Exercise during pregnancy can shorten labor, study finds

What expectant women should know about working out.

Researchers in Spain found that women who exercise just three times per week during pregnancy have a shorter labor.

In the study, a group of around 500 women were divided into two groups. One group of women were led in sessions of moderate exercise by a professional three times per week, based on an exercise regimen recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

In the labor room, there was a measurable difference. The first stage of labor -- the beginning of labor to full opening of the cervix -- was an average of 53 minutes shorter for women in the exercise program.

It wasn't just the first stage of labor that was affected. The women who exercised had a total labor time that was an average of 57 minutes shorter than the women not led in exercise.

The women in the exercise group were also less likely to get an epidural, according to the study, published in the May 2018 edition of The European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology.

Pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Najibah Rehman, MD, MPH, is a third-year preventive medicine resident at the University of Michigan, working in the ABC News Medical Unit.