Spirometry profiles among pregnant and non-pregnant African women: a cross-sectional study

BMC Womens Health. 2022 Dec 2;22(1):483. doi: 10.1186/s12905-022-02081-6.


Background: Spirometry is a commonly used lung function test. It assesses respiratory functions by measuring the air volume and the rate at which a person can exhale from lungs filled to their total capacity. The most helpful spirometry parameters are: forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), and peak expiratory flow (PEF). Pregnancy derives an altered physiological state due to hormonal and anatomical changes that affect the respiratory system. Despite that, spirometry is less commonly done during pregnancy, and if done, test results are evaluated against non-pregnancy references.

Objective: This study aimed to explore spirometry profiles in pregnant and non-pregnant women and describe their differences.

Methodology: This cross-sectional study involved age-matched pregnant and non-pregnant participants recruited from Mnazi Moja ANC and Muhimbili University (MUHAS). A digital spirometer was used to assess respiratory function. Data were entered and analyzed using SPSS version 23. The mean spirometry values of pregnant participants were compared to those of non-pregnant participants using an independent sample t-test. A p-value of < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

Results: The study included 92 pregnant and 98 non-pregnant participants subjected to spirometry. Both FVC and FEV1 values were significantly lower in pregnant than in non-pregnant participants (2.7 ± 0.5 L vs. 2.9 ± 0.5 L; p < 0.01 and 2.2 ± 0.4 L vs. 2.5 ± 0.4 L; p < 0.01 respectively). In addition, pregnant participants had significantly lower mean PEF values than their non-pregnant counterparts (303 ± 84 L/min versus 353 ± 64 L/min; p < 0.01).

Conclusion: Spirometry test values are lower in pregnancy than in non-pregnant participants.

Recommendations: Interpreting the spirometry test values of pregnant women using references obtained from non-pregnant women may be inappropriate. Future studies should evaluate the appropriateness of predicting spirometry values of pregnant women using reference equations derived from non-pregnant women.

Keywords: Africa; FEV; FVC; Lung; PEF; Pregnancy; Respiratory; Spirometry; Women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Black People*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Spirometry
  • Universities