Question: Is it true that if you exercise during pregnancy, you reduce the risk of having a cesarean section?
Answer: Yes and no.
A group of researchers at the University of North Texas recently published a study that concluded that regular participation in physical activity during the first two trimesters of pregnancy may be associated with a reduced risk of cesarean delivery.
The physical cost of a cesarean cannot always be measured in dollar amounts. Some of the possible complications from a cesarean are increased risk of infection, possible excessive blood loss, decreased bowel function, respiratory complications, adverse reactions to anesthesia, longer hospital stays and a longer recovery time.
The group in Texas found that the average cesarean rate for the physically active patient was 15.9 percent. This is exciting news because physical activity is an especially attractive treatment option because it is inexpensive and produces few negative side effects.
In fact, most people feel better when they exercise.
Some cesareans cannot be avoided. The four major factors that influence delivery are the size of the passenger ( the baby), the position of the baby (which part is presenting first), size of the mother’s pelvis (the baby has to be able to fit through the mother’s pelvic bones) and the power of the contractions. Some people even add the position that the mother labor and pushes, and the psychology of the mother.
If a mother is tense, it can sometimes slow her labor and make it difficult for her muscles to work effectively. This is one of the many reasons prenatal classes help people, because they know what to expect in labor.
The potential benefits of exercising during pregnancy for the already physically active woman are well known. Many of the discomforts associated with pregnancy can be helped with exercise.
However, it is important for the mother to use good sense when exercising. The mother should avoid exercising in the mid day heat (especially in Florida), exercises that affect her balance and any activity that could cause an injury to their abdomen.
A pregnant woman is breathing for two people. As the baby grows inside the mother, the baby impacts the mother’s ability to breathe. The pregnant woman needs to pause and take deep breaths. So activities that make the mother breathe fast should also be avoided.
Drinking plenty of water is important any time you exercise, but even more important when you are pregnant.
Pregnancy is a special time. New challenges are made on your body as a new human being grows inside you. By getting to a doctor or midwife early in your pregnancy you can discuss with them what activities will be beneficial to you during your pregnancy.
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living in the Bradenton Herald. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.