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Health & Pregnancy

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Many Pregnant Women Fear Exercising

Despite Proven Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy, Many Still Think It Will Harm Their Babies

Exercise During Pregnancy: Study Details continued...

Hague found ethnic differences in attitudes toward exercise during pregnancy:

  • Nearly 89% of white women said brisk walking is safe during pregnancy, and 90% said swimming is safe.
  • Only 60% of other ethnic groups thought brisk walking is safe, and only 67% thought swimming is.

Myths passed down within the family may trigger women's fears, Hague tells WebMD. "If the moms tell them, 'You are going to hurt the baby,' they are not going to do it," she says of exercise during pregnancy.

Certain women were more likely to exercise during pregnancy, including those who believed they could manage it despite a busy schedule. Those who worked outside the home were more likely to fit in exercise during pregnancy.

Exercise During Pregnancy: Perspective

The study findings may reflect Midwest attitudes, says Raul Artal, MD, chair and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and women's health at St. Louis University School of Medicine, and an expert on exercise during pregnancy.

He reviewed the study findings.

"The Midwest is experiencing an epidemic of obesity," he says. "If the study were done in Colorado, New York, or L.A., there may be different findings," he tells WebMD.

Doctors must take part of the blame for women not getting the exercise message, he says. "Physicians as a whole don't receive a lot of education about exercise physiology and behavior modification. This includes exercise and diet."

"There is still much ignorance about the fact that pregnancy should not be a state of confinement," Artal says.

Pregnancy, he says, "is a good time to engage in a healthy lifestyle," including exercise, with certain exceptions such as scuba diving, which can put the fetus at risk for decompression sickness.

"For women who have never exercised, walking is a good way to start" after getting a doctor's OK, Artal tell WebMD.

Hague says women should focus on the benefits of exercise during pregnancy. "We know exercise has significant benefits for women, including reducing their risk of depression and their risk of excess weight gain," she says. "Minimizing excess weight gain can reduce the risk of C-section."

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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