Prenatal Stretching Exercise and Autonomic Responses: Preliminary Data and a Model for Reducing Preeclampsia


Dr. SeonAe Yeo, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Nursing, Carrington Hall CB #7460, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7460. E-mail:


Purpose: Preeclampsia is a leading cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity, and it increases maternal risk for future cardiovascular disease. The purpose of the study was to explore the relationships among stretching exercise, autonomic cardiac response, and the development of preeclampsia.

Design: Secondary data analysis.

Methods: Heart rate and pulse pressure were longitudinally examined in this secondary data analysis among women who engaged in stretching exercise daily from 18 weeks of gestation to the end of pregnancy compared with women who did walking exercise daily during the same time period. A total of 124 women were randomized to either stretching (n=60) or walking (n=64) in the parent study.

Findings: Heart rates in the stretching group were consistently lower than those in the walking group.

Conclusions: Based on the results of this secondary data analyses, a physiologic framework for possible beneficial effects of stretching exercise by enhancing autonomic responses on reducing risks for preeclampsia is proposed and discussed.

Clinical Relevance: If the protective effect is established, stretching exercise can be translated into nursing intervention for prenatal care.