“Prenatal Exercise and Cardiovascular Health (PEACH)”
Maintenance of a healthy pregnancy depends on an appropriate adaptation and responsiveness of blood vessels, to ensure appropriate blood flow to the fetus during everyday stressors. Previous work by the investigators has demonstrated that during pregnancy, the part of the nervous system responsible for cardiovascular function (the sympathetic nervous system) is hyperactive. The investigators also know that in women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy that sympathetic nervous system activity is even higher. Yet, very little is known about why this occurs and how this might be affected. Pregnant women are encouraged to be active, yet, less than 15% of women perform sufficient exercise to meet current guidelines. This is important because hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system is observed in other inactive populations and has been linked to adverse cardiovascular health outcomes including hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. Indeed, in 2011, the American Heart Association stated that inactivity was a risk factor as potent as cigarette smoking for the development of future cardiovascular disease in women. The investigators' work and others have demonstrated that exercise during pregnancy is beneficial for both the mom and baby; however, the effect of prenatal exercise on neurovascular function is not known. If exercise is effective in controlling the increase in sympathetic activity that occurs during pregnancy, or its effects on the cardiovascular system, this may help prevent the development of high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems during pregnancy.
Brisk walking 3-4 times per week for up to 40 minutes of activity.
Exercise and Neurovascular Function During Pregnancy