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Feds Spend $471,770 Observing Pregnant Women Walking Around

Elizabeth Harrington

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May 11, 2015

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending nearly half a million dollars for a study that will observe pregnant women as they walk.

The project, being conducted by Butler Hospital in Providence, R.I., is researching how a “gentle” workout regiment of light walking can help pregnant women not be depressed.

“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommends regular physical activity throughout pregnancy, yet, in practice, many pregnant women are unsure of how to safely adhere to this recommendation,” a grant for the project states. “Findings from our research indicate that a tailored, supported physical activity intervention would be acceptable to depressed pregnant women and would be preferable over pharmacotherapy.”

Physical activity is “inexpensive, safe, and associated with multiple positive health outcomes,” the grant said.

“Our team recently developed a gentle, 10-week, pedometer-based walking intervention designed for pregnant women, the Prenatal Walking Program (PWP), including detailed intervention manuals, interventionist training programs, and adherence scales,” the grant said. “The program is designed to be low-cost and transportable for delivery in community settings.”

The research has cost taxpayers $471,770 since September. The study is scheduled to continue until July 2019, and has received funding from NIH’s National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) and the Office of the Director.

The project will study 152 women, which will be either walking or receiving a “perinatal-focused health education” program. The study will see which group has less stress and depressive symptoms after being in the programs for 10-weeks.

The study is intended to help prevent complications during pregnancy that can develop as a result of depression.

“Depressive symptoms are prevalent among pregnant women and consistently linked with adverse outcomes for both women and infants, including higher rates of spontaneous abortion, preeclampsia, operative delivery, and postpartum depression,” the grant said. “Infants of depressed pregnant women are more likely to be born pre-term, and experience more language and cognitive delays, anxiety disorders, and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder.”

“In spite of these risks, few interventions have been developed to reduce prenatal depressive symptoms,” the grant added. “Because pregnant women are often reluctant to take antidepressants, the most available form of care, a pressing need exists to evaluate interventions that are efficacious in reducing symptoms and more acceptable and accessible to pregnant women.”

The grant argues that the project is necessary because “no study to date” has studied pregnant women while they walk.