A recent piece of research supports what I have always known: that exercise supports babies’ development in the womb.
Professor Dave Ellemberg and his team monitored electrical activity in infants’ brains within the first two weeks after birth. The babies of mothers who had been engaging in moderate exercise (20 minutes three times a week starting in the second trimester of pregnancy) presented with a more mature cerebral response to auditory stimuli during sleep.
The researchers are now monitoring the babies — who are now about one year old — for cognitive, language and motor development to determine if the effects are lasting past infancy.
We know that the sensory and motoric systems develop together and in large part in response to movement. Movement, as well as sound, touch and light, stimulates babies brains to develop. It is therefore not surprising that babies whose mothers exercise present with a more developed cerebral response.
This highlights some issues which concern me. Women’s lifestyles have changed enormously over the past 20 years. Many more women are working in desk bound jobs and spending longer driving and less time walking, and in physical activities. As women move less, so too do their babies and so their sensory motor systemsreceive less stimulation. In order to compensate for the lack of time we spend moving in daily activities, it is important to allow time for exercise and to rest in a variety of positions, other than sitting.
I wrote a blog post for Born about the importance of positioning in pregnancy massage. Offering positioning options is not just about the mother’s comfort but about supporting babies’ development. Babies experience different touch and movement sensations when the mother is in different positions.
If women are tired, then of course they can simply rest in different positions, such as leaning over a ball or chair and releasing pressure from their lower back. However this study confirms what I always knew, that women do need to keep as physically active as they are able, not just for their own well being, but that of their babies.