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The Effects of the Pilates Method on Pelvic Floor Injuries during Pregnancy and Childbirth: A Quasi-Experimental Study

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The perineal injuries suffered during childbirth have a great impact on the quality of life of the female population. Evidence suggests that the Pilates method is used by pregnant women to improve the physical and psychological outcomes of pregnancy. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of the Pilates Method during pregnancy on the incidence and degree of intrapartum perineal trauma. A quasi-experimental study was carried out between November 2018 and December 2019 at different health centers in two health districts. Participants were 72 pregnant women attending the antenatal program, who were assigned to a Pilates group or a control group (48 and 24 pregnant women, respectively). The main outcome measurement was perineal trauma during childbirth. After participating in the Pilates program, the women in the experimental group were significantly less likely to suffer perineal trauma in spontaneous deliveries compared to the women in the control group. After evaluating these results, it is concluded that health center managers should promote the training of midwives in the prevention and treatment of pelvic floor injuries during pregnancy and should consider strategies to enhance adhesion and participation with respect to pelvic floor exercise programs throughout pregnancy by means of Apps and other digital media specifically aimed at this phase.
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International Journal of
Environmental Research
and Public Health
Article
The Effects of the Pilates Method on Pelvic Floor Injuries
during Pregnancy and Childbirth: A Quasi-Experimental Study
Carmen Feria-Ramírez 1, Juan D. Gonzalez-Sanz 1,2,* , Rafael Molina-Luque 3,4 and Guillermo Molina-Recio 3,4


Citation: Feria-Ramírez, C.;
Gonzalez-Sanz, J.D.; Molina-Luque,
R.; Molina-Recio, G. The Effects of the
Pilates Method on Pelvic Floor
Injuries during Pregnancy and
Childbirth: A Quasi-Experimental
Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public
Health 2021,18, 6995. https://
doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18136995
Academic Editors: Anna Polak,
Bogdan Bacik, Agnieszka
Nawrat-Szoltysik and Maria
Grazia Porpora
Received: 14 May 2021
Accepted: 24 June 2021
Published: 30 June 2021
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral
with regard to jurisdictional claims in
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iations.
Copyright: © 2021 by the authors.
Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and
conditions of the Creative Commons
Attribution (CC BY) license (https://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/
4.0/).
1Departamento de Enfermería, Universidad de Huelva, 21071 Huelva, Spain; carmen.feria@denf.uhu.es
2
Centro de Investigación en Pensamiento Contemporáneo e Innovación para el Desarrollo Social (COIDESO),
Universidad de Huelva, 21071 Huelva, Spain
3
Grupo Asociado de Investigación Estilos de Vida, Innovación y Salud, Instituto Maimónides de Investigación
Biomédica de Córdoba (IMIBIC), 14004 Córdoba, Spain; Rafael.moluq@gmail.com (R.M.-L.);
en1moreg@uco.es (G.M.-R.)
4Departamento de Enfermería, Farmacología y Fisioterapia, Facultad de Medicina y Enfermería,
Universidad de Córdoba, 14041 Córdoba, Spain
*Correspondence: juan.gonzalez@denf.uhu.es
Abstract:
The perineal injuries suffered during childbirth have a great impact on the quality of life
of the female population. Evidence suggests that the Pilates method is used by pregnant women
to improve the physical and psychological outcomes of pregnancy. The aim of this study was to
investigate the influence of the Pilates Method during pregnancy on the incidence and degree of
intrapartum perineal trauma. A quasi-experimental study was carried out between November 2018
and December 2019 at different health centers in two health districts. Participants were 72 pregnant
women attending the antenatal program, who were assigned to a Pilates group or a control group
(48 and 24 pregnant women, respectively). The main outcome measurement was perineal trauma
during childbirth. After participating in the Pilates program, the women in the experimental group
were significantly less likely to suffer perineal trauma in spontaneous deliveries compared to the
women in the control group. After evaluating these results, it is concluded that health center managers
should promote the training of midwives in the prevention and treatment of pelvic floor injuries
during pregnancy and should consider strategies to enhance adhesion and participation with respect
to pelvic floor exercise programs throughout pregnancy by means of Apps and other digital media
specifically aimed at this phase.
Keywords: nursing; midwifery; nurse; Pilates method; pelvic floor; injuries; episiotomy
1. Introduction
It is well known that female pelvic floor (PF) weakness and/or pelvic floor dysfunction
(PFD) can have both structural and functional effects, such as urinary incontinence, bowel
incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and dyspareunia and/or sexual dysfunction [
1
4
].
One of the main risk factors associated with pelvic dysfunction is the reproductive process,
including pregnancy and birth. During this process, both modifiable and nonmodifiable
risk factors for PFD can be identified. Chief among the former are the pregestational and
full-term body mass index (BMI), weight gain, smoking, the type of birth, the use of forceps,
the duration of the first and second stages of birth, the practice of episiotomy, and the use of
epidural anesthesia. Among the nonmodifiable risk factors (also known as risk indicators)
are age at maternity, position of the fetus and circumference of the newborn’s head, the
weight of the newborn, and the presence/existence of perineal injury, chiefly those which
can affect the anal sphincter [1,3].
