Conference Paper

Gestational Exercise effects on the Infant Heart

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We previously reported decreased fetal heart rate (HR) and increased heart rate variability (HRV) as a result of regular maternal aerobic exercise. These results suggest exposure to exercise throughout gestation influences prenatal cardiac autonomic control. It is unknown if these differences persist into the postnatal period. Objective: We followed these infants into the postnatal period to determine if the changes we observed in the offspring of women who exercised during pregnancy would persist into the postnatal period. Methods: Magnetocardiograms (MCG) were recorded at one month postnatal age from 18 exercise exposed (E) infants and 26 control (C) infants, not exposed to exercise. Cardiac metrics of rate and variability were obtained from the interbeat interval series. Results: E Infants had significantly lower HR relative to C infants (p=0.03). Infants in the E group had significantly increased overall HRV: RMSSD (p=0.01) and SDNN (p=0.14). CVI and logRSA, parasympathetic measures, were also increased in E (p=0.02 and 0.01, respectively) infants. Power across low (0.08–0.2 Hz), high (0.4–1.7 Hz) frequency bands were significantly increased in the E group, respectively (p=0.001), (p=0.003). Sympathovagal balance (LF:HF) was equivocal between groups (p=0.96). Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that lower fetal HR and increased HRV persist after birth in the offspring of women who exercised during pregnancy. This study has potential impact on cardiovascular health promotion and disease prevention.

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... 3,5,6 Maternal exercise also improves the functioning of the fetal and neonatal cardiac autonomic nervous system, normalizes birth weights, and reduces adiposity at birth and in early childhood. [7][8][9][10] To achieve these benefits, pregnant women must exercise regularly throughout their pregnancy. 1 Further, pregnant women should know and understand the effects exercise has on pregnancy outcomes. ...
... 17,19 Although exercise outcomes were not measured specifically in the present study, exercise during pregnancy is associated with improved pregnancy outcomes for mother and child. [6][7][8][9] Compared with pregnant women who do not exercise, pregnant women who exercise during pregnancy have better mood and self-esteem, less fat deposition, better cardiovascular system functioning, better muscle tone, better posture, and attenuated aches of pregnancy. 1 Furthermore, regular aerobic exercise increases the likelihood of delivery close to the estimated due date, decreases labor and delivery time, and hastens recovery. ...
... Regular maternal exercise, at or above ACOG minimum recommendations, leads to augmented fetal and neonatal cardiac autonomic control, similar to the lower resting heart rate seen in an adult exercise-trained response. [7][8][9] Offspring who were exposed to maternal exercise in utero are leaner and have improved academic and athletic performance into adulthood compared with nonexposed counterparts. 20 Clearly, the benefits of exercise during pregnancy are clinically significant, and obstetric providers are in an ideal position to convey this information to pregnant women. ...
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Obstetric providers are logical choices for conveying information about physical activity to their pregnant patients. However, research regarding obstetric providers counseling pregnant patients about physical activity is sparse. To investigate the association between obstetric providers discussing exercise with their pregnant patients and patients' exercise behaviors and to explore factors related to obstetric providers discussing exercise and other health behaviors (tobacco use, alcohol use, and nutrition) with their patients. We received completed surveys from 238 pregnant women and 31 obstetric providers at 12 obstetrician offices. The offices were located throughout the United States and were heterogeneous in regards to patient insurance coverage, number of patients treated per month, and percentage of patients with complications. Women who were "more careful about eating healthy" (odds ratio [OR], 3.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2-8.0) and who discussed exercise with their obstetric provider (OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.1-4.3) were more likely to "maintain or increase exercise" during pregnancy than those who were not conscientious about their diets and those who did not discuss exercise with their obstetric provider, respectively. The odds of obstetric providers discussing exercise with pregnant patients increased 7-fold (OR, 7.1; 95% CI, 1.4-37.3) for each health behavior the obstetric provider discussed with the patient. Patient discussions with obstetric providers about exercise and patient attention to eating habits are associated with exercising during pregnancy. A more multibehavioral approach by obstetric providers may improve the likelihood that patients exercise during pregnancy.
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