Background: Mobile health technology offers the opportunity for women to engage with physical activity promotion programs without many of the barriers commonly associated with exercise during and after pregnancy (eg, childcare concerns, rigid schedules, fear of doing harm to fetus or self, access to fitness facilities, uncomfortable with body in front of others) which may be particularly useful in under-resourced rural environments. We conducted the first known study on perspectives of pregnant women, postpartum women, and obstetric healthcare providers in a rural setting on needs related to the development of a mobile app designed to increase physical activity during pregnancy and postpartum.

Methods: Focus groups and in-depth face-to-face personal interviews were conducted with 14 pregnant women, 13 postpartum women, and 11 healthcare providers in a rural community. Semi-structured questions utilizing constructs of the Health Belief Model were used to identify barriers, facilitators, and other influences on physical activity during pregnancy and postpartum. Recordings of all in-depth interviews and focus groups were transcribed and standard content analyses for qualitative data were conducted.

Results: Rural women and healthcare providers expressed several key perspectives about and recommendations to promote physical activity during and after pregnancy. Broadly, these perspectives encapsulated two main themes: 1) physical activity as critical for weight control and 2) the need for evidence-based exercise information. Key desired features of this app identified include goal setting/progress tracking, evidence-based exercise guidance tailored to specific time points of pregnancy and postpartum, social support via community-based forum, symptom tracking, time-efficient workouts, and push notifications.

Conclusion: The perspectives identified by participants should be utilized when designing mobile health physical activity mobile apps for pregnant and postpartum women in rural areas.

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Published in International Journal of Women’s Health, v. 2021.

© 2021 Tinius et al.

This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License.

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Funding Information

This study was funded by the NIGMS-funded Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) in Kentucky (P20GM103436).

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The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.