Of all these factors, vaginal birth is the chief modifiable risk factor for developing PFD,
as women in this group are 2.8 times more likely to suffer stress urinary incontinence, and
5.5 times more likely to suffer a prolapse of the pelvic organs, in comparison to those who
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18136995 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995 2 of 12
give birth via caesarean section. These risks increase with instrumental delivery, which
seems to be related to the fact that the incidence of injury to the anal musculature is higher
in this procedure [5].
Among the nonmodifiable obstetric risk factors, chief is perineal trauma, whether
spontaneous or induced (second-degree tears or obstetric anal sphincter injuries), which
represents one of the most frequent complications associated with birth (85% of puerperal
women) and has a clear influence in the subsequent appearance of PFD [6,7].
Although in recent years the practice of routine episiotomies has decreased in Spain,
the percentage remains above the recommendations of the WHO at around 40.2% [6,8,9].
Perineal wounds suffered during birth significantly increase the risk of PFD, with a
consequent impact on the quality of life of female population [13,10].
Primary prevention of PFD is therefore essential, and the following interventions
have been shown to be effective: (1) perineal massage during pregnancy [
11
], (2) weight
management and the promotion of physical exercise [
12
,
13
], and (3) PF strengthening
exercises, which help to reduce discomfort and reduce the risk of urinary incontinence in
the third trimester of the pregnancy and after childbirth [3,6].
With respect to exercises for strengthening the PF, the most common are hypopres-
sive abdominal exercises and the Pilates Method (PM), which focus on developing the
musculature of the transverse abdominis and pelvis in order to decrease intra-abdominal
pressure [13].
Pilates is based on control, strength, and flexibility. It focuses particularly on the
abdominal muscles, vertebral column, and PF, and is thus instrumental in improving body
alignment and good posture [
14
17
]. Advocates also note that practitioners gain a greater
personal health, among other benefits [18,19].
Given the marked increase in practicing Pilates during pregnancy, various studies
have been carried out to evaluate its effectiveness [
14
,
16
,
20
]. With regard to the specific
relation of Pilates with PFD, two studies found a positive impact on the PF musculature
during pregnancy [
21
,
22
], while another study concluded that the method was a valid
means of helping to prevent the dysfunction [23].
The starting hypothesis of this study was that the incidence of perineal wounds
during childbirth would be lower among those participating in a specially designed Pilates
program. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of Pilates sessions
during pregnancy on the incidence and degree of intrapartum perineal injuries.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Study Design
This study was a 4-week multicenter quasi-experimental trial conducted from Novem-
ber 2018 through December 2019. Pregnant women who received routine antenatal care in
health centers (HCs) pertaining to two distinct health districts were eligible to enroll.
2.2. Sample/Participants
All pregnant women who were attending antenatal classes at HCs in two distinct
districts were informed by the midwife of the possibility of taking part in the study if they
met the inclusion criteria. The inclusion criteria were as follows: (1) being registered on an
antenatal program (AP), (2) giving written consent of participation, (3) the pregnancy being
a singleton, (4) the pregnancy being low risk [
24
], (5) there not being any contraindications
for physical exercise, and (6) being at least 18 years old.
Women who had missed antenatal appointments, had difficulty in speaking or un-
derstanding Spanish, had given birth by caesarean section, or declined to participate were
excluded from the study.
2.2.1. Interventions
The study was carried out in two stages: the first involved finding Pilates trainers to
deliver the sessions, while the second collated participant data from both the experimental
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995 3 of 12
and control groups. The first phase took place in November 2018, with the collaboration
of two trainers in Huelva and one in Seville, all with the same training background.
The second phase was carried out between December 2018 and December 2019 in the
corresponding HCs in Huelva and Seville.
In order to eliminate potential bias as a result of the antenatal classes being delivered
by health professionals of different categories, only those HCs where classes were delivered
by a midwife were selected for the study. The women participating in the corresponding
antenatal classes at the respective centers were then invited to participate in the study, and
assigned either to the experimental group (AC + PM) or to the control group (AC only).
2.2.2. Experimental Group
The women in the experimental group received two one-hour Pilates sessions per week
over a period of 4 weeks (Appendix A. In addition, the participants received their usual
antenatal classes at their respective HCs in accordance with the Comprehensive Healthcare
Program for Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Postpartum (CHPPCP) from the Andalusian
Regional Government [24].
2.2.3. Control Group
The women in the control group received solely the antenatal classes at their corre-
sponding centers as programmed (Table 1).
Table 1.
Schedule of sessions of the Maternal Education Program of the health service received by
pregnant women participants.
Class Number Theme of the Session
Session 1
(Initial measurement) Physiological changes during pregnancy
Session 2 Childbirth
Session 3
(Intermediate measurement) Care of the newborn
Session 4 The postpartum period
Session 5
(Final measurement) Breastfeeding
2.2.4. Sample Size
A minimum sample size of 36 women was originally projected, for a confidence level
of 95% and a power of 80%, considering 49% avoiding episiotomy in the control group in
comparison with 98% in the experimental group [
25
], and divided according to a ratio of
2 women in the control group for every woman in the experimental group. This number
was increased in case any women dropped out, such that the final number of participants
was 72, of which 24 pregnant women formed the experimental group and 48 pregnant
women the control.
2.3. Data Collection
2.3.1. Outcomes
The outcomes variables were age (years), blood pressure (mmHg), weight (kg), BMI
(kg/m
2
), starting level of physical activity, and tobacco use. These variables were all
measured by experienced personnel at the start of the experimental phase, at two weeks,
and again at four weeks after the treatment for both groups had been completed.
Variables relating to childbirth, birthweight (kg), and weight gain during gestation
were measured between the eighth and tenth day after birth by telephone interview and
review of hospital medical history. To calculate the weight gain (kg), the weight measured
in the first trimester and the weight prior to delivery were taken as reference. The numbers
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995 4 of 12
of weeks of pregnancy at birth were measured on a discrete quantitative scale. Labor onset
(spontaneous, stimulated, or induced), type of delivery (spontaneous, assisted delivery
with forceps, Thierry’s spatulas or vacuum extraction, or caesarean section), the use of
intrapartum pharmacological analgesia (none, epidural anesthesia, sedatives, or nitrous
oxide), and type of episiotomy (not required, median, lateral, or medio-lateral) were
measured by nominal scales, while the degree of perineal tear was evaluated on an ordinal
scale (no injury; first degree: laceration of the vaginal epithelium or perineal skin only;
second degree: involvement of the perineal muscles but not the anal sphincter; third degree:
disruption of the anal sphincter muscles, which is further subdivided into grade 3a: less
than 50% thickness of external anal sphincter torn, grade 3b: more than 50% thickness of
external anal sphincter torn, and grade 3c: internal anal sphincter also torn; fourth degree:
a third-degree tear with disruption of the anal epithelium).
Weight (kg) and height (cm) were recorded during the routine antenatal appointments
at the HCs using stadiometers with weight scale function. The level of physical activity
was measured using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) [26].
2.3.2. Validity and reliability/Rigor
The TREND recommendations were followed in the design and development of this
research. To avoid bias in the assessment of the results, the professionals who assessed the
progress of labor in the delivery room and completed the medical history did not know
whether the woman belonged to the intervention or the control group.
2.3.3. Ethical Considerations
The study was carried out in keeping with the principles enshrined in the Declaration
of Helsinki (1964), the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of
the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine (1997), and
the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights (1997), and also
complied with the requirements stipulated by Spanish Law 3/2018 of the 5 December in
the area of biomedical research, data protection, and bioethics. Approval from the bioethics
committee of the Andalusia Health Service (SAS) was also obtained. Only data for which
informed consent had been given in writing were used.
2.3.4. Data Analysis
The quantitative variables are presented with the mean and standard deviation, while
the qualitative data are given in frequencies and percentages.
In order to measure the goodness of fit of the quantitative data to a normal distribution,
a Lilliefors-corrected Kolmogorov–Smirnov test was used. Bivariate analysis was carried
out with Student’s t-test for the comparison of two means. In the case of the qualitative
data, the chi-square test was used, except when Fisher’s exact test was required. Likewise,
for the analysis of three or more means, a repeated-measures ANOVA was used to evaluate
the effects of the treatment in the two groups, at baseline and at three and five weeks.
Correlation between the quantitative variables was verified using the Pearson coefficient
correlation (r). Finally, in order to allow for the possibility that the data did not meet the
criterion of normality or homoscedasticity, nonparametric versions of the tests above were
also carried out.
Binary logistic regression models adjusted for various qualitative and quantitative
predictive variables were calculated in order to determine association of the variables with
perineal trauma in childbirth.
The odds ratios (ORs) were determined with a confidence interval of 95%. The
goodness-of-fit tests (–2 log likelihood, goodness-of-fit statistic, Cox and Snell R
2
, Nagelk-
erke R2, and Hosmer–Lemeshow) were calculated to evaluate the overall fit of the model.
In all statistical analyses, alpha was set to below 5% or the significance level was
established at 5% (p< 0.05) and a confidence interval of 95% was computed. All statistical
calculations were made using IBM SPSS Statistics version 25.0.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995 5 of 12
3. Results
Over the period in which the study took place, 294 women attended the AC sessions
in the participating health centers. After inviting those who met the selection criteria to
participate, 47 women were chosen to form part of the experimental group and 75 women
the control. Nine women from the experimental group were forced to drop out for reasons
of family problems, contractions, or maternal illness, while six dropped out from the control
group because of family problems, clashes with the schedule, and giving birth. It should
also be noted that all participants who ultimately had a caesarean section (21 women in the
control group and 14 women in the experimental) were excluded from the data. The final
numbers of participants were 24 in the experimental group and 48 in the control. A flow
chart of the participants at each stage of the study can be seen in Figure 1.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, x FOR PEER REVIEW 5 of 12
meet the criterion of normality or homoscedasticity, nonparametric versions of the tests
above were also carried out.
Binary logistic regression models adjusted for various qualitative and quantitative
predictive variables were calculated in order to determine association of the variables with
perineal trauma in childbirth.
The odds ratios (ORs) were determined with a confidence interval of 95%. The good-
ness-of-fit tests (–2 log likelihood, goodness-of-fit statistic, Cox and Snell R
2
, Nagelkerke
R
2
, and Hosmer–Lemeshow) were calculated to evaluate the overall fit of the model.
