Background: Excessive gestational weight gain (GWG) and postpartum weight retention play a major role in long term obesity, and increase the risk of adverse health outcomes. Lifestyle interventions evaluating attainment of healthy weight postpartum have been reported. To date limited focus has been directed to investigating postpartum women’s perceptions of factors influencing weight management (WM). Our objective was to examine factors perceived to influence healthy eating (HE) and physical activity (PA) in WM for postpartum women.
Methods: An online survey was completed by 879 postpartum women (given birth in the previous 5 years) aged 18-40 years. Perceived HE and PA factors influencing WM were assessed across 20 items using a five-point Likert scale. Chi-squared tests were used to investigate differences by sub-groups (age, education, marital-status, income, pre-pregnancy BMI, parity and GWG). Two open-ended questions were asked about HE and PA strategies women had successfully implemented to address these WM factors. Responses (HE n=313, PA n=268) were analysed using Leximancer (UQ, v.4) to identify common concepts among the group and by pre-pregnancy BMI.
Results: For postpartum women (32.9±4.5 years, pre-pregnancy BMI 25.6±5.7 kg/m2, 1.85±1.0 children) the most commonly reported factor influencing WM for both HE (79.4%) and PA (86.4%) was ‘time due to family commitments’. Knowledge relating to HE and PA was reported as a significantly greater influence for those with education up to certificate/apprenticeship level, compared to those with a higher university degree (61.2% vs 46.5%, p=0.02; 53.1% vs 35.4%, p=0.001, respectively). ‘Meals’ was identified as the central concept for successful HE WM strategies across all BMI groups. For PA, the central concept differed by BMI category with healthy-weight, overweight and obese groups identifying ‘kids’, ‘gym’ and ‘time’ respectively.
Conclusion: Future interventions targeting postpartum WM should address HE and PA barriers and enhancers identified by key population sub-groups.