The fourth trimester – physiological barriers and enablers to women returning to exercise, postpartum

By University of Staffordshire, Student Ruby Grater on 14 April 2022


Women who are not informed of the benefits of exercise prior to or during pregnancy, are less likely to exercise in late pregnancy (Haakstad et al., 2009). Women who may wish to commence exercise postnatally may therefore be ill-informed and lack support (Amorim Adegboye & Linne, 2013; Daley et al., 2008). Researchers suggest that exercise should be carried out postpartum (Mullins et al., 2021; Paladine et al., 2019; Sleep & Grant, 1987), but there may be barriers to exercise. Behavioural factors affecting post-natal exercise have been studied (Ellis et al., 2019), however empirical evidence to identify what is discouraging women from exercising, physiologically, is limited.

This study will identify the physiological barriers and enablers that contribute to a women’s return to exercise, postpartum. By identifying these factors through surveying women who have given birth within the last 24 months, this study could assist in educating HPs on what women want to know and could subsequently benefit future mothers who wish to engage in physical activity – postpartum.


The aim of the study is to examine the physiological factors affecting women’s post-natal return to exercise and how they can be better supported.

The objectives of the study are to:

  1. Identify the physiological factors affecting women’s post-natal return to exercise
  2. Explore the impact of these physiological factors affecting women’s post-natal return to exercise
  3. Examine what support women need in order to return to exercise
  4. Make recommendations for support and guidance for post-natal women who wish to exercise


If you are a female adult (age 18+ and have given birth within the last 24 months), you are invited to take part in an online survey.

You may have participated in physical activity prior to being pregnant, during pregnancy or you may wish to become physically active, postpartum. Participation in physical activity at any point is not a requirement for completion of this survey. 

How do I take part?

You can complete the survey here

For further information please contact Ruby Grater:


Amorim Adegboye, A. R., & Linne, Y. M. (2013). Diet or exercise, or both, for weight reduction in women after childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 7.

Daley, A. J., Winter, H., Grimmett, C., McGuinness, M., McManus, R., & MacArthur, C. (2008). Feasibility of an exercise intervention for women with postnatal depression: a pilot randomised controlled trial. British Journal of General Practice, 58(548), 178–183.

Ellis, K., Pears, S., & Sutton, S. (2019). Behavioural analysis of postnatal physical activity in the UK according to the COM-B model: a multi-methods study. BMJ Open, 9(8), e028682.

Haakstad, L. A. H., Voldner, N., Henriksen, T., & Bø, K. (2009). Why do pregnant women stop exercising in the third trimester? Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 88(11), 1267–1275.

Paladine, H., Blenning, C., & Strangas, Y. (2019). Postpartum Care: An Approach to the Fourth Trimester. In American Family Physician (pp. 1–7).

Sleep, J., & Grant, A. (1987). Pelvic floor exercises in postnatal care. Midwifery, 3(4), 158–164.