Centre for Behaviour Change


Gemma Spickernell


head & shoulders picture

PhD Candidate


Informing the development of behaviour change interventions which are theoretically congruent with the barriers to, and facilitators of, physical activity in pregnancy.

Primary and secondary supervisors 




Physical activity has substantial benefits for women with uncomplicated pregnancies, minimal risks, and is recommended in national guidelines. Despite the well-documented benefits, cross-sectional population studies estimate that only 3–15% of pregnant women meet current physical activity guidelines in the UK. The perceived barriers to physical activity in pregnant and postpartum mothers are wide-ranging, extensive, and well-established. Interventions implemented nationally target increasing physical activity in pregnancy, but the extent to which they target the barriers to, and facilitators of, physical activity is unclear. Investigating this can be facilitated by applying behavioural theory and evidence-based tools to determine the congruence (i.e., the match) between intervention content and barriers to and facilitators of physical activity in pregnancy. To develop more efficient programmes for promoting physical activity in pregnancy it is critical to ensure that the intervention components and characteristics most strongly associated with effectiveness are included. 


Gemma completed a MA in Psychological Research at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa before moving to London to pursue a career in research. She has several years of experience working in consultancy, using tools and methods from the behavioural sciences to optimise healthcare behaviours. Her research interests include optimising health and wellbeing through applied behavioural science to understand and intervene with factors that influence behaviours that impact on health, illness and the health care system. She is particularly passionate about the benefits of physical activity and is a qualified level 3 personal trainer.