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Can online intervention help prevent excessive pregnancy weight gain?

A recent study looked at the effectiveness of an online behavioral intervention program in preventing excessive pregnancy weight gain.

It is normal to gain weight during pregnancy as a result of the baby’s growth and the physiological changes to the body. However, excessive pregnancy weight gain can lead to problems both for the mother and baby, including the long-term development of obesity. In the USA, it was estimated in 2015 that about 39% of “normal” weight women, 61% of overweight women, and 55% of obese women gained more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy.

Diet and exercise interventions have been shown to reduce the risk of excessive pregnancy weight gain. E-health interventions have the potential to support these programs, however, their usefulness has not been widely tested. An initial report from a randomized controlled trial looking at the effectiveness of an e-health intervention to prevent excessive pregnancy weight gain was recently reported in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Testing an online behavioral intervention program

The study recruited over 1600 healthy pregnant women aged between 18-35 years, with body mass indexes (BMIs) between 18.5 and 35 at under 20 weeks of pregnancy. The women were randomly allocated to one of three groups: access to pregnancy health website only (control group); e-health intervention during pregnancy only; e-health intervention during pregnancy and for 12 months after birth. The full study will look at the patterns of weight gain during pregnancy and weight loss during the 12 months after giving birth. This initial report examines the findings during pregnancy.

Those in the control group had access to a specially designed password-protected website and mobile-phone platform including relevant articles and information about healthy lifestyles during pregnancy, a blogging tool, and an event reminder.

Those in the two intervention groups had access to a similar website, and also to a suite of three behavior change tools including a weight gain tracker and a diet goal and a physical activity goal setting tools. These tools were considered to be the “active” component of the intervention.

All participants were sent weekly reminders to log into the website but were free to decide how to use it and behavioral tools. The researchers collected data from the participants at the initial screening and at further online surveys before 28 weeks of pregnancy, and after 32 weeks of pregnancy.

No difference between the online intervention groups and control group

In this initial analysis, around 48% of women in the two intervention groups and 46% of those in the control group had excessive pregnancy weight gain. There was no significant difference between the three groups.

This e-health behavior intervention did not change the percentage of women with excessive pregnancy weight gain. The researchers noted that there was a low usage of the behavior change tools in the intervention groups, and this was a possible explanation for the lack of any observed difference. Other trials in this area are underway and this may offer other approaches to prevent excessive pregnancy weight gain.

Written by Julie McShane, Medical Writer

Reference: Olson CM, Groth SW, Graham ML, et al. The effectiveness of an online intervention in preventing excessive gestational weight gain: the e-moms roc randomized controlled trial. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (2018) 18:148. Doi:10.1186/s12884-018-1767-4.

Julie Mcshane MA MB BS
Julie Mcshane MA MB BS
Julie studied medicine at the Universities of Cambridge and London, UK. Whilst in medical practice, she developed an interest in medical writing and moved to a career in medical communications. She worked with companies in London and Hong Kong on a wide variety of medical education projects. Originally from Ireland, Julie is now based in Dublin, where she is a freelance medical writer. She enjoys contributing to the Medical News Bulletin to help provide a source of accurate and clear information about the latest developments in medical research.
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