ukactive has kicked-off a ground-breaking project called This Mum Moves, aimed at supporting women to be active during and after pregnancy.

In collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) and the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), the project team used a Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) approach, undertaking a baseline survey of healthcare professionals’ knowledge and confidence in providing physical activity advice, and conducting focus groups with midwives, health visitors, and pregnant and postpartum women.

Dr Cheryll Adams, Executive Director of the iHV, said:

“Giving every child the best start in life is key to achieving health outcomes, we want to support all mothers to understand the benefits to them and their baby from being physically active throughout their pregnancy and after their baby is born. This project will provide health visitors with the knowledge and resources to confidently promote physical activity during their work with families.”

Seven PPI focus groups were conducted in the pilot areas of Bexley (London) and Sheffield, with support from the local councils. The pregnant women and new mothers that participated called for greater consistency in the information provided, as well as specific and early advice from healthcare professionals, and links to local services.

The healthcare professionals’ survey received more than 400 responses, with 27% indicating that they did not know whether pregnant women should continue to engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, as recommended in specific guidance introduced by the Chief Medical Officer in 2017. This is in keeping with recommendations for the general adult population. However, 97% said they would be interested in further training to support their practice.

The findings were consistent with existing literature in this area that shows there is a lack of knowledge and confidence in providing physical activity advice and guidance during pregnancy and the postnatal period.

The insights from the work will be used to develop a toolkit for healthcare professionals and a wider campaign aimed at supporting pregnant women and new mothers in maintaining regular physical activity during pregnancy and beyond.

The project, funded by the National Lottery and Sport England, involves a coalition of partners including ukactive, CCCU, iHV, the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, Best Beginnings, Pelvic Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy, Aston University, the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine – Sheffield, and the Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (spear).

ukactive Strategic Projects Director Will Smithard said:

“ukactive is proud to be working with the wider healthcare sector on such a hugely important area as physical activity for pregnant women and new mothers.

“This project will help provide midwives, health visitors, and other healthcare professionals with better access to information so that they can be confident in recommending physical activity to women during and after pregnancy.”

Phil Smith, Director of Sport at Sport England, said:

“Remaining active when having a baby, or even starting new activities, can be a daunting prospect. Our insight tells us that despite their time pressures and conflicting priorities, new and expecting mums want to be more active. That’s why Sport England is investing National Lottery funding into programmes like This Mum Moves. We hope this funding goes a long way to equip midwives, health visitors and other healthcare professionals with the right tools to help them feel confident guiding pregnant women and new mums to activities that are right for them.”

Dr Marlize De Vivo, from Canterbury Christ Church University, said:

“This area has received considerable attention since the launch of the new CMO guidelines in 2017, however, it is clear that more needs to be done to ensure that practice aligns with current policy.  This Mum Moves facilitates inter-professional collaboration and celebrates the increasing focus on women and families enjoying and benefitting from active lifestyles.”

Insights from the project will be used by the project team to develop the resources and campaign for launch this Autumn in Sheffield and Bexley, with plans for a national rollout in the future.