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UBC Theses and Dissertations

'It's all about modifying your expectations...my job right now is to be healthy, not super fit' : women's experiences with physical activity throughout the course of pregnancy Bennett, Erica


Physical activity levels adopted during pregnancy can impact future behaviours post-partum, resulting in long term physiological and psychological effects (Hausenblas et al., 2008). The purpose of this study was to qualitatively examine women’s experiences with physical activity throughout the course of pregnancy. Nine previously active expecting women participated in a series of two semi-structured interviews in early second trimester and mid to late third trimester. Data was analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results revealed that physical barriers to activity changed throughout the course of pregnancy. Commonly identified barriers during the first and second trimester included fear of miscarriage, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, and weather, while changes in the body, fear of injury, pain and discomfort, and work demands were prominent in the third trimester. In contrast, the identified environmental barriers to activity such as the influence of experts, information sources regarding physical activity (i.e. books, internet) and weather, remained stable throughout pregnancy. Despite these barriers, participants were motivated to engage in physical activity throughout pregnancy to maintain physical fitness, health of the baby and themselves, and to relieve stress. Physical activity behaviours were supported by the participants’ partners; however, the majority of participants sought out prenatal exercise classes to create a social network with other expecting mothers. The need to examine pregnant women’s experiences with physical activity from a holistic approach beyond the biomedical model is discussed. Findings contribute to the sport, exercise, and health psychology literature focusing on physical activity during pregnancy and could potentially inform subsequent interventions focused on motivation for physical activity during pregnancy. Participants in this study were predominantly white, heterosexual, well-educated, and English speaking; therefore, future studies should examine the experiences of single women, expecting mothers who identify as lesbian, and women who are diverse in terms of income and educational attainment.

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