Open Access Research article

A qualitative study exploring women’s beliefs about physical activity after stillbirth

Jennifer L Huberty1*, Jason Coleman2, Katherine Rolfsmeyer4 and Serena Wu3

Author Affiliations

1 Exercise and Wellness, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA

2 Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, University of Nebraska Omaha, Omaha, NE 68182, USA

3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, New York Institute of Technology, Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, West Islip, NY 11795, USA

4 Department of Public Health, Los Angeles County, CA 90012, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:26  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-26

Published: 17 January 2014

Abstract

Background

Research provides strong evidence for improvements in depressive symptoms as a result of physical activity participation in many populations including pregnant and post-partum women. Little is known about how women who have experienced stillbirth (defined as fetal death at 20 or more weeks of gestation) feel about physical activity or use physical activity following this experience. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore women’s beliefs about physical activity following a stillbirth.

Methods

This was an exploratory qualitative research study. Participants were English-speaking women between the ages of 19 and 44 years who experienced a stillbirth in the past year from their recruitment date. Interviews were conducted over the phone or in-person based on participants’ preferences and location of residence and approximately 30–45 minutes in length.

Results

Twenty-four women participated in the study (M age = 33 ± 3.68 years; M time since stillbirth = 6.33 ± 3.06 months). Women’s beliefs about physical activity after stillbirth were coded into the following major themes: barriers to physical activity (emotional symptoms and lack of motivation, tired, lack of time, guilt, letting go of a pregnant body, and seeing other babies), benefits to physical activity (feeling better emotionally/mentally, helping women to cope or be therapeutic), importance of physical activity (working through grief, time for self), motivators for physical activity (body shape/weight, health, more children, be a role model, already an exerciser). Health care providers and their role in physical activity participation was also a major theme.

Conclusions

This is the first study to qualitatively explore beliefs about physical activity in women after a stillbirth. Women who have experienced stillbirth have unique beliefs about physical activity related to their experience with stillbirth. Findings from this study may help to improve the health and quality of life for women who have experienced stillbirth by utilizing physical activity as a strategy for improving depressive symptoms associated with experiencing a stillbirth. Future research in this area is highly warranted.

Keywords:
Stillbirth; Loss; Physical activity; Women; Health