Influence of prenatal physical activity on the course of labour and delivery according to the new Polish standard for perinatal care

Gdansk University of Physical Education and Sport, Poland
Department of Mother and Child Health, University of Medical Sciences, Poznan, Poland
Ann Agric Environ Med 2013;20(2):380–389
Introduction. Prenatal physical activity has been increasingly recommended in recent years as the fundamental condition of physiological pregnancy and birth by health promoting organizations throughout the world. Objective. To determine the influence of prenatal physical activity on the course of labour and delivery. The practical purpose was to present prenatal physical activity as an effective tool in the implementation of the new Polish standard for perinatal care. Brief description of the state of knowledge. Reviewed publications report either a positive impact or no impact of physical activity on selected parameters of labour and delivery. The most frequently cited benefits of physical exercise during pregnancy include: shorter delivery, less frequent need for anesthesia, reduced risk of operative births, a lower rate of induction of labor, amniotomy, episiotomy and perineum lacerations, and improved neonatal outcome. Conclusions. A review of the literature shows that regular prenatal physical activity can help reduce medical interventions during labour, without having negative consequences for either the mother or the foetus. It should be an important tool to implement the Polish standard for perinatal care. There is a need to promote regular prenatal physical activity among women, medical personnel, and physical education staff. Detailed instructions for designing prenatal exercise programmes should be included in the new guidelines for physical activity during pregnancy, both in Poland and abroad. To support or negate the hypothesis of the positive effects of physical activity on the course of labour and delivery, well-designed research trials should be conducted with the properly structured prenatal exercise programmes in the intervention groups.