Pregnant women 'not keeping fit'
Irish women are not doing enough exercise during pregnancy, research has found.
Three-quarters of expectant mothers are failing to keep fit and 12% are not doing even a basic workout or walking.
Researchers at University College Dublin and the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, say that some mums-to-be, and even healthcare professionals, wrongly believe that exercise during pregnancy can harm the child's development.
Fionnuala McAuliffe, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at both UCD and the hospital, said this mistaken belief is a likely reason for the fitness shortfalls, although she added that moderation is key.
She said: "There are significant benefits to mild and moderate exercise while pregnant. However, strenuous exercise during pregnancy should be avoided as it has been linked to pre-term birth and low birth-weight.
"Regular exercise during pregnancy helps better prepare women for labour and delivery, and may also offer long-term benefits for the baby.
"Moderate exercise during pregnancy helps reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, less gestational weight gain and less somatic complaints including insomnia and low mood."
Women are advised to walk or swim during pregnancy to keep themselves relatively fit.
The latest Central Statistics Office figures show that 73,996 children were born in Ireland in 2008, the highest fertility rate of the 27 European Union countries.
The findings of the study, titled Prevalence Of Physical Activity Among Healthy Pregnant Women In Ireland, appear in the International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics.