Active Pregnancy Foundation report
20th October 2023
With Covid cases on the rise again, the Active Pregnancy Foundation would like to highlight their recent report: Overlooked & underserved: pregnant & postnatal women’s engagement, opportunities & resources for physical activity during COVID-19 lockdowns in the United Kingdom.
Using data collected during each of the three COVID-19 lockdown periods in the UK, this report describes pregnant and postnatal women’s physical activity engagement, opportunities to be active, and resources to support physical activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Women reported low levels of physical activity (minutes per week) compared to pre-lockdown, with their opportunities and ability to be active being negatively impacted by the pandemic. However, women perceived themselves to be more active during the lockdowns, compared to pre-pandemic, highlighting the potential mismatch between their perceived and self-reported physical activity levels.
The report found that only 52% of pregnant and 43% of postnatal women had been given information about being active at any point during their pregnancy or after childbirth. Additionally, 80% of pregnant and postnatal women felt there was a lack of information about the activities that were safe for them to perform. This highlights the importance of healthcare professionals being equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to discuss the national physical activity guidelines and thereby empowering women to make informed decisions around their physical activity engagement. The report concludes with nine key recommendations.
Dr Kathryn Hesketh, author and Scientific Advisory Board member of The Active Pregnancy Foundation, said: “Limited information suggests that during their transition to motherhood, women are less active than the general population; the pandemic lockdowns reduced their ability to be active even further. Some of this was environmental, for example, the closure of swimming pools may have disproportionately impacted pregnant women, particularly later in pregnancy. However, other factors, such as lack of childcare, remain a consistent barrier. Given that the benefits of being active for both mums and babies are increasingly clear, this report shines a light on how we can better support women to be active. For healthcare and fitness professionals, it provides further evidence of their important role in supporting pregnant and postnatal women to feel safe and happy engaging in physical activity, in a way that is right for them.”
Dr Marlize De Vivo, author and CEO of The Active Pregnancy Foundation, said: “With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, we have a duty to take forward our learnings and must act now to ensure that pregnant and postnatal women are better supported to be active in a way that works for them, whether that is from the comfort of their home, online, or in open spaces.”
Prof Kiara Lewis FBASES, Chair of BASES Division of Physical Activity for Health, said “If we want to increase physical activity at a population level, we need to start from birth. Giving pregnant women more opportunities and confidence to be active helps to give newborns the best start in life and can set them up for a lifetime of physical activity.”
To access the full report click here.
*Where referring to 'women' and 'mothers', this should be taken to include people who do not identify as female but who are pregnant.