AUT researchers look for answers on exercise during pregnancy

August 23, 2021

AUT researchers look for answers on exercise during pregnancy

Researcher and AUT student Hannah Tiedt is involved in the project. Photo: supplied.

Researchers at AUT are hoping to give pregnant women a better understanding of those inevitable questions they face – how often should I exercise and for how for how long?

The research project, Physical Evolution through Pregnancy (PEP), is a longitudinal study that collects data from participants throughout their pregnancy.

Based at the AUT Millennium, researchers from are monitoring pregnancy movement like balance and gait, body shape and size, as they collect data from their participants monthly.

The study aims to improve health outcomes for pregnant women and their babies by improving our knowledge about movement and identifying risk factors for injury, falling and pain throughout pregnancy.

It is multidisciplinary with both external and AUT experts collaborating.

Hannah Wyatt, a research fellow involved, says the knowledge just isn’t there and women are being let down in this area.

“There is a lot of fear and anxiety that is brought about by exercise, so pregnant women often err on the side of caution and become more sedentary,” says Ms Wyatt.

A secondary aim of the study is to help inform health guidelines for physical activity – what is safe to do and how movement changes throughout pregnancy.

Hannah says this is very important for both physical and mental health.

Midwife Sabina Just is completing her PhD around the PEP study and is involved as a pregnancy expert.

She says creating awareness is the first step, for both health professionals and women.

A midwife for decades, Ms Just has reduced her clinic to 20 per cent capacity while working on the project.

She says she sees the health professionals and the women involved supporting each other, and the participants are learning about themselves.

“Every woman is completely different," she says.

She hopes the research findings establish knowledge about the importance of movement throughout pregnancy.

“The purpose is to know how we can support [pregnant women] and in which ways we can.”

The current lockdown will force the research to adapt, since researchers no longer able to take monthly measurements of the participants.

“It is a real challenge, but we want to make sure that the women are supported,” says Ms Wyatt.

The study includes workshops on mindfulness and meditation.

The PEP project is the first element in a larger overarching research programme called Te Kukunetanga (Developing Cycle of Life).

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