Impact of physical activity levels on infant measures and maternal health : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master in Science in Nutritional Science at Massey University, Albany Campus, Auckland, New Zealand
Five hundred and four pregnant women participated in this study. The objective was to examine the association between selected sociocultural characteristics and physical activity on the course of pregnancy, labor, delivery infant measures and maternal health. The participants were from the European (71%), Maori (20%) and Pacific communities (9%) in New Zealand. On average, pregnant women spent 20 hours each day in sedentary activities, such as sleeping, sitting, and standing. Urban women were found to be more sedentary than rural women. There was no difference in the activity patterns by ethnicity. During the seventh month of pregnancy the low income group and beneficiaries were found to be more sedentary than others. The need for some birth interventions was found to increase with time spent in sedentary activity. Sedentary activity was significantly related to the need for an episiotomy. The results also showed that the more active the women the lesser the need for pain relief. The need for syntocin and epidural anesthesia almost halved as the number of minutes spent in moderate high activity increased. The more the number of minutes spent in sedentary activity in the seventh month, the longer the duration of labor. However, the duration of sleeping was associated with a shorter duration of labor. Duration of physical activity did not affect birth weight, but time spent in sedentary activity was found to impact on the gestational age of the baby. The more sedentary mothers had a shorter gestational term and the more active the subjects the more likely they were to go full term. Sedentary activity during pregnancy was found to affect weight gain between the fourth to seventh months of pregnancy. The more time women spent on moderate low to moderate high activity, the less was the weight gain. Thus standing and sitting were not beneficial for a good pregnancy outcome. It was very clear that pregnant women would need to get more active. Furthermore, physical activity during pregnancy did not affect post partum weight retention. There may be other lifestyle characteristics such as diet both during and after pregnancy, or change in activity patterns postpartum that may have affected post partum weight retention.