February 22, 2010

New Cornell University Study to Assist Pregnant Women in Weight Control

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Prof. Christine Olson, nutritional science, may have found a way to alleviate one of a woman’s biggest concerns about pregnancy and its aftermath.

“For many, losing weight can be particularly challenging,” Olson said. “It does seem like this weight sticks around.”

The solution, Olson says, is to manage weight carefully during pregnancy. With a five-year, $4.6-million grant from the National Institute of Health, Olson will research whether electronic communication, such as text and e-mail messages, can help women keep the weight down. Selected women for the study will receive periodic electronic messages that will remind them to eat healthy and exercise.

Gaining weight during pregnancy affects more than a woman’s psyche. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy often leads to diabetes and cardiovascular problems late in life.

“[The institute] sees this weight gain in young adulthood as the next frontier in the prevention of cardiovascular disease,” Olson said.

In addition, previous research shows that children born from mothers who managed their weight poorly during pregnancy are at a greater risk to suffer from weight-related problems themselves, according to Olson.

Olson believes that doctors currently do not do enough to maintain communication with their patients during pregnancy.

“If doctors do talk to women about how much weight they should gain, they are more likely to gain the appropriate amount of weight,” she said. “But the problem is that these recommendations aren’t used in practical care.”

Instead of electronic communication, Olson says that many women receive communication via print newsletters. These newsletters often have postcards that women can mail back with questions. Eighty-five percent of women replied to at least one of the newsletters they received. Olson said that this statistic shows that women have a desire to communicate about pregnancy that is not fully met.

Olson says that electronic communication can solve this problem because of its two-way nature.

“Throwing information at women isn’t going to solve the problem.” she said. “They have to be able to communicate back to us. They have to think that what they’re receiving is designed for them.”

Olson is looking into the subgroups of 3,500 women in the Rochester area and figuring out which methods of communication she is going to use. Her options, she said, include email, text message and Facebook, among others.

Prof. Kathleen Rasmussen, nutritional science, says that gaining weight during pregnancy is a lot like gaining weight normally.

“It’s basic stuff,” she said. “It’s the same as not getting too fat when you’re not pregnant.”

Rasmussen said that the key to maintaining optimal pregnancy weight is by eating a healthy diet and exercising. “The way that a woman can manage to gain too much weight is that she eats to much calorically or doesn’t exercise enough, or both,” she said.

According to Rasmussen, a potential key to keeping the optimal pregnancy weight lies in Olson’s research.

“Because so many women gain more weight during pregnancy than our guidelines recommend, they need a way of staying inside the guidelines,” Rasmussen said. “And that’s why we need Dr. Olson’s research.”

Original Author: Juan Forrer