In all statistical analyses, alpha was set to below 5% or the significance level was es-
tablished at 5% (p < 0.05) and a confidence interval of 95% was computed. All statistical
calculations were made using IBM SPSS Statistics version 25.0.
3. Results
Over the period in which the study took place, 294 women attended the AC sessions
in the participating health centers. After inviting those who met the selection criteria to
participate, 47 women were chosen to form part of the experimental group and 75 women
the control. Nine women from the experimental group were forced to drop out for reasons
of family problems, contractions, or maternal illness, while six dropped out from the con-
trol group because of family problems, clashes with the schedule, and giving birth. It
should also be noted that all participants who ultimately had a caesarean section (21
women in the control group and 14 women in the experimental) were excluded from the
data. The final numbers of participants were 24 in the experimental group and 48 in the
control. A flow chart of the participants at each stage of the study can be seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1. The flow diagram of the participants through each stage of the study.
Figure 1. The flow diagram of the participants through each stage of the study.
3.1. Characteristics of the Sample
Of the 72 women who finally participated in the study, 24 attended the PM sessions
(experimental group), while 48 attended solely the usual AC (control group). The average
age of participants at the start of the study was 32.4 (5.2) years old; body mass index was
25.2 (3.8), indicative of slight overweight; systolic and diastolic blood pressure values
were 110.8 (10.5) and 67.6 (8.5), respectively, and lifestyle habits involved low physical
activity (45.8%) and generally no tobacco use (94.4%). With respect to the gestational age at
the point of recruitment to the study, the average of all participants was 27.3 (3.7) weeks.
For none of these variables were significant differences found between the women in the
experimental group and those in the control group. More detailed information on the
baseline condition of both groups can be found in Table 2.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995 6 of 12
Table 2. Demographic characteristics of 72 pregnant women who received prenatal care 1.
Variable Total
(n= 72)
Assistance to Regular Maternal
Education
(n= 48)
Assistance to Pilates
Sessions
(n= 24)
p-Value
Age, mean (SD) 32.4 (5.2) 32.4 (5.4) 32.5 (4.8) 0.80
Height, mean (SD), m 1.6 (0.0) 1.6 (0.1) 1.6 (0.1) 0.40
Weight 2, mean (SD), Kg 67 (10.1) 67.6 (10) 65.7 (10.3) 0.51
BMI 3, mean (SD), Kg/m225.2 (3.8) 25.2 (3.8) 25.0 (4) 0.45
SBP, mean (SD), mmHg 110.8 (10.5) 110.5 (11) 111.5 (10) 0.40
DBP, mean (SD), mmHg 67.6 (8.5) 67.6 (8.6) 67.6 (8.6) 0.28
Weeks of Gestation, mean (SD)
27.3 (3.7) 27.3 (4.1) 27.3 (2.6) 0.69
Physical Activity, n(%)
Intense 33 (11) 4 (8.3) 4 (16.7)
0.42
Moderate 31 (43.1) 23 (47.9) 8 (33.3)
Low 8 (45.8) 21 (43.8) 12 (50)
Smoking, n(%)
Nonsmoker 68 (94.4) 45 (93.8) 23 (95.8)
0.72
Smoker 4 (5.6) 3 (6.2) 1 (4.2)
Educational level, n(%)
Primary–Secondary. 26 (36.1) 18 (37.5) 8 (33.3)
0.59
Superior–Further. 46 (63.9) 30 (62.5) 16 (66.7)
1
Abbreviations: BMI, body mass index; DBP, diastolic blood pressure; SBP, systolic blood pressure.
2,3
Weight and BMI before intervention.
3.2. Onset of Birth, Prevalence of Perineal Trauma and Predictive Variables
In terms of delivery, it can be noted that most were classified as dystocial (70.8%), a
circumstance that had no association with the presence or absence of perineal laceration.
No differences were found with respect to the use of analgesics (administered in 83.3%
of the cases), the gestation week in which the birth occurred (39.2 (1.4) weeks among
those suffering this complication, as opposed to 38.9 (1.5) among those who did not), or
whether the birth was induced (19.4%) or spontaneous (80.5%). Table 3shows the data
concerning the onset and progress of labor with respect to the appearance/non-appearance
of laceration, and Table 4shows the data concerning the weight gain.
Table 3.
Characteristics of the sample of pregnant women participants by presence or absence of tearing and crude logistic
regression 1.
Variable Presence of Tearing
(n= 30)
Absence of Tearing
(n= 42) OR Crude IC 95% p-Value
Age, mean (SD) 33.4 (5.2) 31.7 (5.1) 1.07 0.97–1.18 0.58
Weight, mean (SD), Kg 72 (11.7) 69.1 (10.3) 1.02 0.98–1.07 0.58
BMI, mean (SD), Kg/m226.8 (4.4) 26.1 (3.7) 1.04 0.93–1.17 0.53
Weight gain during gestation, mean (SD)
7.3 (6.7) 7,05 (8,0) 1.01 0.94–1.07 0.88
SBP, mean (SD), mmHg 111.9 (11.7) 110.7 (10.4) 1.01 0.97–1.05 0.50
DBP, mean (SD), mmHg 68.4 (7) 67.6 (7) 1.02 0.95–1.09 0.71
Physical Activity, n(%)
Low–Moderate 27 (57.8) 37 (42.2) 1.22 0.27–5.53
0.59
Intense 3 (37.5) 5 (62.5) 1 1
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995 7 of 12
Table 3. Cont.
