While some women are told they're "glowing" during pregnancy, for others it's a generally draining experience. Growing a baby can sap you of energy, and the thought of exercising is —unsurprisingly—not high up on your list of considerations.
But it turns out if you can muster up the energy to do some light workouts across the nine months, there might be a major benefit: a quicker labor.
This theory was put to the test in a study by Professor Ruben Barakat and his team of researchers from the Technical University of Madrid, who assessed 508 healthy pregnant women. Randomly splitting the participants into two groups, one set of women were advised to do no exercise, while the other group was given a programme of moderate aerobic exercises to do regularly.
Experts then assessed each of the women's births, noting how long each stage of labor took, how their babies were delivered, whether or not they had an epidural, how much the baby weighed, and how much weight the women had put on throughout the pregnancy.
And whether it's a coincidence or not, the researchers found that the women who had carried out regular exercise throughout their pregnancy tended to spend less time in labor than the women who didn't.
"A supervised physical exercise program throughout pregnancy decreased the duration of the first phase of labor as well as total time of the first two phases together, leading to a decrease in total labor time," the researchers explained. They also found that the women who exercised were less likely to require an epidural during childbirth.
If this study is anything to go by, there might be a real benefit to some light exercise during pregnancy. But it's also worth adding that women have enough to worry about while pregnant to feel pressured into hitting the gym, too.
So if you don't feel a desire to gently work out—don't do it. And don't beat yourself up about not doing it, either. Only you know what's right for your body—and one scientific study shouldn't influence that.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.