How could exercise during pregnancy protect your child against high blood pressure?

A newly published American study has found that children of mothers who were physically active during their pregnancy, have significantly lower blood pressure when they reached ten years of age.

The findings of the study, carried out by a team of scientists at Michigan State University in America mean that cardiovascular health across a whole generation could be improved.

James Pivarnik, the lead study author of the project said: “We looked at a range of normal birth weight babies, some falling at the lower end of the scale, and surprisingly we found that this lower birth weight and higher blood pressure relationship in these offspring is not supported if the women were physically active. The connection was disrupted, indicating that exercise may in some way alter cardiovascular risk that occurs in utero (in the womb)”
Past research has suggested that babies who were small at birth also tend to have more chance of developing coronary heart disease or suffering from strokes later on in life, but this latest study shows that these chances could be altered through the mother undertaking more physical activity whilst pregnant.

A follow-up study confirmed that regular exercise in pregnant women, particularly when they were in their third trimester, was commonly associated with lower blood pressure in their children. Children whose mothers exercised at recommended levels of exercise, or higher, tended to have significantly lower blood pressures at ages 8-10 years old.

Professor Pivarnik added, “This told us that exercise during critical developmental periods may have more of a direct effect on the baby. This is a good thing as it suggests that the regular exercise habits of the mother are good for heart health later in a child’s life.”

The NHS Choices website also promotes exercise for pregnant women, stating that regular, moderate-intensity exercise is not dangerous for the baby as many think, but that there is actually some evidence to suggest that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour.

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