Variable Presence of Tearing
(n= 30)
Absence of Tearing
(n= 42) OR Crude IC 95% p-Value
Educational level, n(%)
Primary–Secondary. 9 (30) 17 (40.5) 0.63 0.22–1.7
0.17
Superior–Further. 21 (70) 25 (59.5.6) 1 1
Weeks of gestation
at the end intervention, mean (SD) 31.8 (4.7) 32.6 (4) 0.96 0.86–1.07 0.38
Smoker, n(%)
Nonsmoker 2 (6.7) 2 (4.8) 1.43 0.2–10.75
0.89
Smoker 28 (93.3) 40 (95.2) 1 1
Assistance to Pilates, n(%)
Yes 4 (13.3) 20 (47.6) 0.17 0.05–0.57
0.007
No 26 (86.7) 22 (52.4) 1 1
Weeks of gestation at labor, mean (SD) 39.2 (1.4) 38.9 (1.5) 1.18 0.82–1.6 0.70
Type of childbirth, n(%)
Eutocic 5 (16.7) 16 (38.1) 0.32 0.10–1.02
0.19
Dystocic 25 (83.3) 26 (61.9) 1 1
Type of labor, n(%)
Induced 5 (16.7) 9 (21.4) 0.73 0.22–2.46
0.12
Spontaneous 25 (83.3) 33 (78.6) 1 1
Labor analgesia, n(%)
Yes 23 (76.7) 37 (88.1) 0.44 0.13–1.57
0.32
No 7 (23.3) 5 (11.9) 1 1
Episiotomy, n(%)
Yes 3 (10) 28 (66.7) 0.06 0.01–0.21
0.006
No 27 (90) 14 (33.3) 1 1
Weight of newborns, mean (SD), g 3302.3 (347.5) 3135.6 (373.1) 1.00 1.000–1.003 0.006
Pregnant women present at the end of Pilates (n = 24)/Pregnant women present at the end of education program (n = 48)
All deliveries were cephalic, and there is no record of posterior cephalic position in any of the records.
1
Crude logistic regression. Abbreviations: BMI, body mass index; DBP, diastolic blood pressure; IC, confidence interval; OR, odds ratio;
SBP, systolic blood pressure.
Of the 72 participants, tearing of the vaginal or surrounding tissues occurred in
30 cases, a frequency of 41.7%. The results indicate that this proportion was lower among
those women who underwent an episiotomy, with laceration occurring in 9.7% of the cases,
as opposed to 65.9% in the case of those who did not undergo the procedure (OR, 0.06;
95% CI, 0.01–0.21). Likewise, participation in the Pilates sessions was demonstrated to
be effective, with this complication occurring in the majority of cases (86.7%) among the
women receiving solely the usual antenatal classes (OR, 0.17; 95% CI, 0.05–0.57)
(Table 3)
and laceration occurring with a frequency of 54.2% in this group, in contrast to 16.7%
among those who received the Pilates sessions (p= 0.006).
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995 8 of 12
Table 4. Weight gain during gestation.
Variable Total
(n= 72)
Assistance to Regular
Maternal Education
(n= 48)
Assistance to
Pilates Sessions
(n= 24)
p-Value
Weight
First trimester 163.3 (10.1) 63.7 (10.4) 62.5 (9.7) 0.62
Before the labor 70.4 (10.8) 70.6 (10.8) 70.2 (11.0) 0.88
BMI
First trimester 123.8 (3.7) 23.8 (3.7) 23.8 (3.7) 0.97
Before the labor 26.4 (4.0) 26.3 (4.0) 26.5 (4.1) 0.89
Weight gain
during gestation 7.2 (7.4) 6.9 (8.2) 7.7 (5.8) 0.63
1First trimester: <10 gestational weeks.
The other variables, namely, age, weight, BMI, blood pressure, level of physical activity,
tobacco, weight gain during gestation, and birthweight, showed no association with the
occurrence of laceration during labor (Table 3).
Furthermore, when the association of the different variables with this complication
was studied using a multivariate binary logistic regression model, it was found that both
the performance of an episiotomy and participation in the Pilates sessions have a protective
effect against the occurrence of tearing. In addition, the variable education level included
in the model indicated that not studied beyond primary or secondary education was
associated with a lower probability of injury occurring (Table 5).
Table 5.
Binary logistic regression adjusted for age, level of education, episiotomy realization and
assistance to Pilates sessions and presence of tearing as outcome variable 1.
Variable Coefficient OR IC 95% p-Value
Educational Level
Primary–Secondary 1.41 0.24 0.06–0.98
0.047
Superior–Further 1 1
Assistance to Pilates
Yes 1.76 0.17 0.04–0.78
0.022
No 1 1
Episiotomy
Yes 3.2 0.04 0.09–0.2
0.001
No 1 1
Log-2 likelihood: 62.94; R2Cox–Snell: 0.38; R2Nagelkerke: 0.52; Hosmer–Lemeshow: 0.81, 5 gl
(p= 0.98).
