U of A researchers aim to find out how COVID-19 is impacting pregnant and postpartum women’s mental and physical health

Although critical in combating the COVID-19 virus, physical distancing and isolation measures put in place in Canada and around the world are likely to create a barrier to being physically active, as well as impact the psychological wellbeing of much of the world’s population. 

Researchers in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation want to know how these measures are impacting an important population—pregnant and postpartum women. Margie Davenport and her team in the Program for Pregnancy and Postpartum Health are presently surveying women who are currently pregnant or up to one-year postpartum to learn more about their mental and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know that being physically active during pregnancy is associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of developing depression and depressive symptoms, and similar reductions in postpartum women have also been observed,” said Davenport. “These psychological benefits are at risk when physical activity is decreased.” 

“We want to know to what extent the pandemic is impacting this population’s ability to remain physically active and what we can do to help.”

Davenport, who led the development of the 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy, said pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, which can include walking, swimming, stationary cycling and resistance training. 

She added even in non-pandemic times, pregnant and postpartum women can experience events that will limit their ability to be physically active or socially engaged.

“Whether they’re hospitalized due to pregnancy complications, or not leaving the house because of a colicky baby, or don’t have the support of family or friends, many women can feel isolated,” she said

“We hope that this study will also help us create resources and supports for pregnant and postpartum women who experience these situations.”

Women from anywhere in the world who are pregnant or in the first year of delivery are able to participate in the study, which consists of an anonymous 20-minute online survey asking questions about their experiences with COVID-19, their physical and mental health, and physical activity. Participants also have the option to provide their email address in order to be sent short monthly follow-up questionnaires about how their mental health and physical activity has changed as the pandemic continues.

The survey can be easily accessed online at: Impact of COVID-19 on physical activity during pregnancy and Postpartum. For more information on the Program for Pregnancy and Postpartum Health, visit exerciseandpregnancy.ca