Does Physical Exercise Help Maintain Mental Health During Pregnancy? A Comparison of Changes in Mental Health in Participants of Physical Exercise Classes and Childbirth Classes

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

This study aims to compare the changes in the negative indices of mental health in pregnant women who participated in programs of either physical exercise classes or childbirth classes.

Methods:

The study was quasi-experimental in nature and run on 109 healthy primigravidae aged from 22 to 37, including 62 women participating in an exercise program (exercise group, E-group) for pregnant women and 47 women attending traditional childbirth classes (childbirth classes group, CC-group). The mental health assessment was performed using Goldberg’s General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28).

Results:

The negative indices of mental health did not change over time. Lower levels of somatic symptoms and severe depression, as well as total score, were observed in the E-group (condition effect). Time × condition interactions, as well as analysis of change within the groups, indicated that in the CC-group all indices of disorders increased significantly, whereas in the E-group, only the increase of depression was significant.

Conclusions:

Regular physical exercises during pregnancy may constitute a factor in the prophylaxis of mental health disorders in pregnant women.

The authors are with the Faculty of Tourism and Recreation, Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education, Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland. Guszkowska (mguszkowska@wp.pl) is corresponding author.