1Abbreviations: IC, confidence interval; OR, odds ratio.
4. Discussion
This paper aims to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention model based on the
incorporation of an antenatal program of Pilates exercises as a means of preventing perineal
trauma during childbirth and so reducing the incidence of female PFD.
The first thing to note is the high frequency of perineal trauma found in our sample
(41.7%), of particular significance as these figures are used as an indicator of the quality
of the healthcare system and the service it provides. Our results contrast with those of
a systematic review, which estimates figures of 24% for second-degree tears and around
1.4% for third- and fourth-degree tears, both of which are more frequent in primiparae
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995 9 of 12
deliveries [
27
,
28
]. Nevertheless, as pointed out, many of the differences in findings between
studies are directly linked to differences in healthcare practices at childbirth [29].
An example of this are the findings of D’Souza, in which perineal trauma occurred
in more than 85% of vaginal births, consistent with the figure of 80% reported by Jansson,
which also found first- and second-degree tears more frequent among primiparae, while
third- and fourth-degree tears were more frequent among multiparae, at 3.2% and 4.3%,
respectively [28,30].
As can be seen, there is a high degree of disparity among the data, and consequently
the results cannot be extrapolated to other populations without taking into account the rate
of episiotomies carried out in the health center or the health system in question. In short,
the particular healthcare practices put into effect at childbirth are highly significant [31].
In the case of our study, the results show a lower incidence of laceration during
childbirth (13.3% of the total) among those women who attended the Pilates sessions than
those who attended solely the usual antenatal classes (86.7%), with a prevalence of 16.7%
and 54.2%, respectively. These results support studies of interventions aimed at reducing
perineal trauma through PF training programs, such as those described by León-Larios
and Dieb. The former reports a figure of 17.6% for trauma in women who did not follow
the program, compared with 6.9% in the case of those who did. In the latter study, 13.5% of
the pregnant women who followed the PF training suffered trauma, as opposed to 21.5%
of those who did not [6,32].
As can be seen, the results of these studies differ with ours, which may be due in part
to the difference in the starting point of the intervention, from weeks 26 to 32, causing a
difference in the women’s physical condition in the second and third terms. The duration
of the training program might also be influential (between 4 and 8 weeks) since physical
activity during pregnancy which promotes continuous strengthening of the PF muscles
increases the probability of the perineum remaining intact during childbirth [
31
]. Another
aspect that could account for the variability among the results is the combined use of
other techniques for training/strengthening the PF, such as the incorporation of perineal
massage [32].
Whatever the case, there is evidence to suggest that Pilates could be a tool for consid-
eration as part of physical preparation programs for childbirth as it focuses muscular work
on the abdomen and PF [22,33].
Another finding worthy of note is the association found between a higher level of
education and an increase in the risk of trauma. This could be related to an increase in age
at childbirth, although the finding needs to be researched in more detail in future studies
as no previous study has been found which relates these factors.
On the other hand, the results concur with various previous studies in finding the
practice of episiotomy an effective means of preventing tears during childbirth [
29
,
34
].
Nevertheless, this issue is controversial, as clinical practice differs greatly from one country
to another, ranging from being a systematic practice in all births, as is the case in Argentina
and Taiwan, mainly with first-time mothers [
35
], to being selectively performed in countries
such as Sweden and Spain, where it is reserved for those cases in which the benefits
outweigh the risks (imminent severe perineal tearing, prolonged second stage of labor,
shoulder dystocia, instrumented delivery, and/or non-reassuring fetal heart rate) [
28
,
29
].
Episiotomies are still commonly practiced in instrumented births, despite there being little
research supporting the benefits, as is also the case with spontaneous delivery with respect
to a decrease in perineal pain, dyspareunia, urinary incontinence, or prolapse [29].
Limitations
There are several limitations to this study that oblige us to treat the results with caution.
Firstly, the study has a quasi-experimental design, and as such admits the possibility that
the participants’ willingness to follow the Pilates program could be indicative of a greater
concern for the health of the mother and unborn baby during pregnancy and so constitute a
selection bias. Whatever the case, it is a type of bias recognized by the literature concerning
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995 10 of 12
this kind of experimental design [
28
]. Further, given that the multivariate analysis was able
to minimize the possibility of confounding factors, we consider that the study could serve
as a model for future experimental-based research. It would be of particular interest to take
a larger sample, initiate data collection earlier, and include additional variables that might
be associated with the occurrence of perineal trauma (obstetric history, number of previous
deliveries, perineal massage prior to delivery, size of the newborn, duration of labor, etc.).
Research into the effectiveness and outcomes of the practice of episiotomy, from both the
clinical and maternal points of view, would also be desirable.
Finally, another under-researched area is the use of Apps and other digital media to
encourage participants to see programs through to the end of their pregnancy. One of the
few studies in this area reviews various PF training Apps (in the context of treating urinary
incontinence) with a view to improving their adherence strategies [35].
