Exercise Before Pregnancy Can Reduce Pregnancy Pain

Pelvic girdle pain is a common problem in the later stages of pregnancy; it is defined as pain across the back and front of the pelvis. It has been linked to depression and higher amounts of sick leave during pregnancy. A new study by Scandinavian researchers has found that exercise prior to pregnancy can decrease the amount of pain experienced in the later stages of pregnancy. The findings were published on October 4 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The objective of the study was to examine whether an association exists between exercise levels before pregnancy and pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy. The authors note that pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy has been linked to physical inactivity, which is a risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcomes.

The authors reviewed data from 39,184 nulliparous (first pregnancy) women with a singleton pregnancy who were enrolled in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study (MoBa). Pre-pregnancy exercise frequency and types were evaluated via a questionnaire in pregnancy week 17. Pelvic girdle pain was defined as combined pain in the anterior pelvis and in the posterior pelvis on both sides; it was self-reported in pregnancy week 30. The data was subjected to statistical analysis to estimate the risks of pelvic girdle pain associated with pre-pregnancy exercise. The researchers assessed a dose–response association of pre-pregnancy exercise frequency. The data was adjusted for pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), age, education, history of low back pain, and history of depression.

The researchers found that among 4,069 women (10.4%) reported pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy, and the prevalence among women who were non-exercisers pre-pregnancy was 12.5%. They found an association for pre-pregnancy exercise and risk of pelvic girdle pain. Compared to non-exercisers, women exercising three-to-five times weekly pre-pregnancy had a 14% lower risk of developing pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy. Participating in high-impact exercises such as running, jogging, orienteering, ballgames, netball games, and high-impact aerobics was associated with less risk of pelvic girdle pain.

The authors concluded that women who exercise regularly and engage in high-impact exercises before the first pregnancy may have a reduced risk of pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy.

The authors are affiliated with the Department of Psychosomatics and Health Behaviour, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway; Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Women’s Health, Oslo University Hospital, Rikshospitalet, Oslo, Norway; Health Services Research Unit, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, Norway; Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway; Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden; Institute of Clinical Medicine, Campus Ahus, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway; and Department of Chronic Diseases, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway .