Stretching Exercises May Help Fight Pre-eclampsia During Pregnancy
exercises may be more effective at reducing the
risk of preeclampsia
for pregnant women who have already
experienced the condition and who do not follow a workout routine, according
to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing.
According to experts, stretching produced more transferrin, a plasma protein
that transports iron through the blood and protects against oxidative stress
on the body, and thus helps guard against preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced
hypertension, is a condition that affects
up to 8 percent of pregnancies every year and is among the leading causes of
maternal and fetal illness and death worldwide. Preeclampsia is characterized by
a marked increase in blood pressure during pregnancy and may be accompanied by
swelling and kidney problems. It is diagnosed when blood pressure readings taken
twice in six hours read 140/90 or higher.
Based on the research, these results seemingly contradict the conventional wisdom that walking is
the best protection pregnant women have against developing preeclampsia. But for women who were not physically active before becoming pregnant and
who have experienced preeclampsia with a previous pregnancy, that might not be
From November 2001 to July 2006, 79 women with a previous preeclampsia
diagnosis and a sedentary lifestyle participated in this National Institute of
Nursing Research-funded study. Women were randomly assigned to either the
walking group (41 women) or the stretching group (38 women) during the 18th week
of pregnancy. The walking group was asked to exercise for 40 minutes five times a week at
moderate intensity, following the program recommended by the Surgeon General and
the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Stretchers were also asked to
perform slow, non-aerobic muscle movements with a 40-minute video fives times a
week. Frequency and
duration of exercise decreased in both groups as the
At the end of pregnancy, almost 15 percent of women in the walking group had
developed preeclampsia. Less than 5 percent of the stretching group developed
the condition. While the incidence of preeclampsia in the walking group was
similar to that reported in high-risk pregnancies, the frequency among the
stretching group was similar to rates seen among the general population.
Clearly, walking does not have a harmful effect during
But for women who are at high risk for preeclampsia, results may suggest that
stretching exercises may have a protective effect against the condition.
Following an active exercise plan is good, but only if a pregnant
woman is truly able to do it. For some who already have a risk of preeclampsia,
stretching might be a better option.
For more on stretching exercises for a complete body workout,