Does maternal exercise affect the fetus?

  • Am J Obstet Gynecol MFM

  • curated by Elisabeth Aron, MD, MPH, FACOG
  • Clinical Essentials
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Takeaway

  • Maternal aerobic exercise during pregnancy may improve cardiovascular function in neonates and possibly beyond.

Why this matters

  • In utero programming may affect the development of the fetal cardiovascular system and later cardiovascular health.
  • Currently recommended weekly levels of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity maternal aerobic exercise may hold long-term benefits for offspring during pregnancy.

Key results

  • Compared with women who did not exercise, aerobic exercise improved fetal right- and left-side cardiac outflow parameters:
    • For right-ventricular cardiac function, increases in:
      • Stroke volume (P=.001),
      • Stroke index (P=.003),
      • Cardiac output (P=.002),
      • Cardiac index  (P=.006),
      • Pulmonary valve VTI (P=.02), and
      • Pulmonary diameter (P=.02).
  • Prenatal exercise did not appear to affect right- or left-side cardiac function parameters.

Study design

  • Prospective, nonblinded, 2-armed randomized controlled exercise intervention trial between 2015 and 2018.
  • Women with low-risk pregnancy were recruited and randomly allocated to a supervised aerobic exercise group (n=68) or a nonexercising control group (n=60).
  • Fetal echocardiogram was performed at 34-36 weeks.
  • Funding: American Heart Association; East Carolina University.

Limitations

  • Small numbers in the study.
  • Long-term studies in offspring needed.