The effect of antenatal exercise on women’s experience of labor: A randomized controlled trial
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Objective: To assess whether following a standardized exercise program during pregnancy affects women’s experience of labor. Methods: 855 healthy pregnant women were randomized to an intervention or a control group. The intervention group followed a 12 weeks standardized exercise program between gestational weeks 20 and 36. The program included aerobic and strengthening exercises of moderate to high-intensity. The control group followed standard antenatal care. At inclusion and three months postpartum participants completed written questionnaires covering the experience of labor. Results: There was no difference in total experience of labor between the two groups. There was a statistically significant difference in pain experience and experience of the contractions in the fetal expulsion phase in favor of the control group, although not clinically significant . Conclusion: These results suggest that exercise during pregnancy does not affect healthy pregnant women’s experience of labor neither in a positive nor negative way. Implications for clinical practice: Women should be encouraged to follow the standard recommendations for exercise in pregnancy, and be reassured that exercise does not affect the subjective experience of labor.