The effects of pregnancy on balance with the eyes closed and maximum walking speed remain unclarified. The present study aimed to examine the effect of simulated gestational weight gain on balance, gait, and fear of falling in nulligravid women to enhance understanding of the impact of gestational weight gain. We prospectively evaluated the following outcomes in 24 healthy nulligravid women with and without a maternity-simulation jacket that simulated third-trimester pregnancy. To measure balance, we used the single-leg-stance test with eyes open and closed, and the functional reach test. We evaluated gait function by measuring walking speed, step length, and cadence at self-selected and maximum speeds. We used the timed-up-and-go test as a comprehensive measure of gait and balance, and the modified falls efficacy scale to evaluate fear of falling. Differences in these parameters between a simulated gestational weight gain condition and a "nonpregnant" condition were assessed. Simulated gestational weight gain caused significantly worse performances in the single-leg-stance test with eyes open and closed, functional reach test, walking speed, step length at self-selected and maximum speeds, and timed-up-and-go test. The effect size was larger for the single-leg-stance test with eyes closed than with eyes open. The average score for each modified falls efficacy scale item ranged from 4.7-8.5. In conclusion, balance decreased with simulated gestational weight gain, and balance may be more affected without visual feedback. Simulated gestational weight gain resulted in worse gait function at both self-selected and maximum speeds.
Keywords: gait; gestational weight gain; postural balance; pregnant women; walking speed.