Dormer, Jade (2019) Women’s experiences of physical activity during pregnancy: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. “just listen to your body”. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Background: Pregnant women are currently being encouraged to meet the physical activity guideline of engaging in at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, subject to their pregnancy being classified as healthy. However - irrespective of health status -research suggests a minority of pregnant women are choosing to participate in physical activity during pregnancy, and those participating are not physically active enough.Some pregnant women appear to have a lack of understanding about being active in pregnancy. The lack of research exploring women’s lived experiences of being physically active during pregnancy appears to be contributing to this. Accordingly, this study aimed to address this gap in the literature by exploring the lived experiences of five women who were regularly physically active during their pregnancies, and by obtaining a critical analysis of the women’s accounts. The objective of this research was to contribute to the knowledge base regarding women’s real-life experiences of being physically active during pregnancy.

Method: In-depth semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with five women; these women were recruited through social media and met inclusion, exclusion criteria confirming their eligibility to participate. Each interview was recorded using a dictaphone and fully transcribed verbatim. All interviews were analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) in order to identify major superordinate and subordinate themes,and to establish an overarching theme regarding the participants’ experiences of physical activity during pregnancy.

Findings: An overarching theme of ‘maintaining a sense of control over the body whilst balancing this with the responsibility for their baby and their own well-being’ along with three major superordinate themes and seven subordinate themes emerged from the analysis. These were: (1) Listening to my body to know what to do: listening to their pregnant bodies; modifying themselves and their activities to accommodate their pregnant bodies; feeling better. (2) Experience of control over my pregnant body: Feeling like they were preparing their body for labour; having a sense of control on how their bodies performed during labour; controlling the way they felt about themselves (3) Feeling judged for being active in pregnancy: managing the judgement.

Conclusion: This study contributes to the knowledge base surrounding women’s real-life experiences of being physically active during pregnancy. The findings of this study present various accounts of why five women chose to participate in physical activity during their pregnancy, and how they successfully maintained their activity participation irrespective of any underlying tensions and challenges they encountered. This study is concluded by discussing the strength and limitations of the study and how it could be improved, along with future research opportunities.

Dormer THESIS.pdf - Accepted Version
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