Health.-Pregnant women who stopped exercising due to COVID-19 have higher depression scores
MADRID, 22 Dic. 2020 (Europa Press) –
A study from Dartmouth University in the United States has shown that pregnant women whose exercise routines were affected by the pandemic have higher depression scores than those who have continued to exercise as usual.
The research, the findings of which are published in the journal PLOS ONE, is among the first to examine the links between COVID-19, changes in exercise and prenatal depression.
Given the physiological changes that pregnant women experience, they are at higher risk of depression than the general population. The research team set out to find out if the exercise routines of pregnant women had changed due to the pandemic, if the interruptions were related to depression, and how this effect may vary between women living in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.
The study was based on data from the ‘COVID-19 and Reproductive Effects’ (CARE) Study, for which more than 1,850 pregnant women were surveyed online from April to June 2020, on how COVID-19 had affected their health and prenatal and postpartum wellness. Pregnant women from all 50 United States and Puerto Rico participated in the study. At the time the survey was conducted, 92 percent of the participants indicated that the stay-at-home orders were in effect.
Participants were asked questions about their geographic location (that is, where they lived based on their zip code) and whether their exercise routine had changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the number of days per week they had performed. moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes.
They were tested for symptoms of depression using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Survey (EPDS), which has long been considered the gold standard for measuring prenatal and postpartum depression.
Participants were asked to respond to prompts about how they had felt in the past seven days and to indicate how often they felt that way. Participant characteristics associated with depression risk and exercise patterns were also collected, including age, current gestational week, race / ethnicity, household income, level of education, whether financial stress had been caused by the pandemic and if the pregnancy was classified as high risk.
The researchers were then able to assess whether the change in exercise routine is associated with a depression score regardless of these other important factors.
“Our results demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic may exacerbate the elevated risk of prenatal depression for pregnant women,” explains lead author Theresa Gildner, research associate and postdoctoral fellow in anthropology at Dartmouth.
“Moderate exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of depression in pregnant women, so interruptions in exercise routines can lead to worse mental health outcomes,” he adds.
On average, the study participants were 31 years and 26 weeks pregnant, and 56 percent engaged in moderate exercise at least three times a week. The average score on the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Survey for participants was 10.6. EPDS depression scores can range from zero to 30, with a value of 15 or more indicating clinically significant depression.
Forty-seven percent of pregnant women in the study indicated that they exercised less during the pandemic, while nine percent indicated that they exercised more.
Pregnant women who reported changes in their exercise routines showed significantly higher depression scores compared to women who reported no changes in exercise. Additionally, women living in metropolitan areas of all sizes were more likely to experience changes in exercise.
Pregnant women in metropolitan areas were twice as likely to say that their exercise routines had changed than women living in non-metropolitan areas. These results coincide with COVID-19-related stay-at-home requests and business closings last spring.
With many fitness and recreation centers closed and no space to exercise at home, exercise routines for many pregnant women in metropolitan areas were frustrated. Pregnant women living in densely populated rural areas may also have been more reluctant to go for a walk.
Similarly, women who were financially stressed had higher depression scores. However, older women and wealthier women had lower depression scores, showing how age and wealth can have a mediating effect.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting exercise regimens, our study shows that pregnant women were not just missing out on CrossFit or yoga,” explains co-author Zaneta M. Thayer, assistant professor of anthropology at Dartmouth.
“It’s not just that exercise gives you endorphins, but participants indicated that they also lacked that social connection that you get from having other people around you. Previous research has shown the mental health benefits of connecting with others.” Thayer adds.
As the researchers explain, maternal healthcare providers and professionals should consider asking patients if their exercise routines have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as this information could potentially be used to help identify those who may have a higher risk of maternal depression.