5. Conclusions
In summary, although further research is needed into the sustained use of Pilates
to develop the PF from the initial stages of pregnancy to childbirth, and its effects in
preventing pelvic dysfunctions related to the pregnancy and giving birth, health center
managers should promote the training of midwives in the prevention and treatment of
pelvic floor injuries during pregnancy, and midwives should consider strategies to enhance
adhesion and participation with respect to pelvic floor exercise programs throughout
pregnancy by means of Apps and other digital media specifically aimed at this phase.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization, C.F.-R. and J.D.G.-S.; methodology, R.M.-L. and G.M.-R.;
formal analysis, C.F.-R., R.M.-L. and G.M.-R.; investigation, C.F.-R. and J.D.G.-S.; resources C.F.-R.;
data curation, R.M.-L. and G.M.-R.; writing—original draft preparation, C.F.-R.; writing—review and
editing, C.F.-R., J.D.G.-S., R.M.-L. and G.M.-R.; supervision, J.D.G.-S. and G.M.-R. All authors have
read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Institutional Review Board Statement:
The study was conducted according to the guidelines of
the Declaration of Helsinki, and approved by the Ethics Committee of Servicio Andaluz de Salud
(PI021/14, 01/08/2014). Clinical Trial information: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04431102.
https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04431102?term=CFMP14&draw=2&rank=1 accessed on 28
June 2021.
Informed Consent Statement:
Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.
Acknowledgments:
The authors would like to express their gratitude to all those involved in the
development of the Pilates sessions, and in particular Marivi, Elena, Ariana, and Celeste, whose
disinterested participation, professionality, and dedication made this project possible.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Appendix A
Table A1. Exercise Schedule of Pilates Method Program.
Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 Session 4
Squats
Pelvis tilt
Quadrupled (arms only)
The Cat
The archer
The mermaid
Side leg lifts
Clam
Side kick
Leg circle
Squats
Pelvis tilt
Quadrupled (legs only)
Arm rotations
The cat
The archer
The mermaid
Side leg lifts
Clam
Side kick
Leg circle
Squats
Side leg lifts
Quadrupled (arms and legs)
Clam
Side kick
Leg circle
Leg lifts
Pelvic curl
Roll-up/roll-down
Tiger
The mermaid
Squats
Quadrupled (arms and legs)
Push up on knees
The Cat
The archer
The mermaid
Side leg lifts botton leg
Clam
Side kick
Pelvis tilt
Leg lifts
Roll-up/roll-down
Leg circle
Back support
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6995 11 of 12
Table A1. Cont.
Session 5 Session 6 Session 7 Session 8
Squats
Quadrupled (arms and legs)
Push up on knees
The cat
Saw
The mermaid
Side leg lifts botton leg
Clam
Side kick
Leg lifts
Roll-up/roll-down
Leg circle
Tiger
Back support
Squats
Working arms with tape
Quadrupled (arms and legs)
Push up on knees
The cat
Saw
Pelvis tilt
The mermaid
Side two legs
Clam
Side kick
Leg lifts
Pelvic curl
Roll-up/roll-down
Leg circle
Back support
Squats
Working arms with tape
Quadrupled (arms and legs)
Push up on knees
The Cat
The archer
Saw
The mermaid
Side two legs
Clam
Side kick
Leg lifts
Pelvic curl
Roll-up/roll-down
Back support
Leg circle
Tiger
Hamstream extension
Squats
Working arms with tape
Quadrupled (arms and legs)
Push up on knees
The Cat
The archer
Saw
The mermaid
Side two legs
Clam
Side kick
Leg lifts
Pelvic curl
Roll-up/roll-down
Leg circle
Hamstream extension
Tiger
Side kick kneeling
Back support
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Objective: This study was aimed to investigate the effects of physical activity on perineal outcomes at delivery according to the different levels and types of maternal physical activity before and during pregnancy. Study design: We prospectively evaluated the obstetrical and perineal outcomes of all consecutive women who delivered at the Del Ponte Hospital, in the period between July 2014 and September 2014. Women were divided into three groups according to the features of physical activity performed before pregnancy: group 1: "very sporty women," group 2: "moderately sporty women," and group 3: "inactive women." A subanalysis of our data was performed based on the specific type of sport activity, on the degree of involvement of perineal muscles during physical activity, and on the continuation/discontinuation of this activity during pregnancy. Results: A total of 135, 84, and 85 women were included in group 1, group 2, and group 3, respectively. The demographic characteristics were comparable among all the groups. Sport activity during pregnancy was more frequent in groups 1 and 2 (59.3 and 53.6%, respectively, vs. 29.4% in group 3; p = 0.003). No differences among groups were detected in terms of perineal outcomes. A lower rate of episiotomy/lacerations ≥ 2nd degree was found among women who practiced sports that specifically involved the perineal muscles and who continued this practice during pregnancy. Conclusion: Perineal outcomes are not influenced by the intensity of sport activity performed before/during pregnancy. Continuous sports during pregnancy that specifically train the perineal muscles are associated with a lower rate of episiotomy and perineal lacerations ≥ 2nd degree.
