Objective: To compare dynamic postural stability in pregnant women who have fallen during their pregnancies with those who have not, and with a group of non-pregnant women.
Design: The study was both longitudinal and cross-sectional. A cohort of pregnant women were followed through their second and third trimesters. A non-pregnant control group was used for comparison.
Setting: University-based laboratory.
Population: A total of 81 women (41 pregnant and 40 controls) participated. Twenty-nine pregnant women completed the protocol.
Methods: Data were collected on the pregnant women in the middle of their second and third trimesters. Pregnant women were surveyed about their daily activities, exercise participation, and fall history. Postural reaction time and centre of pressure (COP) movement data, in response to translational perturbations, were collected using a force plate. A mixed-model analysis of variants (ANOVA) was performed on each of the dependent variables (alpha = 0.05). Chi-square analysis was performed to determine if exercise participation altered the likelihood of a subject experiencing a fall (alpha = 0.05).
Main outcome measures: Reaction time, initial sway, total sway, and sway velocity.
Results: Fifty-two percent of our pregnant subjects experienced a fall. Initial sway response, total sway, and sway velocity were smaller in the pregnant fallers than in the non-fallers and control participants (P < 0.05). Thirty-one of the pregnant subjects participated in regular exercise. Sedentary pregnant women were more likely to experience a fall than those who exercised.
Conclusions: Dynamic balance is altered in pregnant women who have fallen compared with non-fallers and controls. Exercise may play a role in fall prevention in pregnant women.