Primigravid women and the effects of exercise on psychological well-being, pregnancy and birth outcome
The effects of undertaking a regular exercise programme during and following pregnancy were investigated with healthy primigravid women within Ayrshire Central Hospital, Irvine. A randomised control trial was used with subjects being randomly assigned to either a control group who continued with the existing antenatal education programme or an exercise group who had the addition of participating in an aerobic exercise programme. In early pregnancy, no significant differences were found between the groups in relation to activity levels or mean scores of psychological variables with the exception of the control group having significantly more positive scores for perceptions of body image. During and following pregnancy, the exercise group maintained their scores on all psychological variables i.e. perceptions of coping assets (positive psychological well-being), coping deficits (negative psychological well-being), physical well-being, body image, somatic symptoms experienced, attitudes to marital relationships, sex and pregnancy. In contrast, the control group tended to have significant reductions in perceptions of the ability to cope (positive psychological well-being), physical well-being, body image, somatic symptoms experienced, attitudes to marital relationships, pregnancy and sex during pregnancy in addition to an increase in perceived coping deficits (negative psychological well-being).The exercise group participated in a significantly higher number of episodes of physical activity sessions than the control group. No significant relationship was noted between frequency of physical activity and responses to psychological indictors in post pregnancy. In conclusion, women who participated in regular physical activity tended to have a protection against a reduction of psychological well-being as measured by a variety of psychological constructs. The maintenance in psychological well-being was experienced both during and following pregnancy and there was no indication of any risk to the pregnancy or the baby. This was in contrast to the significant reduction in psychological well-being experienced by the women in the control group during the same period.