Postpartum Exercise and Return to Fitness: Optimise Readiness for Military Mums (PERFORM) (PERFORM)

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    Nottingham Trent University
Updated on 3 March 2022
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The purpose of this research is to investigate the effectiveness of a personalised physical training programme in returning servicewomen to fitness following childbirth. The idea behind the program is to target core and pelvic floor muscles, along with whole body strength and endurance to help servicewomen return to work safely and in a physically fit condition. The study will monitor the response to training using the following measures: urogynaecological measures (e.g., pelvic floor strength, prolapse, urinary incontinence), military specific fitness tests, musculoskeletal health (e.g., muscle and bone mass & function) and mental health and wellbeing.


In an independent groups study design, the aim was to investigate the efficacy of a postpartum physical development programme on core reconnection (i.e., pelvic floor function, core strength/stability and urogynaecological measures), occupational physical performance, musculoskeletal health, and psychological health/wellbeing in servicewomen. Given that policy guidance is urgently needed regarding the safe return of servicewomen to functional occupational fitness, the aim of our proposed research is to inform the appropriate physical preparation of servicewomen in the postpartum period.

Participants at selected sites around the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst will receive usual care/no formal intervention (acting as a control group [CON]) and participants at different sites around Army Headquarters will receive usual care and additionally complete an 18-week phased physical development (rehabilitation and training) programme between weeks 6 and 24 postpartum (acting as the intervention group [INT]). If recruitment numbers are low at the main sites (Aldershot and Tidworth) we will seek to recruit participants to INT from Bulford, Middle Wallop, Larkhill and Marlborough Lines for INT and to CON from Sandhurst, Odiham, Pirbright, Keogh, Minley, Deepcut as well as locations outside of the named INT sites. The geographical separation of sites was deemed to be important for maintaining differences between intervention and control group activity.

The investigators have designed a phased 18-week physical development programme to train both rehabilitative and performance enhancement elements of physical preparation. The rehabilitation element of the programme will specifically target pelvic floor function and core strength and stability (known collectively as Core Reconnection training) from weeks 6 to 24 postpartum, and the training element of the programme will contain resistance and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) from weeks 12 to 24 postpartum

The aim of this research is to investigate the effectiveness of a tailored rehabilitation and physical preparation programme for postpartum women on:

  1. Occupational fitness performance;
  2. Female health assessments (i.e., urinary incontinence, pelvic floor strength);
  3. Musculoskeletal health;
  4. Psychological health and wellbeing.

Condition Postpartum Period
Treatment Training intervention.
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04332757
SponsorNottingham Trent University
Last Modified on3 March 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Serving, pregnant (third trimester) or 0 to 6 weeks postpartum UK MOD Servicewomen
18 years old
Free from any condition or injury that may affect the individual's ability to perform exercise (health screen)
Passed fit to exercise by their GP at their routine 6-week postnatal check-up
Passed fit to participate by a specialist women's health physiotherapist using study specific assessment criteria
Consent to be pregnancy tested before scans at 6 and 24 weeks postpartum

Exclusion Criteria

< 18 years old
Diagnosed with post-natal depression or another mental health condition requiring specialist psychiatric secondary care. Additionally, any participant who is found to have, or develops over the course of the trial, severe post-natal depression or suicidal tendencies, will be referred back to their GP
Injured or suffering from another condition that can affect the individual's ability to perform exercise
Not passed fit to exercise by their GP at their routine 6-week postnatal check [using standard fitness assessment criteria]
Not passed fit to participate following the women's clinical health assessment [using study specific assessment criteria]
Women who report that they could be pregnant and / or have a positive pregnancy test before measurements at 6 and 24 weeks postpartum will not be scanned using DXA or HR-pQCT. They will cease to take any further part in the trial and will be advised to visit their GP
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