Health Team

Too much exercise can be bad for pregnant women

Posted December 12, 2008 6:04 p.m. EST
Updated December 12, 2008 7:10 p.m. EST

When it comes to exercise, too much of a good thing can lead to problems for pregnant women.

Researchers found that more than an hour of exercise daily increased women's risk of developing preeclampsia, a condition of dangerously high blood pressure that decreases the blood supply to the baby.

"It's very dangerous. People can die from preeclampsia," Dr. Jacques Moritz, a gynecologist with St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, said.

At 17 weeks pregnant with her third baby, Nano Sato said she worries about gaining too much weight, but has been careful not to overdo her cardio workouts.

"My first pregnancy, I was exercising pretty much every day," Sato said. But for the third pregnancy, "Chasing two kids is my exercise."

The study by Scandinavian researchers shows Sato's on the right track: Women who exercised more than seven hours a week were 78 percent more likely to get preeclampsia.

That percentage is much higher than the overall rate, in which one in 14 pregnant women gets preeclampsia.

"Preeclampsia is the major problem that we have in obstetrics," Moritz said.

Doctors recommend moderate exercise for pregnant women.

Use this measure: If you are so out of breath you can't carry on a conversation while exercising, you're overdoing it. Try less-strenuous activities, such as walking and swimming.

"One of the best exercises in pregnancy is swimming, because there's no pressure on your joints. It's enough exercise, and usually, you don't get short of breath," Moritz said.

Moderate exercise during pregnancy can help women have a more successful labor and delivery – and get back to a normal body weight sooner.

Good pre-natal care for preeclampsia can also include blood-pressure checks and listening to the baby's heart beat.