Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

Patterns of leisure-time physical activity across pregnancy and adverse pregnancy outcomes.



Although leisure-time physical activity (PA) contributes to overall health, including pregnancy health, patterns across pregnancy have not been related to birth outcomes. We hypothesized that women with sustained low leisure-time PA would have excess risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, and that changing patterns across pregnancy (high to low and low to high) may also be related to risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes.


Nulliparous women (n = 10,038) were enrolled at 8 centers early in pregnancy (mean gestational age in weeks [SD] = 12.05 [1.51]. Frequency, duration, and intensity (metabolic equivalents) of up to three leisure activities reported in the first, second and third trimesters were analyzed. Growth mixture modeling was used to identify leisure-time PA patterns across pregnancy. Adverse pregnancy outcomes (preterm birth, [PTB, overall and spontaneous], hypertensive disorders of pregnancy [HDP], gestational diabetes [GDM] and small-for-gestational-age births [SGA]) were assessed via chart abstraction.


Five patterns of leisure-time PA across pregnancy were identified: High (35%), low (18%), late decreasing (24%), early decreasing (10%), and early increasing (13%). Women with sustained low leisure-time PA were younger and more likely to be black or Hispanic, obese, or to have smoked prior to pregnancy. Women with low vs. high leisure-time PA patterns had higher rates of PTB (10.4 vs. 7.5), HDP (13.9 vs. 11.4), and GDM (5.7 vs. 3.1, all p < 0.05). After adjusting for maternal factors (age, race/ethnicity, BMI and smoking), the risk of GDM (Odds ratio 2.00 [95% CI 1.47, 2.73]) remained higher in women with low compared to high patterns. Early and late decreasing leisure-time PA patterns were also associated with higher rates of GDM. In contrast, women with early increasing patterns had rates of GDM similar to the group with high leisure-time PA (3.8% vs. 3.1%, adjusted OR 1.16 [0.81, 1.68]). Adjusted risk of overall PTB (1.31 [1.05, 1.63]) was higher in the low pattern group, but spontaneous PTB, HDP and SGA were not associated with leisure-time PA patterns.


Sustained low leisure-time PA across pregnancy is associated with excess risk of GDM and overall PTB compared to high patterns in nulliparous women. Women with increased leisure-time PA early in pregnancy had low rates of GDM that were similar to women with high patterns, raising the possibility that early pregnancy increases in activity may be associated with improved pregnancy health.

Trial registration

Registration number NCT02231398 .

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View