New program for healthier weight gain in pregnancy

Excessive gestational weight gain is common in overweight and obese women

A lifestyle intervention program for pregnant women at high risk of developing gestational diabetes improves health during pregnancy and adherence to recommended weight gain, a new trial has shown.

Researchers found a low-intensity, behavioural lifestyle intervention program, integrated with standard maternal care, was effective in optimising healthy gestational weight gain, improving physical activity in early pregnancy and in reducing post-delivery weight retention.

Monash University’s Professor Helena Teede, Dr Cate Lombard, Dr Cheryce Harrison and a research team from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine in collaboration with Southern Health, assessed weight and height, physical activity, questionnaires and gestational diabetes screening in more than 220 women who participated in a four-session behavioural change lifestyle program, in contrast to those who attended a single education session.

Professor Teede said the program was effective in enabling women to improve lifestyle and adhere to recommended pregnancy weight gain in comparison to the group of women receiving education alone.

“Excessive gestational weight gain is common, especially in overweight and obese women with post pregnancy weight retention increasing risks of diabetes and other metabolic conditions,” Professor Teede said.

“As a result of the program, the proportion of women exceeding internationally recommendation thresholds for pregnancy weight gain was significantly reduced.

“The results of this trial represent significant public health implications for mother and baby in pregnancy, and in the longer term.”

Standard measures were conducted at 12-15 weeks and 26-28 weeks gestation and six weeks post-delivery.

It is hoped the low cost and accessible program will be made available to women more broadly in the future.

The project was supported by an International Diabetes Federation grant.

Professor Teede will officially present the findings at ENDO 2012, the 94th Annual Meeting and Expo of The Endocrine Society, June 23-26 in Houston, USA.

Monash University.