The effects of an exercise intervention on the psychological well-being of postpartum women /

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Robichaud, Karen
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Middle Tennessee State University
For women, bearing children is often a complex transition. After pregnancy, relationships, work activities, social behaviors and domestic responsibilities change. Psychological vulnerability may result from feelings of shyness, shame, and heightened self-awareness that appear from concern over body image. The role of exercise in improving psychological outcomes is well documented. Exercise has been demonstrated to improve components of psychological well-being in a number of general populations. Since research is needed to examine all the effects of exercise on psychological well-being in postpartum women, this study utilized a home-based exercise intervention based on Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behavior that addressed exercise barriers specific to the needs of postpartum women.
In this study, 48 postpartum women were randomly assigned to either a treatment group or a wait-list control group. The treatment group ( n = 25) participated in a scheduled and monitored, 6 week, home-based exercise program. Three times a week participants in the treatment group completed a 30 minute walking routine. Participants in the wait-list control group ( n = 23) were encouraged to continue their typical routines. At the initial visit, and after 6 weeks, participants in both the treatment group and the control group completed questionnaires measuring psychological well-being. The Edinburg Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) measured depression. The Lederman Postpartum Self-Evaluation Questionnaire (PPQ) measured satisfaction with life circumstances, and confidence in the ability to cope with the tasks of motherhood. After 6 weeks, the control group participants were offered the opportunity to partake in the home-based walking program.
A 2 x 2 multivariate mixed model analysis was used to examine the effect of a 6 week walking program. Psychological well-being was assessed by three dependent variables: depression, life circumstances, confidence in ability to cope with the tasks of motherhood. A significance level was set at .05.
Descriptive statistics were calculated for the whole group and the subgroup for each dependent variable. The overall MANOVA revealed no statistical difference, F (.301), p = .825 (Wilks' Lamda= .980, p >.05) since, the overall multivariate F was not significant, univariate F statistics were not examined. While there was no statistically significant intervention effect, both the treatment and control groups improved their psychological well-being over time. The adherence rate to the program was exceptionally high (n = 98%). Components of the TPB were examined and support TPB as an explanatory model for gaining adherence to exercise among postpartum women. Future research should employ the TPB model in exercise programs with postpartum women.
Adviser: Peggy O'Hara Murdock.