Background: Overweight and obesity in pregnancy are common and associated with adverse maternal and fetal outcomes. Prior maternal knowledge is a vital component for implementing successful dietary and lifestyle interventions in pregnancy but has not been described to date. The objective of this study was to assess knowledge of risks associated with overweight and obesity during pregnancy and preparation for pregnancy in women who are overweight or obese in early pregnancy.
Methods: A prospective observational study involving 150 women in early pregnancy with a Body Mass Index (BMI) >25 kg/m2, who presented to a metropolitan maternity hospital. Women completed a questionnaire relating to their knowledge of recommended weight gain and pregnancy complications due to increased BMI, preparations for pregnancy and attitudes to lifestyle changes. For the purposes of analysis, women who were overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9kg/m2) were compared with women who were obese (BMI >30.0kg/m2)
Results: Women overestimated their recommended weight gain for BMI category and underestimated the risk of complications to themselves and their infants associated with increased BMI. Most women indicated an attempt to make healthy food choices in preparation for pregnancy. Women who were obese were more likely to indicate multiple attempts to diet in the preceding 12 months. All women indicated a willingness to make changes to their lifestyle to improve the health of their baby.
Conclusions: Overweight and obese women were unable to correctly identify the recommended pregnancy weight gain and risk of complications associated with increased BMI. In early pregnancy, women who are overweight or obese report a willingness to make behavioural changes to improve their health and that of their baby. Increased education and awareness prior to pregnancy and in early pregnancy is required to increase women’s knowledge which in turn may contribute to improving pregnancy outcomes with pregnancy specific dietary and lifestyle interventions.