Effects of human pregnancy and advancing gestation on respiratory discomfort during exercise

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2007 Apr 16;156(1):85-93. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2006.08.004. Epub 2006 Aug 22.


This study examined the effects of human pregnancy and advancing gestation on the intensity of respiratory discomfort (dyspnea) during cycle exercise. Fourteen pregnant women (PG) performed a progressive cycle ergometer exercise test involving 20 W/min increases in work rate to symptom limitation and/or a heart rate of 170-175 beats/min at 19.7+/-1.2 weeks (ENTRY), 28.2+/-0.3 weeks (TM2) and 36.3+/-0.3 weeks (TM3) gestation. Eight, age-matched, sedentary non-pregnant women (CG) were also studied for comparison purposes. Measurements included dyspnea intensity (Borg scale), minute ventilation (VE), breathing pattern and other cardiorespiratory parameters. At peak exercise, neither pregnancy nor advancing gestation had an effect on dyspnea, VE, breathing pattern, oxygen uptake or work rate (p>0.05). VE was significantly greater (by 11 L/min at 100 W) in the PG at TM3 versus CG (p<0.05) at all submaximal work rates. VE also increased progressively from ENTRY to TM2 and TM3 during submaximal exercise. Dyspnea was not significantly different at any submaximal work rate in the PG at TM3 versus CG or with advancing gestation in the PG. In addition, dyspnea at a standardized exercise VE of 40 L/min was not different at TM3 versus ENTRY or in the PG at TM3 versus CG. Neither pregnancy nor advancing gestation were associated with increased respiratory discomfort during strenuous non-weight bearing cycle ergometer exercise, despite substantial increases in VE and progressive mechanical adaptations of the respiratory system to accommodate the increasing size of the gravid uterus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Size
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy Trimesters / physiology
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Work of Breathing / physiology*