Objective: To describe the relationship between exercise during the last trimester of pregnancy and physiologic outcomes of mothers and newborns to determine whether differences exist between active and sedentary exercise patterns on these variables.
Design: Nonexperimental, descriptive.
Setting: Physicians' offices, Lamaze classes, and hospitals.
Participants: One hundred one primiparous women (48 sedentary and 53 active), 20-30 years of age, with no medical complications, whose length of gestation was at least 32 weeks.
Outcome measures: Weight gain, weeks of gestation, length of labor, common discomforts of pregnancy, occurrence of cesarean section, birth weight, and Apgar scores.
Results: Brisk walking was the preferred physical activity among 47% of the participants. Regular, active exercise had no significant effect on maternal weight gain or neonate birth weight. Twenty-five percent of the women in the active exercise group reported five or fewer discomforts compared with 6% of the women in the sedentary group (X2 = 7.45, p < 0.01). For the discomforts of swelling, leg cramps, fatigue, and shortness of breath, 44% of the women in the active group reported having only one or two of them, compared with 21% of the women in the sedentary group (X2 = 6.15, p = 0.01).
Conclusion: Women who engaged in active exercise during the last trimester of pregnancy had fewer of the common discomforts associated with pregnancy.