Navigation Links
Effects of maternal exercise on fetal breathing movements

NEW ORLEANS Exercise has many benefits for adults, teens, and youngsters. It is less clear what benefit, if any, exercise may have during fetal growth during gestation. Now that scientists have determined that, generally speaking, maternal exercise poses no significant risk to a fetus, studies are underway to examine the mother/fetus/exercise/health connection.

One important study is now complete. Entitled The Effects of Maternal Exercise on Fetal Breathing Movements, it was conducted by Stephanie Million and Linda E. May, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB), Kansas City, MO; and Kathleen M. Gustafson, University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC), Kansas City, KS. The researchers will discuss their findings at the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Physiological Society (APS;, which is part of the Experimental Biology 2009 scientific conference. The meeting will be held April 18-22, 2009 in New Orleans.

Study and Background

The primary aim of the pilot project was to test the theory that maternal exercise imparts a cardiovascular benefit to the fetus. The secondary aim was to determine if exercise-exposed fetuses have increased breathing movements compared to non-exercise exposed fetuses. Fetal breathing movements are a marker of fetal well-being and reflect functional development of the respiratory system and central nervous system control.

The researchers used a non-invasive, dedicated fetal biomagnetometer to measure maternal and fetal magnetocardiograms (MCG) along with fetal movements (breathing, body movements, hiccups and non-nutritive suck). Unlike an ultrasound, which takes static measurements of anatomy, MCG records the physiology of the developing fetus.

The investigators looked at the results from pregnant women between 20 and 35 years of age. The mothers were classified as exercisers if they performed moderate intensity aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes three times per week (moderate to vigorous walking, stationary bicycling and running). Mothers in the control category did not partake of a regular exercise routine. The MCG was measured between 24-36 weeks gestational age.

Between 36-38 weeks gestational age, breathing movements were identified using specific criterion. Measures of fetal heart rate and autonomic control were analyzed during episodes of fetal breathing and non-breathing movements. Although there was no difference in the number of breathing episodes, differences were noted between the groups.


The researchers found:

  • Fetal HR was significantly lower in the exercise group during both breathing and non-breathing movement periods.
  • Fetal short-term and overall heart rate variability were higher in the exercise group during breathing movements.
  • Three independent measures of vagal control were higher in the exercise-exposed fetuses during breathing movements.
  • During periods of fetal non-breathing, there were no significant differences in measures of vagal control between groups. There were no group or breathing period differences in sympathetic heart rate control.


According to Drs. May and Gustafson, "These findings suggest a potential benefit of maternal exercise on fetal development because of the link between fetal breathing movements and the developing autonomic nervous system." Their next step is to use exercise as a potential intervention to improve short and long term outcomes in children born to women at risk for gestational diabetes.


Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

Related biology news :

1. Effects of maternal exercise on fetal breathing movements
2. Frogs reveal clues about the effects of alcohol during development
3. Ecologists question effects of climate change on infectious diseases
4. Scientists find climate change to have paradoxical effects in coastal wetlands
5. Chantix side effects no worse with depression history
6. Stronger coastal winds due to climate change may have far-reaching effects
7. Ocean acidification could have broad effects on marine ecosystems
8. Climate change effects on imperiled Sierra frog examined
9. Study reveals effects of unconscious exposure to advertisements
10. UNC, Yale partner to study effects of cocaine use on mother-infant relationships
11. Effects of climate change vary greatly across plant families
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/20/2015)... 20, 2015 NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... the growing mobile commerce market and creator of the ... , was recently interviewed on The RedChip Money ... this weekend on Bloomberg Europe , Bloomberg Asia, ... --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), a ...
(Date:11/18/2015)... new scientific discoveries deepen our understanding of how cancer ... challenges in better using that knowledge to guide treatment ... children continue to survive pediatric cancer, that counseling may ... John M. Maris, M.D ., a pediatric oncologist ... --> John M. Maris, M.D ., ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... -- Paris , qui s,est ... Paris , qui s,est tenu du 17 ... de l,innovation biométrique, a inventé le premier scanner couplé, ... la même surface de balayage. Jusqu,ici, deux scanners étaient ... empreintes digitales. Désormais, un seul scanner est en mesure ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 Studies reveal the differences ... and pave the way for more effective treatment for one ...   --> --> ... problems in cats, yet relatively little was understood about the ... have been conducted by researchers from the WALTHAM Centre for ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... Nov. 25, 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: ... in a fireside chat discussion at the Piper Jaffray ... . The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, December ... .  A replay will be available for 14 ... , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business Development ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Calif. , Nov. 24, 2015 Cepheid ... will be speaking at the following conference, and invited ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 ... Jaffray Healthcare Conference, New York, NY ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) (TSX: AEZ) ... of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms that as of ... corporate developments that would cause the recent movements in ... --> About Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical company engaged ...
Breaking Biology Technology: