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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reconciling resistance : women's postnatal physical activity decision-making Liva, Sarah


Background: Nearly half of women have reported reducing their physical activity below recommended levels during the postpartum period and evidence suggests these reductions are sustained beyond the postnatal year. The modestly effective interventions to increase postnatal physical activity may indicate a lack of understanding about how women make postnatal physical activity choices. Research Question: What are women’s decision-making processes about physical activity in the postnatal period? Methods: I used a qualitative grounded theory methodology to develop a core category and interrelated categories explaining women’s physical activity decision-making processes during the postpartum period. Thirty women within a year of childbirth, were recruited using flyers and social media, and interviewed after they completed 3-day diaries. I open-coded the data to identify a core category, and then selectively coded, and theoretically coded to articulate relationships between the core category and other categories using constant comparative analysis. Findings: The core category, reconciling resistance, comprised three processes: gauging, engaging, and adjusting, and explained how women resolved their main concern in making physical activity decisions to minimize discord between their physical activity desires and actual physical activity patterns. Participants experienced personal embodiment, relational, environmental and physical activity centrality resistance that they reconciled through gauging the risks and accessibility of choosing their desired activities and deciding whether they regarded the activities as essential for them postnatally. The women engaged to either push through, hold back, or hold still on pursuing their desired activities and adjusted their choices of strategies in response to their experiences of engaging. Only the women who constructed their physical activities as supporting their own and others’ needs and experienced limited personal embodiment resistance (e.g., fatigue, injury) pushed through. Most women held back or held still by redefining the types of activity that they believed could support their own and others’ needs. Implications: Providing mothers with anticipatory guidance and education about safely returning to physical activity is an important strategy for health care providers to support postnatal physical activity. Increasing knowledge about physical activity choices in the context of women’s need satisfaction could support strategies that are acceptable to women within the postpartum period.

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