Informing Future Interventions for Physical Activity and Depression Symptoms After Stillbirth

Jennifer Huberty

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Scopus citations


    Objective: Women with stillbirths have a threefold greater risk of developing depression symptoms than women with live births. Depression symptoms may contribute to negative health outcomes for the mother and infant born subsequent to loss. Physical activity may improve depression symptoms in these women, and the purpose of this descriptive exploratory study was to explore acceptable physical activity interventions for women after stillbirth. Design: Descriptive exploratory study that used a convenient sample. Setting: The setting was an online survey that was free and available to eligible participants nationally. Sample: Women age 19 to 45 years, who resided in the United States, spoke and understood English, and had experienced stillbirth within one year were recruited for this study. The sample was recruited nationally through collaboration with nonprofit stillbirth organizations, posting flyers at hospitals and physician clinics, snowball sampling, and social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter). Methods: The survey used for this study was conducted online and included questions related to pregnancy and family (e.g., time since loss, weight gain during pregnancy, number of other children), physical activity, symptoms of depression, and demographics. Results: One hundred seventy five women participated in the study (M age = 31.26 ± 5.52 years). Women reported participating in regular physical activity (at least 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly) before (60%) and during (47%) their pregnancies after stillbirth (61%). Only 37% were currently meeting physical activity recommendations. Using physical activity to cope with depression symptoms was reported by 38%. Reasons for participating in physical activity included help with depression symptoms (58%), weight loss (55%), and better overall physical health (52%). Women used walking (67%), jogging (35%), and yoga (23%) as activities to cope with loss. Women who participated in physical activity since their loss reported significantly lower levels of depression symptoms (M = 15.10, SD = 5.32) than women who did not participate in physical activity (M = 18.06, SD = 5.57; t = −3.45, p =.001). Conclusion/Implications for Nursing Practice: Physical activity may serve as a unique opportunity to help bereaved women cope with the multiple mental and physical sequelae after stillbirth. This study provides data to inform health care providers about the potential role of physical activity in bereavement and recovery for women after stillbirth.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)S63-S64
    JournalJOGNN - Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing
    StatePublished - Jun 2015


    • exercise
    • mental health
    • perinatal loss
    • yoga

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pediatrics
    • Critical Care
    • Maternity and Midwifery


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