Background: Generally, Antenatal Exercises (ANE) have been recommended for enhancing postpartum recovery and improving overall health after childbirth. Practice of ANE still faces several barriers in Sub-saharan Africa, particularly Nigeria. Paucity of data exists on how ANE practices influence postpartum health of Nigerian women. This study evaluated postpartum health-related quality of life (HRQOL), based on ANE practices.
Methods: This cohort study included 350 pregnant women recruited from antenatal clinics in Enugu, Nigeria. During their second and third trimesters, they completed a questionnaire investigating their ANE profile. At six weeks postpartum, a Short Form (SF-36) questionnaire was used to assess their HRQOL in 8 domains (physical functioning; role limitation due to physical activity; role limitation due to emotional problem; energy and fatigue; emotional wellbeing; social functioning; pain; general health). Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics with alpha level set at 0.05.
Results: More than two-third of the women (82.9%) practiced ANE, mainly aerobic exercises. For the purpose of data analysis, participants were categorized based on their ANE practices, duration per day and frequency per week. Women who did not engage in ANE (n=60) showed significantly (p = 0.001) higher general health scores than their counterparts (n = 290). Based on daily exercise duration, those who exercised for <30 mins also showed significantly (p = 0.040) higher general health scores, as compared to those who exercised for ≥30 mins. Relative to frequency of ANE per week, there was no significant (p = 0.931 ) difference between the two categories of women. HRQOL was negatively correlated with each of practice and duration of ANE.
Conclusions: Practice of ANE is not a determinant of postpartum HRQOL in Nigerian women. Improved education and supervision of ANE is recommended for improved postpartum health outcomes.
Keywords: Antenatal exercise, Duration, Frequency, Health related quality of life, Nigeria, Postpartum