Washington: A new study has found that regular exercise before and during pregnancy could have beneficial effects for women that develop high blood pressure during gestation – contrary to previous research that suggested otherwise.
"The data from our study raise the possibility that exercise regimens if started before pregnancy and maintained through most of gestation may be an important way for women to mitigate the risk of preeclampsia," Human physiology professor Jeff Gilbert said.
"There are certainly questions that remain, such as when and how much exercise is required and whether exercise training must begin before pregnancy for these beneficial effects to occur.
Moreover, further studies are needed to determine if it can safely be used as a therapeutic modality for hypertension caused by insufficient blood flow in the placenta.
Gilbert’s team induced hypertension in pregnant rats by restricting blood flow to the rat placentas and monitored gestation after six weeks of exercise on activity wheels. Animals in test and control groups ran approximately 30 kilometers per week before pregnancy and approximately 4.5 kilometers per week during pregnancy.
It was observed that placental ischemia-induced hypertension in rats was alleviated by exercise and was accompanied by a restoration of several circulating factors that have recently been shown to be important in causing the high blood pressure associated with preeclampsia.
Exercise also improved endothelial cell function and reduced oxidative stress in the hypertensive rat. Fetal weight was not compromised by exercise and there were no obvious signs of fetal stress in rats with hypertension that exercised, Gilbert said.
The study has been published in the December issue of Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association.