Why Moms Should Exercise While Pregnant

It turns out exercising while pregnant isn’t only helpful for the mom’s general well-being, but also that of the baby’s. A new study reveals that as little as 20 minutes of exercise, only three times per week, can advance a newborn’s brain activity. The University of Montreal conducted research on 60 women who were randomly assigned into two groups. One group was given an exercise routine, and the other was not. Those in the exercise group kept track of their activity levels with daily logs, pedometers, and accelerometers.

After the babies were born, researchers took note of their brain activity levels at 8 to 12 days of life and discovered the babies whose mothers exercised had brains that were more fully developed. According to researcher Élise Labonté-LeMoyne this is a groundbreaking study because it sheds light on how exercise impacts newborns.

“We measured directly the brain activity,” Labonté-LeMoyne said. “So it’s not a behavioral test or neuropsychologic test, it’s really specifically the brain that we were looking at.” She added that the measurement of electrical brain activity is “the most indicative way to measure a newborn’s cognitive status.”

Unfortunately, this heartwarming/pumping new study comes amid news that the cost of birth in America continues to rise. A new study by Merck & co found that giving birth to just one child costs about $21,000. While only three percent of all U.S. births in 2010 were multiple deliveries, the medical bills only continue to increase: twins cost up to $105,000, and parents can pay upward of $400,000 for triplets or more.

Apparently, 60 percent of medical expenses are linked to the mother’s care when it comes to single births. With multiple births, 70 percent to 85 percent of costs are associated with infant care.

"On average, combined all-cause healthcare expenses for mothers with twins or higher-order multiple births were about five and 20 times more expensive, respectively, than singleton delivery," Dr. Dongmu Zhang, a researcher at Global Health Outcomes at Merck & Co., said.

Perhaps that's because the system itself is broken. As Bustle reported this summer:

Future moms and dads can pay hundreds of dollars for just minutes of a doctor’s time, or be charged exorbitant amounts for standard medical supplies and outdated equipment. On top of that, misleading price estimates often lead parents-to-be to agree to procedures that are both unnecessary and overpriced. American healthcare plans often don’t cover these expenses, and the ones that do still leave patients with significant co-pays. Women whose healthcare plans do cover maternity care are now paying up to four times more out-of-pocket than they would have just ten years ago.
Breaking the bank in order to have a baby is a relatively new phenomenon in the States. The ballooning costs of pregnancy procedures in the last twenty or so years can be largely explained by the new practice of parceling up services into separate item-by-item charges. The list of expenses can grow so long that many exhausted parents-to-be don’t even have the will or the energy to question the bill.
Our system is also markedly inefficient compared to other developed countries. In much of Europe, midwife-assisted births are commonplace. These no-frills services are far cheaper than the endless medical procedures American doctors tend to recommend, and manage to give mothers a sense of personal care often lost in the American hospital system. Worse yet, despite our extra spending, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of maternal deaths amongst industrialized nations.

Meanwhile, it appears that an overwhelming consensus of Americans still want new parents to be young:

A new Gallup poll shows that most Americans want women to get pregnant before the age of 26, with 58 percent of respondents saying that 25 or younger is the ideal age for a woman to have kids. Putting aside the intrinsically-awkward nature of asking people todictate when others ought to get pregnant, the survey is worth looking at for one notable finding: Out of the 5,000 Americans surveyed, only one demographic deviated from the belief that women should get pregnant as soon as possible.

That might be a little expensive. Researchers continue to figure out ways to make sure newborns come into this world at their healthiest and most developed for younger and younger parents, but how are parents even supposed to afford childbirth to begin with?

(Image: Andy Bennett/Flickr)