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July 2, 2024

New Study: Sitting too long in pregnancy has damaging effect even with exercise

Originally published in The Mercury Newspaper, there has been a study that’s been released in QLD today about sitting for long periods for pregnant women. Up and at it ladies!

Pregnant women who sit for excessive periods could be impacting the health of their unborn baby even if they are physically active during the day, a Queensland study shows.

The findings offer a warning to women who work behind a desk for long hours during pregnancy to get up and move regularly.

The research found that sitting for more than eight hours a day was associated with smaller and stiffer placentas, with a potentially compensatory decrease in blood flow resistance in the umbilical cord.

The placenta develops inside the uterus during pregnancy and passes oxygen, antibodies and nutrients from the mother’s blood to her baby.

More than 200 women who gave birth at Brisbane’s Mater Mothers’ Hospital took part in the study, led by physiology researcher Jade Kubler.

“Our findings showed that sitting for more than eight hours a day during pregnancy was linked to greater placental tissue stiffness, altered blood flow resistance in the umbilical artery and a lower placental weight at term,” Ms Kubler said.

“These associations were found irrespective of what other physical activity was performed by each woman.”

She said the findings highlighted the importance of limiting sedentary behaviour during pregnancy.

“We know mothers can get uncomfortable and tired towards the end of their pregnancy, or choose to work later in their pregnancy,” Ms Kubler said.

“When this is the case, these findings show that taking regular breaks to get up and move around the office or home are necessary to ensure a well-functioning placenta.”

Ms Kubler said low-functioning and underdeveloped placentas can affect the growth and wellbeing of babies and possibly lead to complications in pregnancy or birth.

Participants were all enrolled in Mater Research’s Queensland Family Cohort Study and were monitored throughout their pregnancy.

The study – Maternal physical activity and sitting time and its association with placental morphology and blood flow during gestation – has been published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Ms Kubler said the study investigated different volumes of exercise during pregnancy as well as sitting times and the effect they had on the placenta.

Although antenatal exercise has well-established beneficial effects for women and babies, she said there was no association between overall physical activity and placental health in this cohort of women.

“Even if a pregnant woman is physically active, she could still find herself sitting for an excessive amount of time each day, whether that be at work or at home,” Ms Kubler said.

First-time mother Suruthi Nathan is eight months pregnant and tries to limit the time she spends sitting down throughout the day.

The Brisbane artist is married to a GP and said she appreciates the importance of being active during pregnancy.

The 32-year-old is attending physiotherapy for pregnancy, birth and beyond antenatal classes, which include sessions with physiotherapists.

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