Calling all expectant mums: New research project calls for volunteers

As the news of the royal expectant mum sweeps the nation, Swansea University is calling all mums to be to take part in a pioneering new health study.

Swansea University’s College of Engineering is calling for pregnant participants to take part in a study that looks at the impact of exercise on expectant mums

The EXPECT (Exercise in Pregnancy Evaluative Controlled Trial) project aims to find out more about the influence of regular exercise on the health of expectant mums during normal pregnancy.

Exercise is thought to be beneficial during pregnancy and could help with the management of pregnancy-induced diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.  However, there are no official evidence-based exercise guidelines for pregnant women in the UK, which can lead to conflicting advice and confusion.

This research builds on an ongoing study at Swansea University into the effects that a normal pregnancy has on women’s cardiovascular function.

However, for this new study researchers will ask volunteers to undertake an initial health screening, and then to join with one of two carefully planned group exercise programmes.  Women can either join a land-based aerobics or a pool-based ‘aqua aerobics’ programme. 

Dr Michael Lewis who leads the academic research team said: “Although water based exercise is currently recommended for pregnant women, there is limited evidence that there is any difference in the physiological influences of land and water based physical exercise.  By comparing the two programmes, we hope to shed light on this issue with a view to compiling more accurate information on exercise for pregnant women in the future.”

Participants will also be asked to come along to the antenatal suite at Singleton hospital once during each trimester and again three months after their baby is born. At each visit volunteers will be monitored as they undertake a series of physical activities such as light stepping exercise.

The tests for this observational study are non-invasive and all participants’ data will be treated in confidence and not used for any other purpose.

Mr Simon Emery, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Singleton Hospital and the lead investigator on the study, said: “The study aims to examine the influence of exercise on the mother’s heart, blood vessels and nervous system during normal pregnancy. “We hope that with the help of our volunteers we will gain a clearer insight into the health improvements of regular physical exercise during pregnancy and its contribution to improving antenatal care.”

Mr Lindsay D’Silva and Miss Rhiannon Davies are PhD students working on the project, and are funded by Welsh Government Health Studentships.

Lindsay said: “Around 40 mums have already taken part in the first stage of this work. Their response to our research has been fantastic. They have all been extremely enthusiastic about taking part because they recognise the potential benefits for mums to be.”

Rhiannon, who will be working on the new EXPECT study over the next two years, said: “I’m excited about the next stage of this important work as it should lead to the first real physiological evidence of the benefits of different types of exercise in pregnancy.”

Anyone interested in taking part should contact Miss Rhiannon Davies at Swansea University – email: 480621@swansea.ac.uk or telephone 07757 250791.