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Intervention Helps Pregnant Women Stay at Healthy Weight

Friday March 4, 2011
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A simple behavioral intervention helps normal-weight women control weight gain during pregnancy, according to a new study.

Women whose weight was in a normal range before pregnancy were more likely to stay at a healthy weight during pregnancy if they received the intervention compared to women who received standard care, according to a randomized, controlled study of 400 women.

The women who received the intervention also had a better chance of returning to their prepregnancy weight six months after delivery. Obese and overweight women receiving the intervention did not stay within their recommended weight goals, but did have a better chance of returning to their prepregnancy weight after delivery.

The patients receiving the intervention went to an initial meeting with an interventionist who coached them on topics such as what constitutes healthy pregnancy weight gain, the need for physical activity such as walking, calorie goals, reducing fat intake and daily self-monitoring.

Women received scales, pedometers and forms for recording what they ate. The intervention from there took place by mail and phone with weekly reminder postcards and three calls from a dietitian to offer encouragement.

After each visit with their doctor, the women received graphs illustrating their weight gain compared with the ideal rate of gain based on health guidelines. Women who gained too much or too little received additional follow-up coaching calls from the dietitian.

Among normal-weight women who received the intervention, 40.2% gained more weight than recommended by Institute of Medicine guidelines, but among comparable women who did not receive the intervention, 52.1% gained too much. Six months after delivery, 35.6% of women who received the intervention were at or below their pre-pregnancy weight, compared to 20.7% who received only standard care.

The study was conducted by researchers with Brown University and The Miriam Hospital in Rhode Island and appears this month on the website of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“I think it’s an important study,” said co-author Rena Wing, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and The Miriam Hospital.

“The goal during pregnancy is to help women gain within the recommended amounts. Our study succeeded for normal weight women, but we need to develop a more effective approach for women who are overweight or obese.”

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