A new model of maternity care tailored to women with obesity has been developed by WA researchers in partnership with pregnant women dealing with eating disorders.
'Blooming Together' (BT) is an intervention program that addresses the health implications of obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy for the mother and her child.
A recent study reports that about one third of Australian pregnant women are overweight or obese, putting them and their unborn babies at risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes—like pregnancy complications and preterm birth.
There is also a greater chance of the child developing obesity later in life.
In eight group-based sessions, women at similar gestational stages met to receive their routine antenatal check-up and to participate in facilitated discussions around a healthy life style and weight gain management during pregnancy.
"The key is getting the women into the program early," says Dr Lisa Gibson, Healthway postdoctoral research fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute (TKI).
Intense consultation with obese pregnant women participants of the consumer reference and focus groups found that many women realise too late that their weight gain during pregnancy is of concern to their health, and the baby's.
They also found personalised dietary recommendations were made too late for a chance of success. Such guidelines to a healthier pregnancy only help if the women proactively set goals before they gain extra weight.
"We are not asking the women to severely restrict their diet or join a gym," Dr Gibson says.
She believes progress can be made with small changes in behaviour and the way the women and their families think and approach food.
"Hopefully a program like this can prevent obesity in the next generation."
Dr Gibson and colleagues from TKI and King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) recently presented their consumer participation based research approach at the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease 'DOHAD' Society of Australia and New Zealand conference.
The BT program is a step-up from KEMH's standard model of antenatal care for obese pregnant women.
Dr Gibson and BT manager Anna Fletcher have received State Government funding to commence a pilot study at KEMH shortly.
BT's feasibility in the community will be tested in association with the Woodbridge Womens Clinic in Rockingham.
The evaluation process will also consider how best to engage general practitioners to ensure that obese pregnant women will be referred to the program as soon as a pregnancy is confirmed.
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The complete report is available online: www.healthnetworks.health.wa.gov.au/docs/network/report_Blooming%20Together_September%202013.pdf