Regularly exercising women: problems with childbirth?
The effect of general physical activity and exercise training on the pelvic floor muscles (PFM), fascia and ligaments is not well investigated or understood. One hypothesis is that general exercise training, for example, jogging or strength training of the abdominal muscles, strengthens the PFM by simultaneous unconscious co-contraction. This may reduce the levator hiatus area (the opening in the levator muscles which allows for the passage of the urethra, vagina and rectum) and possibly prolong the second stage of labour, and thereby increase the risk of instrumental deliveries (caesarean section, forceps and vacuum).
Results do not support the hypothesis that exercising in pregnant women reduces the levator hiatus area or negatively influences delivery outcomes. Exercising women at week 37 in the present study had a significantly larger levator hiatus area at week 37, and there was no difference between exercisers and non-exercisers on labour or delivery outcome
- Health personnel might stop telling physically active women that they may have difficult vaginal deliveries.
- Health personnel may encourage women to be physically active throughout pregnancy.
- Health personnel may encourage pregnant women to do pelvic floor muscle training.
> From: Bø et al., Br J Sports Med (2014) (Epub ahead of print). All rights reserved to BMJ Publishing Group Ltd. Click here for the Pubmed summary.