Ms Anne Harrison1
1Mercy Hospitals Vic. Ltd., Werribee, Australia
Background: Physical activity has substantial benefits and minimal risks for pregnant women including those diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) yet more than 60 per cent of women with GDM do not participate in physical activity as recommended.
Aim: To identify the perceptions of women diagnosed with GDM to physical activity during pregnancy?
Method: The study design was a qualitative study with phenomenology and interpretative description as theoretical frameworks. Participants were pregnant women, with GDM, aged 18 to 40 years who were purposively recruited. Recruitment continued until data saturation. Semi-structured interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and returned to participants for checking. Qualitative data were analysed thematically by three researchers independently. Data were coded, compared and themes developed, discussed and defined. Emergent themes were sent to participants and peer-reviewed for confirmation.
Results: Twenty-seven women participated who were of mean age 32 years (SD 3), mean gestation 30 weeks (SD 5), mean pre-pregnancy body mass index 26 kg/m2 (SD 5) and born in 10 different countries. The process of communicating information about physical activity (messaging) was the main theme to emerge. Sub-themes included receiving information about physical activity from credible sources, knowing what type and how much physical activity was safe for their pregnancy, receiving information at GDM diagnosis as this triggered women’s desire to be more physically active, understanding the positive effects of physical activity on pregnancy outcome, and identifying flexible, individually-tailored physical activity options.
Discussion and significance: To feel confident and safe about being physically active during pregnancy, women with GDM wanted clear, simple and GDM-specific messages from credible sources. They wanted flexible, convenient, practical physical activity options that could be tailored to meet their individual needs and fit in with their busy lifestyles. Health professionals can support women with a GDM pregnancy with targeted physical activity messages.
Anne Harrison is a physiotherapist with over 30 year’s clinical experience including 20 years of health management experience. She is manager of physiotherapy services at Werribee Mercy Hospital, Mercy Hospitals Victoria Ltd. She has interests in women’s health and translating research into practice as well as health service planning. Anne’s present research is investigating physical activity participation for women diagnosed with GDM. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Applied Science in Physiotherapy, a Master of Health Administration and she is currently a Professional Doctoral candidate at La Trobe University.