Physical activity and pregnancy


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Physical activity and pregnancy
Melzer K.
Hohlfeld P.
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Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et médecine
Faculté de biologie et de médecine Université de Lausanne UNIL - Bugnon Rue du Bugnon 21 - bureau 4111 CH-1015 Lausanne SUISSE
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REROID:R005102472 ill.
The traditional medical advice for pregnant women has been to reduce their physical activity (PA) levels. The advice was based on concerns that exercise could affect pregnancy outcomes by increasing core body temperature, by increasing the risk of maternal musculoskeletal injury and by altering the transplacental transport of oxygen and nutrients to maternal skeletal muscle rather than to the developing foetus.
In the meantime, several studies have provided new information on adaptation of the pregnant woman and her foetus to moderate PA. New investigations have shown no adverse maternal or neonatal outcomes, abnormal foetal growth, increase in early pregnancy loss, or late pregnancy complications. Moreover, enrolment in moderate PA has proven to result in marked health benefits including improved maternal cardiovascular function, reduction of excessive weight gain and fat retention, less complicated labour, improved foetal stress tolerance and neurobehavioral maturation. In view of the beneficial effects, current recommendations encourage healthy pregnant women to engage in 30 minutes of moderate PA on most, if not all, days of the week.
This thesis work addressed several questions. Firstly, it examined whether compliance with the recommended levels of PA during pregnancy results in better preparedness for the sudden physical exertion of labour and delivery. Secondly, it measured PA during pregnancy as compared to postpartum. Lastly, it assessed the influence of pre-pregnancy body mass index on gestational resting metabolic rate.
Data collection was conducted on healthy women living in Switzerland during the third trimester of pregnancy and postpartum. Total and activity energy expenditure was assessed through 24-hour heart rate and accelerations recordings, and cardiovascular fitness through an individual step-test. Information related to pregnancy, labour and delivery was collected from medical records.
The results indicate that a minimum 30 min of moderate PA per day during pregnancy are associated with better cardiovascular fitness and lower risk of operative delivery with no negative effects on maternal and foetal conditions (study 1). Despite these benefits, a substantial proportion of pregnant women (39%) living in Switzerland do not meet the PA recommendations. The decrease in activity related energy expenditure during pregnancy compared to postpartum was measured to be around 100 kcal/day (~13%), whereas the total energy expenditure was found to increase by 300 kcal/day (study 2). Thus, the energy cost of late pregnancy in Switzerland corresponds to 200 kca/day.
These findings are based on average values of the study group. It should be noted, however, that large variations in individual energy expenditure may occur depending on the pre-pregnancy body mass index (study 3). When adjusted to body weight, gestational resting metabolic rate is significantly lower among women of high pre-pregnancy body mass index compared to women of normal or low pre-pregnancy body mass index. This can be explained by the fact that resting metabolic rate is primarily a function of fat-free mass, and when expressed per kg body weight, it decreases as the percentage of body fat increases. If energy intake is not modified appropriately in order to match lower energy cost per kg body weight in overweight and obese women it will result in positive energy balance, thus contributing to the current trend towards increasing adiposity in affluent society.
The results of these studies go beyond the current state of knowledge on PA and pregnancy (study 4) and provide valid evidence to guide clinical practice. In view of the current epidemic of sedentary behaviour and obesity related pathology, the findings contribute new and reliable information to public health policies regarding the effects of PA in pregnancy, an important period of life for both mother and infant.
Create date
17/06/2010 9:34
Last modification date
20/08/2019 14:18
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