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Sensory integration and segmental control of posture during pregnancy.

BACKGROUND: Approximately 25% of pregnant people fall, yet the underlying mechanisms of this increased fall-risk remain unclear. Prior studies examining pregnancy and balance have utilized center of pressure analyses and reported mixed results. The purpose of this study was to examine sensory and segmental contributions to postural control throughout pregnancy using accelerometer-based measures of sway.

METHODS: Thirty pregnant people (first trimester: n = 10, second trimester: n = 10, third trimester: n = 10) and 10 healthy, nonpregnant control people stood quietly for one minute in four conditions: eyes open on a firm surface, eyes closed on a firm surface, eyes open on a foam pad, and eyes closed on foam. Postural sway was quantified using the root mean square accelerations in the anterior-posterior and medial-lateral directions from an inertial sensor at the lumbar region. Sensory sway ratios, segmental coherence and co-phase, were calculated to assess sensory contributions and segmental control, respectively.

FINDINGS: Pregnant people did not display greater sway compared to healthy, nonpregnant controls. There were no group differences in vestibular, visual, or somatosensory sway ratios, and no significant differences in balance control strategies between pregnant and nonpregnant participants across sensory conditions.

INTERPRETATION: The small effects observed here contrast prior studies and suggest larger, definitive studies are needed to assess the effect of pregnancy on postural control. This study serves as a preliminary exploration of pregnant sensory and segmental postural control and highlights the need for future to hone the role of balance in fall risk during pregnancy.

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