Prior miscarriage, weight affect exercise, well-being in pregnant women

December 21, 2016 by Marjorie S. Miller
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Women with a history of miscarriage and women who are overweight or obese prior to pregnancy tend to have poorer psychological health and lower motivation to exercise during their next pregnancy compared to women without a history of miscarriage and those who are at a healthy weight before pregnancy.

Additionally, women who were less likely to had higher rates of anxiety and depression, according to researchers at Penn State who surveyed 113 women, 41 of which had a prior miscarriage, and 72 who were overweight or obese.

"What this tells us is that women who have experienced a prior miscarriage may not know about the benefits of exercise in their next pregnancy for managing their psychological health," said lead author Danielle Downs, professor of kinesiology and obstetrics and gynecology. "From a public health perspective, women with a former miscarriage should look at exercise as a tool in their next pregnancy as a way to manage anxiety and ."

Similarly, overweight and may be at higher risk for experiencing anxiety and depressive symptoms during early pregnancy compared to healthy weight women, and may also benefit from exercise, Downs said.

Women reported their depressive or anxiety symptoms and exercise motivation and behavior in the first, second and third trimesters via mailed surveys.

Women with a history of miscarriage had higher depressive or anxiety symptoms and lower positive attitude and perceived control for exercise in early-mid pregnancy compared to women without a history of miscarriage.

Miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy and occurs in approximately 24 percent of pregnancies, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Although common, it is not a topic that is widely discussed, as it can be painful and traumatic for families, and often associated with shame and fear. Some women may not even know they experienced a miscarriage, as oftentimes miscarriage can be mistaken for a late menstrual period, Downs said.

These same reasons may be why miscarriage is often underreported, Downs said.

"Miscarriage followed by a new pregnancy, and the grief as well as excitement that happens during this time, makes for a complicated psychological period," said Downs, who is also professor in charge of the undergraduate program in the Department of Kinesiology. "Exercise is something that can recommend for these women as a tool to possibly manage the symptoms of anxiety, depression and fear of losing another baby."

Overweight and obese women had higher first- and second-trimester pregnancy depressive or ; engaged in less pre-pregnancy exercise; and had lower levels of exercise intention, attitude and perceived behavior control throughout pregnancy than healthy-weight women.

"Given that pre-pregnancy activity level is a strong predictor of perinatal exercise and motivational determinants, and that overweight and obese women are at higher risk for inactivity, high gestational weight gain, and anxiety and depressive symptoms throughout pregnancy, efforts are needed to promote exercise and stress management in these women – especially overweight and obese women with a history of miscarriage," Downs said.

The Exercise Psychology Laboratory at Penn State is currently delivering an individually tailored intervention for overweight and obese women to promote exercise and healthy eating in an effort to manage weight gain.

Downs and researchers aim to identify effective strategies unique to this population that can be translated to clinical application and used by health care providers to help these women overcome barriers and have a more healthy pregnancy.

Downs cautioned that "one size doesn't fit all pregnant women. Women should talk to their doctors regarding any exercise regimen."

Downs suggested that interventions and health care provider communications aimed at promoting perinatal exercise behavior and should take into account pre-pregnancy weight status and history to identify strategies to help women, particularly overweight and obese with a history of , to overcome exercise barriers.

Explore further: Pregnancy weight gain recommendations for overweight women

More information: Courtenay A. Devlin et al. Influences of prior miscarriage and weight status on perinatal psychological well-being, exercise motivation and behavior, Midwifery (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.midw.2016.10.010

Related Stories

Pregnancy weight gain recommendations for overweight women

March 25, 2016
Most expectant mothers have normal, healthy pregnancies and babies, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks being overweight or obese during pregnancy at nearly the same risk level as uncontrolled high ...

Many pregnant NZ women are in the dark about healthy weight gain in pregnancy

August 5, 2016
A large proportion of pregnant New Zealand women are at higher risk of poor health outcomes because they don't know how much weight they should be putting on during pregnancy, new University of Otago research suggests.

Exercise cuts gestational diabetes in obese pregnant women

July 26, 2016
Exercise alone can reduce the number of obese, pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes, a new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has shown.

'Morning sickness' linked to lower miscarriage risk: study

September 26, 2016
Morning sickness is linked to a lower risk of miscarriage, according to research out Monday that suggests a woman's nausea and vomiting early in pregnancy may have protective effects for the fetus.

Attitude during pregnancy affects weight gain

February 26, 2014
Overweight or obese women with the mentality that they are "eating for two" are more likely to experience excessive weight gain while pregnant, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Moderate exercise helps prevent gestational diabetes and reduce weight gain during pregnancy

June 4, 2015
Women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to have gestational diabetes, and the exercise also helps to reduce maternal weight gain, finds a study published on 3 June 2015 in BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics ...

Recommended for you

Women exposed to smoke while in womb more likely to miscarry

July 13, 2017
Women exposed to cigarette smoke while in their mothers' wombs are more likely to experience miscarriage as adults, according to new research from the University of Aberdeen.

Lack of a hormone in pregnant mice linked to preeclampsia

June 30, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers from Singapore, the Netherlands and Turkey has isolated a hormone in pregnant mice that appears to be associated with preeclampsia—a pregnancy-related condition characterized by ...

Aspirin reduces risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women

June 28, 2017
Taking a low-dose aspirin before bed can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, which can cause premature birth and, in extreme cases, maternal and foetal death.

The biology of uterine fluid: How it informs the fetus of mom's world

June 22, 2017
A developing fetus bathes in a mixture of cellular secretions and proteins unique to its mother's uterus. Before fertilization, the pH of uterine fluid helps create a conducive environment for sperm migration, and afterward, ...

New clues in puzzle over pre-eclampsia and cholesterol regulation

June 21, 2017
Scientists studying a mystery link between the dangerous pregnancy complication pre-eclampsia and an increased risk of heart disease in later life for both mother and child have uncovered important new clues.

Are maternal hormones different when carrying a boy or a girl?

June 15, 2017
With advances in prenatal testing it's now possible to find out whether a pregnancy will result in a male or female baby as early as eight weeks' gestation.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.