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Introduction and hypothesis The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of perineal massage, pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) and a pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) prevention educational program in pregnant women above the age of 35 years to prevent perineal tear and episiotomy. Methods A randomized parallel assignment study involved two groups of pregnant women at the obstetrics outpatient clinic 4 weeks prior to their due date. The first group (n = 200) was educated to do digital perineal massage and pelvic floor muscle training and received an educational PFD prevention program. The second group (n = 200) received only the prevention education program. Occurrence of perineal laceration was reported at time of delivery as a primary outcome. Statistical analysis was done using the IBM SPSS computer program (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences; IBM Corp, Armonk, NY, USA), release 22 for Microsoft Windows. Results Delivery was significantly less complicated by perineal tear, episiotomy and postnatal pain in the first than in the second group (p < 0.05). Grades of perineal tear were mostly of first and second degree in the first group compared with the second group. We found a significantly lower need for analgesia and fewer ampoules required during the hospital stay in the first group (p < 0.001, 0.002, respectively). Conclusions Performing antenatal digital perineal massage and PFMT in addition to health education is recommended to reduce perineal complications.
Article
Background Nowadays, Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT) is a first line, level 1 evidence‐based treatment for urinary incontinence (UI), but adherence to PFMT is often problematic. Today, there are several mobile applications (mApps) for PFMT, but many lack specific strategies for enhancing adherence. Aims To review available mApps for improvement of adherence to PFMT, and to introduce a new App so called iPelvis. Methods Review study all available mApps for PFMT and relevant literature regarding adherence by electronic search through the databases Pubmed, Embase, CINAHL, LILACS, PEDro, and Scielo. Based on these results, development of a mApp, called “iPelvis” for Apple™ and Android™ systems, implementing relevant strategies to improve adherence. Results Based on the current adherence literature we were able to identify 12 variables helping to create the optimal mApp for PFMT. None of the identified 61 mApps found for Android™ and 16 for Apple™ has all these 12 variables. iPelvis mApp and websites were constructed taking into consideration those 12 variables and its construct is now being subject to ongoing validation studies. Conclusion MApps for PFMT are an essential part of first‐line, efficient interventions of UI and have potentials to improve adherence, in case these respect the principles of PFMT, motor learning and adherence to PFMT. iPelvis has been constructed respecting all essential variables related to adherence to PFMT and may enhance the effects of UI treatment.
Article
Background: Abdominal strength training before and during pregnancy has been recommended to enhance normal vaginal birth by enabling increased force needed for active pushing. However, to date there is little research addressing this hypothesis. Objective: To investigate whether nulliparous pregnant women reporting regular abdominal strength training prior to and at two time points during pregnancy have reduced risk of cesarean section, instrumental assisted vaginal delivery and third- and fourth-degree perineal tears. Methods: Analysis of 36124 nulliparous pregnant women participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study during the period 1999-2009 who responded to questions regards the main exposure; regular abdominal strength training. Data on delivery outcomes were retrieved from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway. Logistic regression analyses were used to evaluate the association between exposure and outcome before pregnancy and at gestational weeks 17 and 30. Results: Amongst participants, 66.9% reported doing abdominal strength training exercises before pregnancy, declining to 31.2% at gestational week 30. The adjusted odds ratios were 0.97 (95% CI 0.79-1.19) for acute cesarean section, among those training with the same frequency before and during pregnancy compared to those that never trained. The results were similar for instrumental assisted vaginal delivery and third- and fourth-degree perineal tear. Conclusion: There was no association between the report of regular abdominal strength training before and during pregnancy and delivery outcomes in this prospective population-based cohort.
Article
Objective: This study aims to evaluate the effects of Pilates exercises for a decreasing pain in pregnant women. Methods: A total of 40 pregnant women were divided into two groups, a control group (followed a standard pregnancy exercise regimen) and a Pilates group (completed a Pilates exercise regimen). A pain assessment was carried out after exercise, using a visual analog scale. The Pilates group workout program lasted 70-80 min per day, once a week, for 8 weeks. Results: The reduction in the level of pain was found to be significantly greater in the group of pregnant women who completed the Pilates workout (p < 0.05). Conclusions: The results of this study indicated that Pilates is an effective, healthy, and feasible method of reducing pain in pregnancy, and is therefore a beneficial alternative workout for the suppression of pain in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Article
Objective: To assess the effectiveness and safety of a physical activity programme based on use of the Pilates method, over eight weeks in pregnant women, on functional parameters, such as weight, blood pressure, strength, flexibility and spinal curvature, and on labour parameters, such as, type of delivery, episiotomy, analgesia and newborn weight. Method: A randomized clinical trial was carried out on pregnant women, applying a programme of physical activity using the Pilates method, designed specifically for this population. A sample consisting of a total of 105 pregnant women was divided into two groups: intervention group (n=50) (32.87±4.46 years old) and control group (n=55) (31.52±4.95 years old). The intervention group followed a physical activity programme based on the Pilates method, for 2 weekly sessions, whereas the control group did not follow the program. Results: Significant improvements (p<0.05) in blood pressure, hand grip strength, hamstring flexibility and spinal curvature, in addition to improvements during labour, decreasing the number of Caesareans and obstructed labour, episiotomies, analgesia and the weight of the newborns were found at the end of the intervention. Conclusion: A physical activity programme of 8 weeks based on the Pilates method improves functional parameters in pregnant women and benefits delivery.