Prenatal stretching exercise and autonomic responses: preliminary data and a model for reducing preeclampsia

J Nurs Scholarsh. 2010 Jun;42(2):113-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1547-5069.2010.01344.x.


Purpose: Preeclampsia is a leading cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity, and it increases maternal risk for future cardiovascular disease. The purpose of the study was to explore the relationships among stretching exercise, autonomic cardiac response, and the development of preeclampsia.

Design: Secondary data analysis.

Methods: Heart rate and pulse pressure were longitudinally examined in this secondary data analysis among women who engaged in stretching exercise daily from 18 weeks of gestation to the end of pregnancy compared with women who did walking exercise daily during the same time period. A total of 124 women were randomized to either stretching (n=60) or walking (n=64) in the parent study.

Findings: Heart rates in the stretching group were consistently lower than those in the walking group.

Conclusions: Based on the results of this secondary data analyses, a physiologic framework for possible beneficial effects of stretching exercise by enhancing autonomic responses on reducing risks for preeclampsia is proposed and discussed.

Clinical relevance: If the protective effect is established, stretching exercise can be translated into nursing intervention for prenatal care.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Midwestern United States
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises / adverse effects
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises / methods*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / epidemiology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / physiopathology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Walking / physiology