Are we missing opportunities? Understanding health behaviours associated with overweight in pregnancy

de Jersey, Susan Jane (2013) Are we missing opportunities? Understanding health behaviours associated with overweight in pregnancy. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


While maternal obesity, excess pregnancy weight gain and lifestyle behaviours are associated with future overweight for both mothers and babies, there is limited research on how best to intervene. An evidence base that identifies behavioural influences is crucial to the development of effective interventions. This thesis aims to gain an understanding of maternal behavioural outcomes of healthy eating, physical activity and gestational weight gain (GWG), the psychosocial influences on these and to examine differences according to pre-pregnancy weight status.

The New Beginnings Healthy Mothers and Babies Study was a prospective observational study using the PRECEDE-PROCEED model of health promotion planning as a framework. A consecutive sample of 715 women was recruited. Height and weight were measured and women completed questionnaires at approximately 16 and 36 weeks gestation. This thesis presents three chapters of original research across four study domains.

While healthy eating was widely regarded as important during pregnancy and had become more so, there was more variability in attitudes towards physical activity. Ninety-two percent of participants achieved the maximum knowledge score relating to the influence of nutrition on pregnancy. However, 8% and 36% respectively knew how many serves of fruit and vegetables should be consumed daily. Six percent of participants met the recommendations for fruit consumption, 4% achieved the recommended vegetable intake and 44% achieved sufficient physical activity. There were few differences between healthy and overweight women for measures of physical activity and healthy eating.

Many predisposing, reinforcing and enabling factors with a positive influence on health behaviours were lower in women commencing pregnancy overweight and those factors with a negative influence on health behaviours were higher when compared to healthy weight women. Some of these antecedents to health behaviours that were different according to prepregnancy weight status were associated with diet quality and physical activity. While self efficacy was consistently associated with diet quality and physical activity for both weight groups, other associations between specific predisposing, reinforcing and enabling factors differed with behaviour and weight status group. These results highlight the complexity of supporting behaviour change in a one-size-fits-all approach.

Sixty-four percent of participants gained weight outside of recommendations.

Compared to healthy weight women, those women who were already overweight at the beginning of pregnancy were more likely to gain too much weight (30% vs 56%, p<0.001). Only 35% of participants reported their correct recommended weight gain. Excess GWG was associated with few predisposing factors, however, these were not consistent between prepregnancy weight status groups.

Less than 50% of women reported sometimes/usually/always receiving advice from health professionals relating to healthy eating, physical activity or GWG. These results indicate that there are opportunities to improve the advice and support provided by health care professionals in the antenatal period.

Evidence from this PhD research suggests that there is a need for effective prevention and management of excess weight in pregnancy. Effective management of this problem is likely to require a multidisciplinary approach with multi-level strategies. Importantly, the strategies may need to be tailored according to pre-pregnancy weight status.

Collectively, the evidence derived from this thesis suggests that opportunities to support healthy lifestyles and prevent future overweight are being missed during pregnancy.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 61090
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Daniels, Lynne, Nicholson, Jan, & Callaway, Leonie
Keywords: pregnancy, weight gain, overweight, nutrition, physical activity, knowledge attitudes practice, behaviour change, maternal health, obesity prevention, PRECEDE-PROCEED model
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 02 Jul 2013 23:40
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2015 23:05

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