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Exercise for moms-to-be may help them avoid having bigger babies

September 22, 2009 | 10:39 am

Babies are being born bigger, which isn't necessarily a good thing -- a high birth weight is associated with numerous complications for both mother and child, plus obesity.

But regular exercise during pregnancy may decrease the chance of giving birth to babies with excessive birth weight, according to a new study.

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Researchers in Norway examined data from 36,869 single pregnancies documented in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, in which women were asked about their exercise habits. Among those pregnancies, 4,033 babies were born with excessive weight, defined by being in the 90th percentile for weight. More of those heavyweight newborns were born to women who had previously given birth (2,263) than first-time moms (1,770).

More differences were found: Women who had given birth before didn't exercise and tended to be more overweight compared with women who hadn't had a baby.

First-time mothers who exercised at least three times a week during their pregnancy, however, were less likely to give birth to a baby with excessive birth weight, even when the researchers controlled for high blood pressure, diabetes and preeclampsia. Although the results referred to exercise during pregnancy, the researchers point out that women who exercise regularly before becoming pregnant are likely to continue working out throughout their pregnancy.

Although the relationship between exercise and excessive birth weight wasn't as clear cut for women who had previously given birth, researchers believe exercise may provide an overall protective effect on excessive birth weight.

The study appears in the October issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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