There are many reasons why weight management during pregnancy is so important.
Obesity has been found to be associated with major physical, psychological, social comorbidities and economic consequences (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2006) and is defined as body mass index (BMI) over 30kg/m2 (IOM, 2009).
How Being Overweight Affects Health and Wellbeing
Physical comorbidities that have a serious consequence on health and quality of life include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer (Wadden, Brownell & Foster, 2002).
Other less serious health problems like sleep apnea, respiratory problems, gallstones, osteoarthritis, skin and skeletal disorders, and reproductive problems for women (Field, Barnoya & Colditz, 2002) may reduce quality of life and have shown to be associated with obesity.
Social comorbidities with obesity can be demonstrated by weight-based prejudice and discrimination of the obese in areas such as employment, healthcare, education, the media and interpersonal relationships (Puhl & Brownell, 2001). Due to weight-based prejudice and discrimination, negative psychological consequences can result. Body image has been shown to be poor in pregnant women (Huang, Wang, & Dai, 2010) and has been proposed as both a mediator and moderator of the relationship between weight and mental health (Markowitz, Friedman & Arent, 2008).
The psychosocial factors that have been measured in past studies focused on maternal obesity include depression, anxiety and stress; body image and perceived body weight; and other psychosocial factors (Skouteris, 2013).
At a population level, excess weight is weakly associated with poorer psychological wellbeing (Wadden, Womble, Stunkard, & Anderson, 2002) and obese women are more vulnerable than men to symptoms of depression and low self-esteem (Carpenter, Hasin, Allison & Faith, 2000). Differences in results indicate some studies showing no association between depressive symptoms and maternal body mass index (BMI) (Walker & Kim, 2002; Krause, Ostbye, Swamy, 2009; Huang et al., 2010; DiPietro, Millet, Costigan, Gurewitsch & Caufield, 2003).
Obesity is increasing in prevalence in recent years (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2003). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009), approximately 37% of Australian adults are overweight and an additional 24% are obese.
Haby and Markwick (2008) predict that by 2025, 46% of Australian adults will be overweight (BMI between 25 and 30kg/m2) and 37% will be obese. Lifestyle changes including worldwide increases in sedentary behaviour, decline in physical activity, and easy access to pre-packaged, high-energy foods (Cameron et al, 2003) are thought to be responsible for the increasing prevalence in obesity (Swinburn & Egger, 2004).
Of Australian women over the age of 18, there are 31% overweight and 23.6% obese (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009), with 34% of pregnant women being overweight or obese, having a BMI above 25kg/m2 (Callaway, Prins, Chang, McIntre, 2006).
Weight Management during Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time of change whereby major psychological and physical aspects are placing women at risk of gaining excessive weight.
While weight gain is common and increasing in prevalence in western societies, it is also increasing in prevalence in developing and non-western countries (World Health Organisation, 2010). This suggests excessive weight gain during pregnancy is now becoming a global problem.
Studies show that women who gain excessive weight during pregnancy have an increased risk of post-partum obesity in themselves and their children (Oken, Taveras, Kleinman, Rich-Edwards & Gillman, 2007; Olson, 2007). Amorim, Rossner, Neovius, Lourenco & Linne (2007) showed one in five women retain at least 5kg of gestational weight gain at 6-18 months post birth. This weight retention was a strong predictor of the woman being overweight or obese, more than ten years after birth.
Psychologists can assist women with weight management during pregnancy, by helping to guide their dietary intake, exercise regime and lifestyle choices, and supporting their emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Author: Cassandra Gist, BPsych (Hons), MPsych, MAPS.
Brisbane Psychologist Cassandra Gist has a Masters in Health Psychology, and is able to treat clients aged from two years old right through to adulthood. She is experienced in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Cassandra Gist, try Online Booking – Loganholme or Online Booking – Mt Gravatt. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129, or Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.