While the concept is far removed from the nation's hottest-selling videocassette, "Star Trek III," one of the nation's most prominent medical organizations is entering the video market to correct misimpressions that it fears have become widespread among pregnant women who wonder how much--and what types of--exercise they can safely tolerate.
Actually, two cassettes will be introduced--one for pregnant women and one for women who have just had their babies. And neither represents the pioneer foray into the childbirth fitness videocassette market--that distinction is enjoyed by tapes already marketed by Jane Fonda.
In fact, the new releases may mark the beginning of something of a sales rivalry between the physician group and Fonda's prominent Beverly Hills exercise and fitness boutique, Workout. If it is to be competition, though, it will remain genteel.
Neither producer will criticize the other publicly and each has wished the other's project well. There are few, if any, major differences of approach between the two programs, though the look of the productions is quite different, as is the order of exercises. Basically, though, each one offers essentially the same advice.
First Major Group to Join
But, as 25,000 of the nation's doctors in the next three weeks begin to receive detailed descriptions of the new production, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists will become one of the first major organizations in mainstream medicine to join directly in commercial patient education geared expressly to the mass consumer market.
And a mass market it is, according to Dr. Harry Visscher of Washington, a vice president of the college, which represents the majority of the nation's mainstream obstetricians and gynecologists. Visscher said that about 3.5 million U.S. women are becoming pregnant every year and that a growing number of them are women actively involved in America's exercise and fitness boom.
There is no sign that the trend will abate. In fact, most experts agree, more and more women who are actively engaged in exercise are becoming pregnant, and many of them have no intention of discontinuing their conditioning programs.
Unfortunately, agreed Visscher and Dr. Art Ulene, the television reporter and medical commentator, many women who are pregnant and choose to continue fitness and aerobics programs have gotten bad advice on how to do so--advice that may place them and their babies in danger of injury.
An active woman can continue to work out--something that probably has become a vital component of her life--in an intelligently and cautiously planned exercise program, while not at the same level of aerobic condition. Exercise also aids a woman's mental outlook, and well-conditioned muscles can help a woman cope with some of the routine physical stresses of being pregnant and continuing professional and everyday activities.
Some studies, noted Ulene, have indicated that well-conditioned women may use less anesthesia and fewer other drugs during labor and delivery. Other evidence, said the two doctors, specifically indicates that conditioned pregnant women have less back and hip pain than those who are not in good shape.
Ulene, who was a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist for nearly 20 years, first suggested the pregnancy and postpartum videocassettes to the American College a year ago.
The project is a commercial joint venture of Feeling Fine Productions, a Hollywood-based company partly owned and headed by Ulene, and the college, headquartered in Washington, which will earn royalties from sales of both video and audio versions of the two programs.
(The two major competitors have similar prices: about $40 for each of the two American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists videotapes and about $45 for the Fonda version. Audio cassette versions of each retail in the $15 range. Bookstores and maternity shops will likely carry both in most of the country, and brochures for the American College tapes will be widely available in the offices of doctors who belong to the organization.)
Some Bad Advice
Among the bad advice--much of it promulgated, Ulene and Visscher say, by misinformed exercise and aerobics teachers, studios and some fitness books--are these specific points:
-- If you are in good condition and exercise throughout your pregnancy, you will enjoy a briefer, easier labor and a faster recovery from childbirth than if you are not in good shape. As appealing as this may sound, agreed Visscher, Ulene and Dr. Raul Artal, a prominent researcher on the effects of exercise on pregnancy at the USC School of Medicine, there is no scientific evidence that muscle tone and fitness affect the duration and difficulty of labor. Nor is there any evidence that delivery will be "easier," or the number of fetal complications fewer, for a woman in good shape than for a sedentary woman.