Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 95–104 | Cite as

Weight, Diet, and Physical Activity-Related Beliefs and Practices Among Pregnant and Postpartum Latino Women: The Role of Social Support

  • Pamela L. ThorntonEmail author
  • Edith C. Kieffer
  • Yamir Salabarría-Peña
  • Angela Odoms-Young
  • Sharla K. Willis
  • Helen Kim
  • Maria A. Salinas
Original Article

Objectives: Eating and physical activity patterns may contribute to excessive pregnancy weight gain and postpartum retention that increase the risks of obesity and diabetes for both Latino mothers and their children. Social support is an important health determinant and may affect health-related beliefs and behaviors. The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of social support on weight, diet, and physical activity-related beliefs and behaviors among pregnant and postpartum Latinas. Methods: A community-based participatory project, Promoting Healthy Lifestyles among Women, was conducted in southwest Detroit to plan interventions aimed at reducing risks of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Qualitative analyses of in-depth semistructured interviews with dyads of 10 pregnant and postpartum Latinas, and 10 people who influenced them were conducted. Results: Husbands and some female relatives were primary sources of emotional, instrumental, and informational support for weight, diet, and physical activity-related beliefs and behaviors for Latina participants. Holistic health beliefs and the opinions of others consistently influenced Latinas' motivation and beliefs about the need to remain healthy and the links between behavior and health. Absence of mothers, other female relatives, and friends to provide childcare, companionship for exercise, and advice about food were prominent barriers that limited women's ability to maintain healthy practices during and after pregnancy. Conclusion: The findings support evidence that low-income, recently immigrated pregnant and postpartum Latinas could benefit from community-based, family-oriented interventions that provide social support necessary to promote and sustain healthy lifestyles.


Social support pregnancy Latinas diet and weight physical activity. 



This study was based on research conducted by Promoting Healthy Lifestyles Among Women, a community-based research project conducted in affiliation with the Detroit Community – Academic Urban Research Center with funding and other support provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Grant No. U48/CCU515775/SIP10 and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Health Scholars Program. Support for this analysis was provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Health Disparities Scholars Program, and the National Institute of Mental Health Psychosocial Factors in Mental Health and Mental Illness Training Program. The authors wish to thank the project Steering Committee organizations, representations and community residents, and graduate research assistants for their participation in all phases of the project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pamela L. Thornton
    • 1
    • 8
    Email author
  • Edith C. Kieffer
    • 2
  • Yamir Salabarría-Peña
    • 3
  • Angela Odoms-Young
    • 4
  • Sharla K. Willis
    • 5
  • Helen Kim
    • 6
  • Maria A. Salinas
    • 7
  1. 1.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.University of Michigan School of Social Work1080 S. UniversityAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Health Services Research and Evaluation BranchCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Public and Community Health ProgramNorthern Illinois University School of Allied HealthDekalbUSA
  5. 5.Ohio State University School of Public HealthColumbusUSA
  6. 6.University of Michigan School of Social WorkChicagoUSA
  7. 7.University of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA
  8. 8.W.K. Kellogg Foundation Scholar in Health Disparities, Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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