Maternal Conception of Gestational Weight Gain Among Latinas: A Qualitative Study

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Objective: Interventions to support healthy gestational weight gain are often ineffective. The objective was to develop a model of how pregnant Latinas—who have a higher risk of poor maternal and neonatal weight-related outcomes—conceptualize healthy gestational weight gain, providing guidance for future interventions. Method: Ten focus groups with 50 pregnant Latinas were conducted by a native Spanish-speaking female moderator. On the basis of participant responses, we used grounded theory to inductively develop a personal conceptual framework for gestational weight gain. Results: Commonly identified barriers to being active and healthy eating included negative emotions, body image, physical discomfort, low energy, and lack of motivation. Women identified sociocultural issues such as a sense of isolation from family (among immigrants) and the degree of perceived social support as important contributors to health behaviors. Two personal health schemas emerged from participant responses. The “mother–child health schema” describes the degree to which participants recognized the interrelatedness of health needs for baby and for themselves. The “attention to gestational weight gain schema” describes how a respondent’s attention to and perceived importance of gestational weight gain influences health-related behaviors during pregnancy. Conclusions: Women’s sociocultural and interpersonal context influence weight-related behaviors through the lens of personal health schemas. Understanding how cognitive aspects relate to traditional behavioral determinants suggests several opportunities for intervention, such as focusing on healthy behaviors instead of numerical targets for healthy weight gain. Although derived from Spanish-speaking Latin-American women, these results may also be potential leverage points for other minority groups.

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