Exercising for two
Trainee explores benefits of physical activity during pregnancy
Rachel Skow is intrigued by the potential use of exercise to improve and maintain cardiovascular health during pregnancy.
A first-year PhD student in exercise physiology, Skow is studying the impact of physical activity, from high to low levels, on blood pressure control and overall cardiovascular health during pregnancy. Exercise has been shown to have a positive influence on adult cardiovascular health, but not enough is known about its impact on pregnant women. Maintaining good cardiovascular health is enormously important during pregnancy when the body pumps up to 50 per cent more blood by 20 to 28 weeks to provide essential nutrients and oxygen for the rapidly developing fetus.
Skow’s two-year study is supported by a graduate studentship from the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute and is overseen by her PhD supervisors, physiologists Drs. Craig Steinback and Margie Davenport. Skow is happy to be working back in the lab—the Program for Pregnancy and Postpartum Health at the University of Alberta—where she completed her first graduate degree as Steinback’s first master’s student. The lab offers a unique, multidisciplinary research environment that brings together experts in cardiovascular and neurovascular function, maternal/fetal physiology, obstetrics, gynecology and kinesiology, including from other universities in the U.S. and Canada.
Skow is excited about the prospect of a research and academic career in a rapidly growing field.
“Physical activity and pregnancy have become a hot topic,” she notes. “A lot of research has been emerging in this area in the past 10 to 15 years, but most of it has focused on gestational weight gain. Researchers are now beginning to look at how exercise during pregnancy affects other aspects of women and children’s health, including their long-term cardiovascular health.”
Skow’s research is funded by the generous support of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, through WCHRI.