Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 10, pp 1879–1887 | Cite as

Overweight and Obese Women’s Perceptions About Making Healthy Change During Pregnancy: A Mixed Method Study

  • Z. SuiEmail author
  • D. A. Turnbull
  • J. M. Dodd


Overweight and obesity during pregnancy is associated with risk of a range of adverse health outcomes. While intervention studies aim to promote behavioral change, little is known about the underlying psychological mechanisms facilitating and hindering change. The aim of this study was to evaluate overweight and obese women’s perceptions of making behavior change during pregnancy. We explored beliefs through self-administrated questionnaires (n = 464) and semi-structured face-to-face interviews (n = 26). Questions were designed according to the Health Belief Model. A triangulation protocol was followed to combine quantitative and qualitative data. A total of 269 women (58 %) indicated that high gestational weight gain is a concern, with 348 (75 %) indicating excessive weight gain is associated with complications during pregnancy or child birth. Women were aware of maternal complications associated with high gestational weight gain, but had more limited awareness of neonatal complications. While most women indicated in questionnaires that healthy eating and physical activity were associated with improved health during pregnancy, they were unable to identify specific benefits at interview. Barriers to making healthy behavior changes were highly individualized, the main barrier being lack of time. While the majority (91 %) of women indicated that they would make behavior changes if the change made them feel better, only half felt confident in their ability to do so. Interventions for overweight and obese pregnant women should incorporate education about neonatal health consequences and benefits of healthy behavior change in addition to incorporating strategies to enhance self-efficacy.


Overweight and obesity Pregnancy Healthy eating and physical activity Mixed method research 



We are thankful to the 464 women who participated in this study on which this manuscript is based. The LIMIT study is supported through a NHMRC project grant (ID 519240)

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interests to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The Robinson InstituteThe University of Adelaide, Women’s and Children’s HospitalNorth AdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Health Sciences, School of PsychologyThe University of AdelaideNorth TerraceAustralia
  3. 3.The Robinson InstituteNorth AdelaideAustralia

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