Psychosocial influences on weight gain attitudes and behaviors during pregnancy

Janet A. DiPietro, Sarah Millet, Kathleen A. Costigan, Edith Gurewitsch Allen, Laura E. Caulfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Objective To examine pregnant women's weight-related attitudes and behaviors in relation to a constellation of psychosocial characteristics, prepregnancy body habitus, and gestational weight gain. Participants One hundred-thirty women with low-risk, normal pregnancies. Design Cross-sectional, observational study assessed attitudes about weight gain at 36 weeks' gestation. Psychosocial characteristics, including anxiety, depression, social support, emotionality, and pregnancy-specific and nonspecific stress appraisal were assessed between 28 and 36 weeks' gestation. Statistical analyses performed Principal components factor analysis, Pearson correlations, t tests, and analysis of variance. Result A range of positive and negative attitudes about weight gain was expressed. Twenty-one percent (n=27) of the sample endorsed at least one weight-restrictive behavior during pregnancy. Women who reported more weight-restrictive behaviors were more anxious (r=.24, P<.01), depressed (r=.29, P<.001), angry (r=.29, P<.001), stressed (r=.23, P<.01), and felt less uplifted (r=-.21, P<.05) about their pregnancies in general. Higher Positive Pregnancy Body Image scores were associated with feeling better about the pregnancy in general (r=.35, P<.001), fewer depressive symptoms, and less anger (both r=.20, both P<.01). Women who were self conscious about their weight gain felt more hassled by their pregnancies (r=.21, P<.05), greater anger (r=.21, P<.05), and more support from partners (r=.22, P<.05). Prepregnancy body mass index was unrelated, but negative attitudes about weight gain existed even among women who gained within recommended ranges. Conclusion Women's attitudes about weight gain in pregnancy are imbedded in their orientation toward pregnancy as well as their general psychological functioning. Effective nutrition counseling for pregnant women should include consideration of weight-restrictive behaviors, the degree to which the pregnancy is perceived as positive and uplifting, and whether weight gain attitudes may be associated with their relationship with a spouse or partner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1314-1319
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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