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Potential for a Stress Reduction Intervention to Promote Healthy Gestational Weight Gain: Focus Groups with Low-Income Pregnant Women



Prepregnancy body mass index and excessive gestational weight gain (GWG) are associated with adverse maternal and infant outcomes. Because stress contributes to obesity and eating behaviors, stress reduction interventions during pregnancy may be a novel way to influence GWG, positively affect maternal and infant outcomes, and address the obesity epidemic intergenerationally.


Our research team is developing a mindfulness-based stress reduction and nutrition intervention for low-income, overweight and obese pregnant women, with healthy GWG as the primary outcome measure. To inform development of the intervention, we conducted focus groups with our target population. Focus group transcripts were analyzed for themes related to sources and importance of stress, relationship between stress and eating, and motivation for a stress reduction pregnancy intervention.


Fifty-nine low-income pregnant women from the San Francisco Bay Area participated in focus groups and completed a questionnaire. The vast majority of women (80%) reported experiencing significant stress from a variety of sources and most recognized a relationship between stress and eating in their lives.


This at-risk population seems to be extremely interested in a stress reduction intervention to support healthy GWG during pregnancy. The women in our groups described high levels of stress and a desire for programs beyond basic dietary recommendations. These findings inform practitioners and policymakers interested in pregnancy as a "window of opportunity" for behavior change that can affect the metabolic and weight trajectory both for women and their offspring.

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