08.09.2016

New exercise in pregnancy guidelines

Sports Medicine Australia have released new guidelines for exercising during and after pregnancy.

The evidence-based position statement titled Exercise in pregnancy and the post-partum period acknowledges that it is beneficial for exercise to be undertaken whilst pregnant and after birth.

Benefits include a reduced risk of pregnancy-related conditions such as pre-eclampsia and pregnancy-induced hypertension, and reduced incidence of delivery complications such as caesarean delivery.

Researcher and author of the guidelines, Melanie Hayman from CQUniversity says few women are sufficiently active during their pregnancy to obtain the associated health benefits.

“Recent research suggests that fewer than 30 per cent of Australian pregnant women are sufficiently active in accordance with exercise during pregnancy guidelines.

“Research also suggests that women significantly reduce the frequency, intensity and duration of exercise as their pregnancy progresses, or cease exercise altogether once they become pregnant.

“Pregnancy was once considered a time for rest, when women were advised to take it easy and refrain from participating in physical activity and exercise.

“This view is now challenged by a growing body of evidence,” said Ms Hayman.

Developed by academics and health professionals the new guidelines focus on safe physical activity and exercise for healthy women who are free of medical and obstetric contraindications and offer healthcare providers recommendations for exercise prescription.

The guidelines state:

  • Walking, jogging, cycling and swimming (at moderate intensity), muscle strengthening exercises (including pelvic floor exercises), water based exercise, and pregnancy-specific exercise classes are safe for pregnant women.
  • Pregnant women who were inactive prior to pregnancy should be encouraged to be active during pregnancy, commencing with low intensity activities such as walking or swimming, and progressing to the lower end of the range recommended in the Australian, Canadian and US national guidelines (i.e. 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity activity on most days).
  • For healthy pregnant women who participated in physical activity and exercise prior to pregnancy, and are experiencing an uncomplicated pregnancy, physical activity and exercise can be continued throughout pregnancy, or until such time that it becomes uncomfortable to do so.
  • There are contraindications, signs and symptoms, which indicate that physical activity and exercise is not recommended for all pregnant women.
  • Evidence shows that returning to physical activity and exercise in the post-partum period has benefits for the mothers’ physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Sports Medicine Australia is a national multi-disciplinary member organisation that provides leadership in the area of sports medicine, and the healthy and safe participation of Australians in physical activity and sport. To view the position statement in full, visit sma.org.au

CQ University researcher Melanie Hayman with the September edition of Sport Health.

Media enquiries: Declan Boffa, National Media and Communications Manager, phone 03 9674 8703