Can exercise during pregnancy make labour easier?
According to studies conducted over several decades, exercise during pregnancy has numerous benefits. One of these is a faster labour, less pain during labour, and less need for drugs.
Numerous forms of exercise have been shown to help “improve the course of labour”. One study (Clapp 1990) found that women who exercised at or above 50% of their pre-pregnancy levels had shorter labours by an average of 118 minutes. They also had roughly half the rate of acute fetal stress.
Another study showed women who performed water aerobics three times a week were 58% less likely to require painkilling medication during labour (Baciuk et al 2008).
Yoga has been found to be a safe and stress-reducing form of exercise during pregnancy. And it has also been shown to make labour less painful and quicker. A 2012 review of studies on yoga during pregnancy (Curtis) found:
- Women doing yoga reported significantly less discomfort at 38-40 weeks pregnant.
- Women who had done yoga were significantly more comfortable through their labour (assessed at 3 points), as well as at 2 hours postlabour.
- Labour pain scores were significantly lower in the yoga group.
- The first stage of labour and the total duration of labour were significantly shorter in the group of women who did yoga.
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