It’s been long known that a healthy diet and exercise can benefit a developing baby but a new study has now found they may be a boon to new moms, as well. A recent analysis of 36 studies, including a total of more than 12,500 women, found that a healthy diet and exercise routine during pregnancy lowered a woman’s chance of having a Cesarean-section delivery.
How much lower? Ten percent, said study author Shakila Thangaratinam, a professor of maternal and perinatal health at London’s Queen Mary University. A change of diet and regular exercise also reduced a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes by 24 percent. The diets measured in the study encouraged new moms to eat more fiber, more fish and olive oil, and cut sugary drinks. Exercise included stationary bicycling, swimming, dancing and toning exercises, said Thangaratinam.
How does fat affect a pregnancy and why are overweight women more at risk? Dr. Nicole Scott, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Indiana University Health explains.
“Clinically, we’ve found that obese women can have a different labor curb compared to non-overweight women. For instance, their cervix tends to dilate at a different rate and their hormone levels and hormone signaling can also be different,” she says.
Overweight women can also be more at risk of developing serious complications during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure (preeclampsia)—circumstances that can lead to an induction and C-section, explains Dr. Scott.
The bottom line: “We know that healthy habits are essential for optimal well-being and that pregnancy is a critical time for both mom and baby,” says Dr. Scott. “So, if you are pregnant and currently aren’t maintaining healthy habits, think carefully about the changes you need to make and take action.”
-- By Sarah Burns