Water exercise can reduce labor pain in pregnant women according to a new study from the University of Campinas in São Paulo in Brazil. Researchers found that regular practice (three times a week for 50 minutes) of aquarobics—aerobic exercise in water—can reduce the amount of pain-killing medication women request during labor.

“We found no statistically significant differences in the duration of labor or the type of delivery between the two groups,” says study author Rosa Pereira. “However, only 27 percent of women in the aquarobics group requested analgesia, compared to 65 percent in the control group. This represents a 58 percent reduction in requests.”  

But the medical community is in disagreement about whether these workouts are safe—there are concerns they can compromise the placenta’s position in the woman’s uterus, possibly interfere with the baby’s growth and cause birth defects. Pereira’s findings, however, suggest otherwise. “Regular practice of moderate water aerobics during pregnancy is not detrimental to the health of the mother or the child,” she said.  “In fact, the reduction in analgesia requests suggests that it can get women into better psycho-physical condition.”

To learn more about pregnancy and working out, read RH’s “Fit Mamas.”