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Exercising 3 Times a Week While Pregnant Could Speed Up Labor, Study Suggests

Editor’s note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.

Young mother giving birth to a baby
Image Source: Thinkstock

I’ve had the good fortune of bringing three tiny humans into this big, crazy world and one thing I’ve learned as a result is that there is no rushing nature. Which is why I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at a new study making the rounds that claims women can reduce their labor time by working out while pregnant.

Hmmm … skeptical, too?

The research was published in the May 2018 edition of The European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, which found that women who performed moderate exercise sessions three times a week throughout their pregnancy can reduce their labor times significantly during the first and second phases of labor — and moreover, women who exercise regularly were less likely to have an epidural.

Woah.

Before you get too excited, though, let’s just look at the numbers. The study showed that women who worked out reduced their labor times by a total of 53 minutes — with their average labor times totaling 409 minutes versus 462 minutes for women who didn’t exercise regularly. In other words, that’s almost one entire episode of Real Housewives.

Honestly, depending on how intense your labor is, knocking off almost an hour could be awesome … or kind of NBD in the grand scheme of things.

Don’t get me wrong, though — I’m not knocking exercise at all, since there are so many proven benefits to being a healthy and fit mama. Growing babies need moms who make a world of great choices, from staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep to getting in that yoga or walking time to keep all of the muscles needed for labor in tip-top shape. So I love that science took a closer look at how great exercise can be for a pregnant mom.

But let’s get super real for a second. When I was pregnant, there were loads of times when the very last thing on Earth that I wanted to do was drop some sweat and hit the gym. Hell, eating through a pint of Ben and Jerry’s was occasionally what passed as cardio especially in the second trimester. And when I had two kids to wrangle at home while expecting my third child? Yeah — not happening.

Try to imagine a 20 lb. bowling ball strapped to your stomach and pressing against your bladder and then tell me that you’d be cool with working out three times a week in your third tri. I mean seriously, once you hit month six, you can’t even see your damn feet anymore let alone your own hoo-ha.

My grandmother once told me that if I wanted to hurry up and get things started, I could grab my husband have a good romp in the hay. Others will say castor oil or even acupuncture can do the trick. One friend once told me to massage my perineum (as if I could reach that by month 9).

In other words, women have been trying to figure out how the heck to get something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon quickly and easily since … well, forever. But the truth is, there are a variety of factors at play.

So while it’s clear that regular exercise can indeed help women stay healthy, prepare the body for labor, and even reduce stress and help maximize that lovely glow, it’s not always possible, depending on your body and your pregnancy. If you’re able to hit the gym three times a week throughout your pregnancy, more power to you! But if you (like me), just aren’t able to keep up that kind of schedule, just know that you’re not alone — and above all, don’t sweat it.

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