Addressing physical activity behavior in early motherhood

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Stacey Herzog Bender (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Erin Reifsteck

Abstract: As women take on the new role of motherhood, changes in their environment and social dynamics can significantly influence their physical activity levels. These changes can result in postpartum stress and make it challenging for new mothers to initiate and maintain physical activity during this period. The purpose of this study was to identify why some women are more, or less, active by determining what factors could be promoting or inhibiting PA levels during the first year following childbirth. Participants (n = 214; Mage = 31.53 years, SD = 3.996) completed a web-based survey assessing physical activity (PA) levels prior to pregnancy and after birth, psychosocial constructs from behavioral theories to understand PA barriers and enablers, and environmental factors that may be promoting or preventing PA. Paired samples t-test indicated significant decreases in self-reported MVPA from pre-pregnancy (M = 38.24, SD = 27.98) to postpartum (M = 24.72, SD = 23.18), with a quarter of the sample (25%) currently reporting no moderate-to-vigorous PA. Though there were no significant relations or differences identified in current MVPA based on demographic or environmental factors, most of the psychosocial variables examined in this study demonstrated positive and significant correlations with MVPA. Results of a hierarchical regression analysis suggested prior MVPA and self-efficacy to engage in physical activity were the strongest predictors of current MVPA, explaining 47.7% of the variance in this sample of postpartum women. Based on open-ended responses, women reported the key factors related to decreased PA during the transition from pre- pregnancy to the postpartum period were barriers such as time or motivation, sleep/fatigue/no energy, and caregiver responsibilities. On the other hand, women reported they were able to be more active if they had accountability/social support, experienced positive mental and physical health factors, and increased motivation and time. Continued research should focus on developing women’s self-efficacy for promoting and maintaining higher levels of PA during the prenatal and postpartum period. [This abstract has been edited to remove characters that will not display in this system. Please see the PDF for the full abstract.]

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Behaviors, Physical Activity, Postpartum
New mothers $x Health and hygiene
Exercise for women
Health behavior

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