Effect of physical activity during pregnancy on mode of delivery

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Oct;211(4):401.e1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2014.03.030. Epub 2014 Mar 14.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of structured physical exercise programs during pregnancy on the course of labor and delivery.

Study design: We conducted a systematic review and metaanalysis using the following data sources: Medline and The Cochrane Library. In our study, we used randomized controlled trials (RCT) that evaluated the effects of exercise programs during pregnancy on labor and delivery. The results are summarized as relative risks.

Results: In the 16 RCTs that were included there were 3359 women. Women in exercise groups had a significantly lower risk of cesarean delivery (relative risk, 0.85; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.73-0.99). Birthweight was not significantly reduced in exercise groups. The risk of instrumental delivery was similar among groups (relative risk, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.82-1.22). Data on Apgar score, episiotomy, epidural anesthesia, perineal tear, length of labor, and induction of labor were insufficient to draw conclusions. With the use of data from 11 studies (1668 women), our analysis showed that women in the exercise groups gained significantly less weight than women in control groups (mean difference, -1.13 kg; 95% CI, -1.49 to -0.78).

Conclusion: Structured physical exercise during pregnancy reduces the risk of cesarean delivery. This is an important finding to convince women to be active during their pregnancy and should lead the physician to recommend physical exercise to pregnant women, when this is not contraindicated.

Keywords: cesarean; delivery; physical activity; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data
  • Delivery, Obstetric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / methods*