Article by Tia Saxelby & Georgina Solly
According to research, physical activity levels among pregnant women and new mothers are a growing concern. Only 25% of pregnant women meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines for physical activity. Moreover, around 64% of pregnant women or women with children under one-year old experience nervousness or anxiety related to physical activity.
Having a child can create many new barriers to participating in physical activity, such as cost and lack of time. Many new mothers have reported that the physical activity available to them does not meet their needs, either because it is too expensive or requires too much additional planning. Postnatal depression is also a significant barrier to physical activity participation for some women as it can greatly influence a mother’s life and motivation to be active.
These barriers have been directly targeted in East Durham through the introduction of a physical activity group for pregnant women and new mothers. Mamma Social Co. was established by Kayleigh Laverick after the birth of her first child to provide a space for new mums to be themselves and connect with like-minded people. The group’s Talk and Walk sessions allow new mothers to take part in exercise without fear of judgment. Members meet up, walk with their pushchairs, and socialise while staying active, providing an amazing opportunity to improve their mental and physical health and meet other mums in their area. The classes are free, making them accessible to any mother from any background.
Since its creation, Mamma Social Co. has received extremely positive feedback, with women describing it as a lifeline to physical activity involvement. Members reported that the group had helped them overcome some of the obstacles faced by new mothers, such as postnatal depression, lack of adult social interaction and regaining physical health after pregnancy.
Unfortunately, groups like Mamma Social Co. can be challenging to find as they often struggle to secure funding and promotion. More needs to be done to reach pregnant women and new mothers in terms of physical activity participation. Activities with a social focus such as walking or jogging have been recommended by Mamma Social Co. group members; these should aim to be more affordable and include sessions where children can be present. When creating physical activity opportunities, providers should also aim to reduce aspects of judgment and stigma surrounding exercise.
Whilst physical activity provision for pregnant women and new mothers within County Durham has improved in recent years, it is vital that groups such as Mamma Social Co. continue to grow to support pregnant women and new mothers through what can be a challenging transition.
Tia and Georgina completed a placement with County Durham Sport between October 2022 and March 2023. Both are currently in their final year of study at Durham University within the Department for Sport and Exercise Sciences.