A comparison of cardiopulmonary adaptations to exercise in pregnancy at sea level and altitude

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995 Apr;172(4 Pt 1):1170-8; discussion 1178-80. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(95)91475-7.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare maternal cardiopulmonary and fetal responses of lowlander pregnant women in the third trimester to exercise at sea level and at an altitude of 6000 feet.

Study design: Seven women at 33.86 +/- 1 weeks' gestation performed a symptom-limited maximal exercise test and a submaximal cardiac output exercise test at sea level at an altitude of 6000 feet. Cardiopulmonary and metabolic variables were measured and compared at sea level and altitude.

Results: Maximal oxygen consumption and work levels were limited by short-term altitude exposure. Ventilatory variables were not significantly influenced by altitude exposure. During submaximal exercise no alteration in exercise efficiency or response was seen for most of the variables when altitude and sea level data were compared. Both cardiac output and stroke volume were elevated at altitude at rest but not during exercise, suggesting a lower reserve for both variables at altitude. Level of plasma glucose, lactate, norepinephrine, and epinephrine were not significantly influenced by altitude exposure. Fetal heart rate responses did not differ between the sea level and altitude conditions.

Conditions: Lowlander pregnant women in the third trimester have some limitations to maximal aerobic capacity but not submaximal exercise on short-term altitude exposure. No ominous fetal responses have been observed during this study. The results suggest that pregnant women may engage in at least brief moderate exercise bouts at moderate altitude without adverse consequences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Altitude*
  • Cardiac Output
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Heart Rate, Fetal
  • Hemodynamics / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Respiration / physiology*
  • Stroke Volume