Background: Maternal obesity is associated with complications and adverse outcomes during the labor and delivery process. In pregnant women with a healthy body weight, maternal physical activity during pregnancy is associated with better obstetric outcomes; however, the effect of maternal physical activity during pregnancy on obstetric outcomes in obese women is not known. The purpose of the study was to determine the influence of self-reported physical activity levels on obstetric outcomes in pregnant obese women.
Methods: A retrospective chart review was performed on 48 active obese women and 48 inactive obese women (N.=96) who received prenatal care and delivered at the medical center during the past five years. Obstetric and neonatal outcomes were compared between the active and inactive groups.
Results: Obese women who were active during pregnancy spent less total time in labor (13.4 hours vs. 19.2 hours, P=0.048) and were less likely to request an epidural (92% vs. 100%, P=0.04). When stratified by parity, active multiparous women spent significantly less total time in labor compared to inactive multiparous (6.2 hours vs. 16.7 hours, P=0.018). There were no statistical differences between groups in rates of cesarean deliveries or neonatal outcomes.
Conclusions: Maternal physical activity during pregnancy appears to improve obstetric outcomes in obese women, and this improvement may be more pronounced among multiparous women. Our finding is of particular importance as pregnant obese women are at higher risk for adverse labor and delivery outcomes.