Improving pregnant women's diet and physical activity behaviours: the emergent role of health identity.
Morris T., Strömmer S., Vogel C., Harvey NC., Cooper C., Inskip H., Woods-Townsend K., Baird J., Barker M., Lawrence W.
BACKGROUND: Women who gain too much weight in pregnancy are at increased risk of disease and of having children with increased risk. Interventions to improve health behaviours are usually designed for a general population of pregnant women, and trial outcomes show an average impact that does not represent the differences between individuals. To inform the development of future interventions, this study explored the factors that influenced women's diet and physical activity during pregnancy and aimed to identify the needs of these women with regards to lifestyle support. METHODS: Women who completed a trial of vitamin D supplementation and nurse support in pregnancy were invited to take part in an interview. Seventeen women were interviewed about their lifestyles during pregnancy, the support they had, and the support they wanted. Interview transcripts were coded thematically and analysed to understand the factors that influenced the diets and physical activity levels of these women and their engagement with resources that could provide support. RESULTS: Women identified barriers to eating well or being physically active, and pregnancy-specific issues like nausea and pain were common. Women's interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and their engagement with lifestyle support was related to the extent to which they self-identified as healthy people. Health-disengaged women were disinterested in talking about their lifestyles while health-focused women did not feel that they needed extra support. Women between these ends of the 'health identity' spectrum were interested in improving their health, and were able to identify barriers as well as sources of support. CONCLUSIONS: Lifestyle interventions in pregnancy should be adapted to meet the needs of individuals with different health identities, and encouraging a change in health identity may be one way of supporting sustained change in health behaviours.