There is growing evidence that activity during pregnancy is beneficial for mother and baby; however, less than half of pregnant women meet guidelines for exercise during pregnancy.
Objective: In order to improve the health of women and children, we need a better understanding of the barriers to women participating in activities during pregnancy. Therefore, our aim was to determine women’s perceived barriers to physical activity during gestation. We hypothesize that most women either do not know exercise is safe during pregnancy or women do not know what specifically is safe to do during pregnancy.
Methods: A 16-item questionnaire was placed in several Ob/Gyn clinics in the Kansas City area. Respondents were women between 18 and 40 years of age who were pregnant or had recently delivered and had no pregnancy complications.
Results: Respondents varied in age, BMI, marital status, pregnancies, ethnicity, education, healthcare insurance, and annual household income. We were able to analyze data from 201 surveys. Most participants (97%) perceived their health as good to excellent; yet, 50% were overweight or obese. The most common reason given for women choosing not exercise during pregnancy was lack of time, dislike of exercise, unsure why, and not knowing what to do. However, women who did not exercise spent significantly less time than exercisers doing sedentary and daily living activities than women who exercised while pregnant. If women exercised before pregnancy, then they were 4.5 times more likely to continue during pregnancy. If their health care provider talked about exercise during pregnancy, then women were 7.5 times more likely to continue exercise during gestation.
Conclusions: We found that most women are unsure about exercise during pregnancy or do not know what to do during pregnancy. Although most women feel they do not have time to exercise during pregnancy, nonexercisers spent less time doing daily activities compared to exercisers. Most importantly, women were almost 8 times more likely to exercise if this topic was discussed by their obstetric provider. To increase the number of women exercising while pregnant, future studies should aim at efficient ways to discuss and encourage women to follow the recommended guidelines of safe exercises while pregnant.