Several studies show that exercise is not harmful during pregnancy, but a recent study from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is the first to show that vigorous exercise during pregnancy can help to prevent preterm birth.

Preterm birth increases risk for illness and death in newborn babies. It is almost impossible for a pregnant women to exercise so vigorously that the baby's brain is deprived of oxygen, but lack of calories and high body temperature can damage the baby's brain. The harder you exercise, the higher your temperature rises. While infections can raise body temperature high enough to damage the babies brain, I know of no reports of exercise doing this. Ingrid Kristianson, the former world record holder, gave birth to a healthy baby after winning the Houston Marathon (fastest woman) when three months pregnant. Sharon Wood climbed Mt. Everest while pregnant. Pregnant women who exercise vigorously during pregnancy give birth to smaller, but apparently healthy babies.

Vigorous leisure activity and pregnancy outcome. Epidemiology, 2002, Vol 13, Iss 6, pp 653-659. KR Evenson, AM SiegaRiz, DA Savitz, JA Leiferman, JM Thorp. Evenson KR, Univ N Carolina Chapel Hill, Sch Publ Hlth, Dept Epidemiol, 137 E Franklin St, Suite 306, Chapel Hill,NC 27514 USA

Checked 9/5/05

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