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Physical Activity During Pregnancy Reduces Gestational Diabetes Risk 30%

Those women who continued to exercise throughout their pregnancy achieved an even higher risk reduction…

Gestational diabetes and excessive maternal weight gain are associated with many negative outcomes for both the mother and the baby including: pre-eclampsia, hypertension and preterm birth. Expectant mothers who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Further, babies born to these mothers are at higher risk for obesity and developing diabetes themselves.

In this systematic review, the research team from Spain looked at the results of enrolling healthy pregnant women, who did little or no exercise, into exercise programs. Analysis of 13 trials, involving more than 2,800 women, found that exercise reduced the risk of gestational diabetes by more than 30% – for women who exercised throughout pregnancy this was even greater (36%). This effect was strongest for women who combined toning, strength, flexibility and aerobic exercise.

Based on the overall results, the risk of developing gestational diabetes was decreased (RR = 0.69; P = 0.009) with moderate exercise. Maternal weight also decreased ((WMD = -1.14 kg; 95% CI -1.50 to -0.78; P < 0.001) and no serious side effects were reported.

Gema Sanabria- Martinez, from Virgen de la Luz Hospital and lead author of the study, said, “Exercise is not something to be feared during pregnancy – the moderate levels of exercise used in these studies had significantly positive effects on health and were found to be safe for both mother and baby.”

Practice Pearls:

  • Gestational diabetes may predispose some women to developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • Moderate physical activities during pregnancy reduce the risk for gestational diabetes by up to 30%.
  • Physical activities benefit both the mother and the baby.

G Sanabria-Martínez. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions on preventing gestational diabetes mellitus and excessive maternal weight gain: a meta-analysis. BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Article first published online: 3 JUN 2015. DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.13429