An investigation by the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the University Hospital of Torrejón establishes that the practice of moderate physical exercise by the mother improves the response of the heart of the fetus and favors a better recovery of the weight after childbirth.
Given that physical exercise has become an integral part of life in all population segments, experts now focus on assessing the possible benefits that physical exercise can have for the health of the mother and the fetus.
“The pregnant women who developed exercise from week 8-10 have better results compared to the control in two important parameters: the fetal cardiac ejection fraction and the pulsatility index of the ductus arteriosus —small vessel that connects the aorta with the artery. pulmonary, normally open in the fetus,” explains Rubén Barakat, of the Faculty of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences-INEF of the UPM and participant in the study.
While those two variables improved, the rest of the fetal cardiac aspects showed no differences between the study groups, which, according to the researchers, demonstrate the harmless effect of exercise in terms of cardiac functionality, so it can be considered safe for the fetal heart.
In the opinion of the main author, Maia Brik “it has been scientifically proven that practicing exercise during pregnancy from the first trimester is safe for the fetus from a cardiological point of view, and on the other hand, it has been concluded that the fetal cardiac ejection fraction function is better in fetuses of mothers who have exercised, so that exercise could be an adaptive advantage in the intrauterine period in the fetuses of physically active mothers. In this way, it seems that exercise not only has advantages in the maternal cardiovascular aspect, but also in the fetal one.”
The study consisted of a randomized clinical trial conducted in 120 healthy pregnant women. The results, published in the prestigious journal Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, were also part of a doctoral thesis recently read at the Faculty of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences of the UPM.
Better postpartum recovery
In addition to studying how the fetus’ heart benefits, the researchers also looked at how practicing exercise before birth influences how a woman recovers her pre-pregnancy physical status. “Our work showed a greater recovery of pre-pregnancy weight at 6 weeks in those women who practiced moderate physical exercise during pregnancy. In addition, the psychological well-being of the mother is also benefitted,” explains Barakat.
End the myth
For the authors, the knowledge that exercise does not adversely affect the fetal heart, and even that it improves the parameters of cardiac functionality, can put an end to the myth that it could have negative effects on fetal development during pregnancy.
“The present results, together with previous findings in the same line, confirm the potential of physical exercise during pregnancy as a basic element for maternal, fetal and newborn well-being and its interesting and encouraging impact on the health of both, as long as it is carried out in a supervised manner,” adds the UPM researcher.
“Hospital institutions and those health professionals responsible for the health care of pregnant women cannot rule out this reality. From the scientific and methodological point of view, it is important to remember the basic criterion of intervention used, through a program of regular physical exercise, moderate and supervised by a professional,” he concludes.