Exercise in Late Pregnancy May Lower Offspring Birth Weight

Effects on growth not likely associated with an exercise effect on maternal insulin sensitivity
By Beth Gilbert
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Regular aerobic exercise in the second half of pregnancy may lead to a reduction in offspring birth weight and reduced cord concentrations of growth-related peptides without an effect on maternal insulin sensitivity, according to a study published online March 24 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Sarah A. Hopkins, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and colleagues randomized 84 women to a home-based exercise program consisting of a maximum of five sessions of 40 minutes of aerobic exercise per week from 20 weeks' gestation to delivery (47 women) or a control group (37 women). Maternal insulin sensitivity at 19 and 34 to 36 weeks' gestation was evaluated.

The researchers found that offspring of women who underwent the home-based exercise program during pregnancy had lower birth weight and body mass index at birth as well as lower growth-related peptides in cord blood, including lower cord serum insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and IGF-II. However, the reduction in maternal insulin sensitivity in late gestation was not affected by the exercise program and not related to the size of the offspring.

"Longitudinal growth assessments are continuing in this cohort to determine whether the reduction in birth weight in the offspring of exercising mothers persist into postnatal life, and whether this is associated with an improved metabolic profile. Future studies should investigate the impact of exercise in overweight and obese mothers during pregnancy to determine whether exercise-related alterations in fetal growth occur in a population with increased risk of macrosomia," the authors write.

The lead author reported receiving an unrestricted grant from Novo Nordisk.

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