Does exercise cause premature birth?

Not in itself. In fact, women with uncomplicated pregnancies who exercise have been shown to have a reduced risk of premature birth.

If your pregnancy is uncomplicated, it is safer to exercise than to be sedentary (not active) – women who exercise have less risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, which are both risk factors for premature labour. One study also showed that women who were previously active and stopped exercising in their first trimester had longer labour times and more interventions during delivery than those who kept exercising to the end of their pregnancy.

Staying active also:

  • helps you sleep better
  • reduces your likelihood of suffering from the common complaints of pregnancy, such as varicose veins, swollen feet and tiredness.
  • reduces your anxiety levels.

However, if you have had a previous premature birth or if you have been told you are at higher risk than usual of premature labour, talk to your doctor or midwife before starting an exercise programme. Although exercise does not cause premature birth in itself it is possible that it could complicate an existing problem, such as a weak cervix.

Download and print your weekly exercise goal plan here.

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Sources

  1. Juhl M, Andersen PK, Olsen J, Madsen M, Jørgensen T, Nøhr EA, Andersen AM (2008) ‘Physical exercise during pregnancy and the risk of preterm birth: a study within the Danish National Birth Cohort’, American Journal of Epidemiology, 167 (7): 859–66: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18303008 
  2. RCOG (2006) Exercise in Pregnancy: Statement No. 4, London, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/statements/statement-no-4.pdf
  3. Tinloy J, Chuang CH, Zhu J, Pauli J, Kraschnewski JL, Kjerulff KH (2014) ‘Exercise during pregnancy and risk of late preterm birth, cesarean delivery, and hospitalizations’, Women’s Health Issues, 24 (1): e99–e104: doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2013.11.003: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24439953
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Last reviewed on February 1st, 2015. Next review date February 1st, 2018.

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