Pregnant women who spend long periods of time sitting down during the second trimester are at greater risk of depression, extra weight gain, and gestational diabetes, according to a new study at the University of Warwick in the U.K.
The findings highlight the need to address women’s physical and mental wellbeing from the earlier stages of pregnancy to help reduce the health risks associated with sedentary behavior.
“Pregnant women could benefit from early intervention to improve their physical and mental health and reduce the risks associated with sedentary behavior,” said study leader Dr. Nithya Sukumar, Clinical Research Fellow of Metabolic & Vascular Health at the Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick.
Sedentary behavior has previously been linked to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and mental health problems, but its impact on the health of pregnant women has remained unclear. There are currently no specific guidelines for the intensity and duration of physical activity needed to keep pregnant women healthy.
“Encouraging women to take breaks from sitting down might be an easier public health policy to implement than increasing their physical activity during pregnancy. We believe reducing the sitting time has the potential to reduce pregnant women’s risk of gestational diabetes and reduce the metabolic risk factors of their newborns,” said co-researcher Dr. Ponnusamy Saravanan.
The study involved 1,263 pregnant women. Participants were asked to report their levels of physical activity and emotional well-being during the first trimester of pregnancy and then again toward the end of the second trimester.
The findings showed that, overall, pregnant women with self-reported depression symptoms were more likely to spend longer periods of time sitting down. The link remained after researchers accounted for participants’ BMI, age, and socio-economic status.
Pregnant women who spent more time sitting down during the second trimester also participated in less moderate or vigorous physical activity, and women who were sedentary gained significant amounts of weight between the first and second trimester.
Finally, the study also showed that sedentary pregnant women had higher blood glucose levels around 28 weeks of gestation, putting them at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.
“Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of birth complications for the mother and baby, and so it is important we minimize this risk by reducing the time that pregnant women spend sitting down,” said Sukumar.
The findings are being presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Edinburgh.
Source: University of Warwick