising should be more cautious.  If someone – not only a pregnant women – jumps right into high-intensity exercise it could increase a risk of cardiovascular or skeletal injury.  This type of incident would put the child and the mother at risk.

So, I stand by Davenport in saying that it is important for women (pregnant or not) to exercise.  Given that there is not any known risk to exercising while pregnant, I would suggest anyone who is pregnant to continue their workout regimes or even start new ones – as long as they are safe about them.  Exercise can help reduce stress, and improve the overall health of those who utilize it correctly, and these are benefits that could even assist someone in the entire pregnancy process.

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