Perceived barriers to physical activity among pregnant women

Matern Child Health J. 2009 May;13(3):364-75. doi: 10.1007/s10995-008-0359-8. Epub 2008 May 14.


Objective: Physical activity generally declines during pregnancy, but barriers to activity during this time period are not well understood. The objective was to examine barriers to physical activity in a large cohort of pregnant women and to explore these barriers in more depth with qualitative data derived from a separate focus group study using a socioecologic framework.

Method: A total of 1535 pregnant women (27-30 weeks' gestation) enrolled in the Pregnancy, Infection, and Nutrition Study were asked an open-ended question about their primary barrier to physical activity; responses were coded into categories according to the socioecologic framework. To further elucidate, 13 focus groups of a total of 58 pregnant women (20-37 weeks' gestation) were conducted among Hispanic, African American, and White participants.

Results: Among the 1535 pregnant women participating in the survey, 85% reported an intrapersonal barrier to physical activity, of which almost two-thirds were health related. Only 2% of the women reported their main barrier to physical activity as interpersonal and 3% reported a neighborhood or environmental barrier. These results were supported by the focus group data, overall and by race/ethnicity and body mass index. Although women discussed barriers to physical activity at a variety of levels, the intrapersonal level was the most frequently cited and discussed factor in both studies.

Conclusions: Since pregnancy may trigger the development of obesity and since physical activity is recommended for healthy pregnant women, it is imperative to promote physical activity in a more relevant way. These quantitative and qualitative studies revealed many barriers to physical activity among pregnant women and some suggestions for interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Environment Design
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Physical Fitness
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Environment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult