• experiences;
  • physical activity;
  • pregnancy;
  • women

Introduction: Evidence shows that physical activity during and after pregnancy results in health gains for women. There is no clear understanding apparent in the literature of women's experiences with physical activity during their pregnancy. The aim of this study was to describe women's perceptions and participation in physical activity during pregnancy and identify factors influencing participation.

Methods: In this qualitative descriptive study, face-to-face interviews were conducted with 19 women, all at different stages of pregnancy, who were asked about their experiences with physical activity.

Results: Data analysis resulted in four categories describing “meaning of physical activity,” “perceived benefits of physical activity in pregnancy,” “barriers to and motives for participation in physical activity,” and “process of engagement in physical activity.” The process of engagement in physical activity by women was shown to have three marked phases: “uncertainty,” “engaging,” and “compromise.”

Discussion: To facilitate women's self-management across these phases, support is needed that focuses on providing strategies to strengthen individual approaches by women. Such support might promote activities of daily living as a specific entity of physical activity, expose myths about activity during pregnancy, and endorse the benefits of weight management arising from physical activity, not just during pregnancy, but across the lifespan.