Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Medical Science (Physician Assistant)


Physician Assistant; College of Health Sciences

First Advisor

Amanda Seymour



Introduction: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that “women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during, and after pregnancy.”1 Many pregnant mothers seek guidance regarding exercise regimens’ safety and efficacy. This paper is a systematic review of the current literature on the topic of exercise regimens performed throughout pregnancy and maternal postpartum recovery.

Purpose: To determine if following the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommendation to engage in regular aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises throughout pregnancy contributes to easier deliveries as measured by the number of caesarean sections, time spent in labor, and time needed for maternal recovery postpartum when compared to mothers who do not participate in exercise regimens.

Methods: Databases including Ovid and Pubmed were utilized to identify peer-reviewed articles that met inclusion criteria. The quantitative and qualitative results from these articles were compiled and synthesized. Articles screened were included or excluded based on inclusion and exclusion criteria initially, followed by a more thorough assessment of the abstract and finally of the full text articles. Articles providing support for and evidence against different exercise regimens during pregnancy and their effects on maternal postpartum recovery are included in the synthesis.

Results: Outcomes measured by the articles reviewed included type of delivery, requests for analgesia, pregnancy weight gain, length of labor, self-reported postpartum recovery, and hospitalization during pregnancy. Statistically significant findings were reported for exercise relating to less pregnancy related weight-gain, a decrease in the number of caesarean deliveries, a decrease in the number of requests for analgesia, and decrease in maternal recovery time postpartum.

Discussion: These findings provide better evidence with which to encourage pregnant mothers to exercise even when they have not participated in exercise regimens before. Limitations of this study and the articles analyzed include the following: articles often reported statistically significant data on one or more topics regarding maternal recovery postpartum, but often the articles did not agree. Many articles did not measure the same variables and few found similar conclusions.

Conclusion: There is evidence for utilizing a structured exercise regimen throughout pregnancy to decrease pregnancy related weight-gain, to decrease risk of caesarean section, to decrease the need for anesthesia during labor and delivery, and to decrease maternal recovery time postpartum. More research needs to be done to strengthen the evidence for encouraging regular exercise in pregnant women to decrease these risks and to establish statistical significance for other measures of maternal postpartum recovery. Studies should be reproduced on a larger scale in order to achieve statistical significance and allow for better clinical evidence to be utilized by providers and taught to patients.