Start Up is Tackling Confusion about Pregnancy Fitness

Celebrities who post videos of themselves on Instagram exercising while pregnant are fuelling the sale of sportswear designed especially for expectant mothers.

Gemma Atkinson, the former Strictly Come Dancing contestant, led the trend for high-profile mothers-to-be to share clips of their exercise routines on their social media pages. The creator of a brand of sportswear designed especially for expectant mothers says the trend has helped to boost her business, with her maternity fitness wear now being sold in 195 countries worldwide.

Alexandra McCabe, 34, from Brighton, launched FittaMamma in 2013 after struggling to find maternity fitness wear for her pregnant sister-in-law who wanted to stay fit but was confused by contradictory advice about exercising while pregnant. She also felt self-conscious about working out in conventional sportswear.

Taking matters into her own hands, Alexandra decided to create her own e-commerce business to empower women to keep exercising through their pregnancies.

Using a fixed-interest £10,000 loan from the Government-backed Start-up Loans scheme – part of the British Business Bank – she built a website that provides a “one-stop shop” for information on health and well-being during pregnancy. She went on to design a range of sportswear that would give pregnant women the confidence and reassurance to exercise while pregnant.

Subsequent tests carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Portsmouth showed that FittaMamma’s specialist sportswear reduced “bump bounce” by half – even when running.

Four years on, Alexandra’s brand of sportswear is becoming more and more popular. This Mother’s Day, Alexandra expects to see a 20% uplift in sales.

The NHS advises on its website that pregnant women keep up their normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as they feel comfortable. It stresses that “exercise is not dangerous” and that there is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour.

FittaMamma’s Instagram channel aims to specifically address misinformation and campaigns for change using #pregnantnotpowerless.

Alexandra McCabe, founder of FittaMamma, said: “We hear many stories of women not exercising because they’re worried about harming their baby. When my sister-in-law fell pregnant, I noticed how difficult it was to find sportswear that gave her the confidence to continue exercising. After researching the subject, I also discovered how much contradictory information there was out there.

“This inspired me to face the challenge directly and create my own maternity fitness brand to empower mothers-to-be to stay active. Start Up Loans provided me with a fixed-rate loan, as well as mentoring support to help me get started.

“Since then, there’s been a real positive shift in sentiment towards the subject and the trend for pregnant celebrities to post pictures on Instagram of their exercise routines has really helped. We’re really proud of all the progress we’ve made over the past four years and we look forward to seeing what’s in store for the rest of the year.”

Richard Bearman, Managing Director of Start Up Loans, said: “In just four years, Alexandra has taken a simple idea and created a successful e-commerce business which now exports to 195 countries worldwide.

“We recognise the value of small business and enterprise to the UK economy and it’s our mission to help as many people from all walks of life to follow their passion and set up their own business.”

Start Up Loans provides fixed-interest loans of up to £25,000 and mentoring to aspiring business owners in every part of the country. Since 2012, it has lent £527 million through 66,435 loans to people from all backgrounds and ethnicities.

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