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Pregnancy exercise may place woman at risk

Wednesday December 3rd, 2008

By Jane Collingwood

Researchers have found that too much intense exercise during pregnancy may be risky.

A new study warns that women who are used to intensive exercise may put themselves at risk of the dangerous condition pre-eclampsia if they continue their sporting activity.

A team from the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark, investigated the effects of exercise during pregnancy, expecting to find a benefit. They studied 85,139 pregnant women between 1996 and 2002, and found that inactivity was more common in younger women, underweight or obese women, smokers, women who have had more than one child and those with lower socio-economic status.

But among those who exercised were a group who showed a raised risk of pre- eclampsia. These women exercised for at least four and a half hours a week. Moderate to low exercise levels showed no association with pre-eclampsia.

In BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the authors point out that the absolute level of pre-eclampsia for women who exercised at this higher level remained small (1.18 to 1.29 per cent higher).

Lead author, Dr Sjurdur Olsen, said: "Recommendations have been issued in several countries that pregnant women should exercise at least 30 minutes each day. An important underlying contention is that this can reduce risk of pre-eclampsia. In our study, we were unable to substantiate that physical activity in early pregnancy has a protective effect against pre-eclampsia.

"Another unexpected finding was that leisure time exercise, in amounts that were only slightly higher than the recommended amount, seemed even to be associated with an increased risk of severe types of pre-eclampsia.

"Further research is needed in other large prospective cohort databases which are now emerging in several countries. Until that has happened, recommendations in the field should remain unchanged."

Olsen, S. F. et al. Too much exercise in early pregnancy may cause pre-eclampsia. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, December 3, 2008.

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | Nursing & Midwifery | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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