Pregnancy & exercise

The research line “Pregnancy & Exercise” carried out by the AFIPE Research Group of the Faculty of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences (INEF-UPM) seeks to study the effects of different types of physical activity on maternal health, fetal and newborn.

A fact as complex as the process of pregnancy and childbirth can be decisive for the health and well-being of both protagonists: mother and newborn, both during the same process and in the future.

This is due in large part to the fact that there is no process in life with such quantity and quality of changes as that of pregnancy and childbirth. For 9 months, the pregnant woman must modify practically the entire body of her to achieve adequate fetal growth and development, which undoubtedly requires constant and profound modifications. This set of facts is not always given with an absolute guarantee of success, there are many alterations and pathologies that are part of the very nature of pregnancy and can appear. In other words, the chances of a pregnancy with complications are many. Likewise, there are a series of factors in the woman’s environment that act in a relevant way, enhancing or diminishing these possibilities.

In this sense, numerous scientific evidences confirm the negative consequences of current lifestyles in relation to pregnancy, these include the mother, the newborn and the infant, and in some cases cover all areas of the human being. All this turns the gestational period into a time of real risk in the life of the woman.

As for the female organism, an unbalanced pregnancy process can leave important consequences in women, excessive weight gain is traditionally the best known factor, although not the only one, its effects have as results not only important complications during pregnancy and in delivery, but also possible difficulties in the postpartum period, such as metabolic, cardiovascular and emotional alterations. But as we said, physiological complications are not the only ones, recent reports warn of percentages of prenatal depression of 9-15%, this shows the importance of psychic and emotional factors that act in the pregnancy process, also associated with pre and postnatal.

According to research carried out in recent years, possibly one of the most significant effects caused by an uncontrolled pregnancy occurs in the later life of the human being, it is childhood obesity. A true epidemic of increasing prevalence and difficult solution judging by the current figures, both worldwide and in Spain, which undoubtedly deserves a somewhat more detailed analysis. It is estimated that 43 million children, 22 million of them under the age of 5, are overweight or obese, and that 1 in 3 adolescents is overweight. If this trend continues, the prevalence may reach 9% or 60 million people in 2020.

As we said before, the pregnancy period plays a determining role in this problem. Both starting pregnancy with a high Body Mass Index and gaining excessive weight during it are associated with various maternal-fetal complications. The situation of obesity or overweight during pregnancy is related to a greater predisposition to develop preeclampsia, abortion, cesarean and instrumental delivery, neonatal death, fetal macrosomia, and metabolic disorders in the fetus. In addition to important postnatal complications, among which the excessive retention of maternal weight and metabolic disorders in the later life of the mother and the child stand out.

However, despite the recommendations promoted by the scientific community about establishing control elements that ensure a healthy and balanced pregnancy, a high percentage of women continue to gain excessive weight during pregnancy in relation to health recommendations. Faced with this complex problem, it is necessary (almost urgent) to find prevention mechanisms that act non-invasively to benefit the well-being of the mother and her child, especially taking into account that the situation of pregnancy predisposes women to a significant change in habits for the benefit of your health and that of your child.

Faced with this situation, the prevention of alterations during pregnancy is essential and must be done through safe, non-invasive and efficient interventions. Physical exercise has shown that it responds to these characteristics and can become a structural and attractive part of the life of pregnant women, all without generating adverse effects on maternal, fetal and newborn well-being.

However, both in the case of the less physically active woman and in the more active one and even in high-performance athletes, more scientific studies are necessary to confirm these prevention and health improvement capacities, which will benefit well-being maternal, fetal and newborn.

The objective of the Pregnancy & Exercise line of research is to know and improve the conditions of the pregnant population in different geographical areas of the planet through different types of physical activity.