International Urogynecology Journal

, Volume 26, Issue 11, pp 1575–1586 | Cite as

The efficacy of physiotherapy for the prevention and treatment of prenatal symptoms: a systematic review

  • Marijke Van Kampen
  • Nele Devoogdt
  • An De Groef
  • Annelies Gielen
  • Inge GeraertsEmail author
Review Article


Several studies have described the evidence of prenatal physiotherapy for one symptom, but none has made an overview. We provided a systematic review on the effectiveness of prenatal physiotherapy. A full search was conducted in three electronic databases (Embase, PubMed/MEDLINE and PEDro), selecting randomized controlled trials concerning prenatal physiotherapy. Methodological quality was assessed using the PEDro scale. We identified 1,249 studies and after exclusions 54 studies were included concerning the evidence of prenatal physiotherapy. The majority of studies indicated a preventative effect for low back pain/pelvic girdle pain, weight gain, incontinence, and perineal massage. For leg edema, fear, and prenatal depression, the efficacy was only based on one study per symptom. No preventative effect was found for gestational diabetes, while literature concerning gestational hypertensive disorders was inconclusive. Regarding the treatment of low back pain/pelvic girdle pain and weight gain, most therapies reduced pain and weight respectively. Evidence regarding exercises for diabetes was contradictory and only minimally researched for incontinence. Foot massage and stockings reduced leg edema and leg symptoms respectively. Concerning gestational hypertensive disorders, perineal pain, fear, and prenatal depression no treatment studies were performed. The majority of studies indicated that prenatal physiotherapy played a preventative role for low back pain/pelvic girdle pain, weight gain, incontinence, and pelvic pain. Evidence for the remaining symptoms was inclusive or only minimally investigated. Regarding treatment, most studies indicated a reduction of low back pain/pelvic girdle pain, weight gain, incontinence, and the symptoms of leg edema.


Antenatal Childbirth Pregnancy Prenatal physiotherapy Symptoms 



Activities of daily life


Body mass index


Control group


Experimental group


Excessive gestational weight gain


Fecal incontinence


Gestational age


Gestational diabetes mellitus


Gestational hypertensive disorders


Gestational weight gain


Heart rate


Institute of Medicine


Low back pain


Pelvic floor muscles


Pelvic floor muscle training


Pelvic girdle pain


Randomized controlled trial


Systolic blood pressure


Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation


Urinary incontinence


Visual analogue scale



The authors acknowledge Miss Defrenne and Miss Van Beeck for their help with the initial literature search.


No funding was received.

Conflicts of interest


Authors’ contribution to the manuscript

M. Van Kampen: protocol, project development, literature search, data management, manuscript writing; N. Devoogdt: manuscript editing, data management; A. De Groef: literature search, data management, manuscript editing; A. Gielen: literature search, manuscript writing; I. Geraerts: project development, literature search, data management, manuscript writing.

Supplementary material

192_2015_2684_MOESM1_ESM.docx (51 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 51 kb)


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Copyright information

© The International Urogynecological Association 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marijke Van Kampen
    • 1
  • Nele Devoogdt
    • 1
  • An De Groef
    • 1
  • Annelies Gielen
    • 1
  • Inge Geraerts
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Rehabilitation SciencesKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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