Send to

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

Perceived barriers to physical activity among pregnant women.

Author information

Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 137 East Franklin Street, Bank of America Center, Suite 306, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA.



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.


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.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center