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Physical Activity in Pregnancy: Beliefs, Benefits, and Information-Seeking Practices of Pregnant Women in South Africa

Authors Okafor UB, Goon DT

Received 17 October 2020

Accepted for publication 20 November 2020

Published 9 April 2021 Volume 2021:14 Pages 787—798


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Uchenna Benedine Okafor,1 Daniel Ter Goon2

1Department of Nursing Science, University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa; 2Department of Public Health, University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa

Correspondence: Uchenna Benedine Okafor
University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa
Email [email protected]

Background: Notwithstanding the benefits of physical activity (PA) during pregnancy, anecdotal evidence suggests ignorance, unscientific beliefs, and lack of awareness about PA among pregnant South African women.
Aim: This study examined the beliefs, perceived benefits, and sources of information on PA during pregnancy.
Methods: A cross-sectional descriptive study was employed between June and September 2019 using an interviewer-administered questionnaire with 1,082 pregnant women. These women were attending antenatal primary health–care clinics in Buffalo City, Eastern Cape, South Africa. A self-designed questionnaire solicited information on beliefs, benefits, and sources of information regarding PA during pregnancy.
Results: A majority of the participants held positive beliefs concerning PA during pregnancy. They maintained that PA was safe for mother and fetus, improved labor and delivery (93.1%), promoted energy (89.0%), and should be discontinued when tired (76.6%). Most held negative convictions that PA during pregnancy increased body temperature (64.5%) and that pregnancy was a time to rest and refrain from PA (56.5%). Predominantl sources of information received about PA during pregnancy were television, the radio, and other media (70.2%). Most participants were aware of the benefits of PA during pregnancy —— reduction in infant weight (61.4%), lessening of moodiness (90.4), and decreased risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (92.9%), pregnancy-induced hypertension (92.5%), and complications at birth (97.8%), while common negative perceptions included musculoskeletal discomfort (82.7%), and back pain (85.7%). An overwhelming majority affirmed that PA improved self-image (95.7%), sleep patterns (94.2%), and respiratory function (95.8%).
Conclusion: Our findings suggested that women hold positive beliefs and perceive PA as beneficial to their health and the baby; however, they received most of their information from the Internet. Most women regarded pregnancy as a period to relax and rest. Interventions to promote PA during pregnancy are needed.

Keywords: physical activity, beliefs, perceived benefits, sources of information, pregnancy

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