• Linda E. May
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Physiology book series (BRIEFSPHYSIOL)


To summarize, there is no evidence to suggest that exercise during pregnancy causes fetal distress during or after maternal exercise bouts. Collectively, there is evidence during pregnancy of beneficial alterations in fetal development resulting from maternal exercise. These differences can be seen in fetal heart rate, breathing movements, and motor activity. Together, these findings reflect maturation of the fetal nervous system. As it relates to the date of delivery, maternal exercise influences this critical time as well. Maternal exercise is shown to either have no effect or improve outcomes of laboring, delivery, and neonatal well-being. After the baby is born, measurements can be done to determine the influence of gestational exercise on overall fetal growth and development. Studies show that there are no adverse effects on overall fetal growth as evidenced by length, weight, and circumference measures. There is some evidence to suggest that exposure to maternal exercise may be beneficial as it relates to decreased fat, possibly decreasing the susceptibility to obesity later in life. Beyond birth, findings are similar. As regards cardiovascular development, exposure to maternal exercise seems to lead to more mature cardiac autonomic nervous system infants and children. This may be cardioprotective from future cardiac disease and hypertension. For growth measures there are no differences, except for the potential for decreased fat mass into childhood. Again, the inclination is that exposure to gestational exercise may help attenuate the risk of obesity. There is also support for improved maturation of the child’s nervous system.


Fetal Growth Fetal Development Fetal Heart Rate Growth Measure Fetal Distress 
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© The Author(s) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda E. May
    • 1
  1. 1.Kansas City University of Medicine and BiosciencesKansas CityUSA

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