A big myth about exercise during pregnancy can finally be put to rest. Not only does working out lower the risk of C-sections and gestational diabetes, but it also does not pose a greater risk of preterm birth, according to a new study.

Researchers examined clinical trial data on exercise during pregnancy to understand why historically, women have been told to not do vigorous exercise during pregnancy because of the risk of preterm birth. “The thinking was that exercise releases norepinephrine in the body, which is a chemical that can stimulate contractions of the uterus, and thus lead to preterm birth,” Vincenzo Berghella, from the Thomas Jefferson University in the US, is quoted as saying in a report.

“But numerous studies including this new meta-analysis, have since shown that exercise does not harm the baby, and can have benefits for the mom and baby,” he added. The group analysed 2,059 women, about half of whom exercised for 35-90 minutes 3-4 times per week for 10 weeks or up until their delivery, The second group, made up of 1,037 women, performed no exercise.

The conclusions drawn showed no significant increase in preterm birth in women who exercised. In addition, there were a few other benefits observed. Women who exercised were more likely to deliver vaginally – i.e reducing the chances of a C-section delivery which poses danger to both mother and child. Seventy three percent of exercising pregnant women delivered vaginally, whereas only 67 percent of non-exercising women delivered vaginally. There was also lower incidence of gestational diabetes, and lower rates of high blood pressure in the exercising group.

“This paper reinforces that exercise is good for the mom and the baby and does not hold any increased risk preterm birth,” Berghella added.

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