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Jan. 22, 2003 -- No. 39

Public health study to examine relationship between pregnancy weight gain, weight retention

By WENDY TANSON
School of Public Health

CHAPEL HILL -- Lifestyle factors influencing pregnancy weight gain and postpartum weight loss are the subject of a new study being conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health.

The Postpartum PIN Ė or Pregnancy, Infection and Nutrition Ė Study will follow 1,200 women from early pregnancy to 12 months postpartum to assess how certain dietary, eating and physical activity behaviors might cause high weight gains and weight retention after delivery.

Dr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz, assistant professor of maternal and child health and of nutrition, a department jointly housed in the schools of public health and medicine, is principal investigator of the study, which is based at the Carolina Population Center. Support for the study was provided by a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a component of the National Institutes of Health.

Postpartum PIN is the first study to assess pregnancy weight gain and postpartum weight loss in a multiracial group in America. Data collection is now under way and will continue for four years.

"Little research had been done to examine factors that may influence high gestational weight gain and thus more postpartum weight retention," Siega-Riz said. "We are very interested in identifying these factors, because for women of childbearing age, gaining a lot of weight and not being able to take it off once the baby is born is a pathway to obesity later in life."

Study participants will be visited in their homes at three and 12 months after delivery. During these visits, they will be asked about their attitudes concerning dieting and weight changes, eating and exercise patterns after delivery, and how stress and anxiety affect those patterns. Participants will complete a food frequency questionnaire, and researchers will measure body weight and assess body fat.

Co-investigators of the study, all at UNCís School of Public Health, are Dr. Kelly Evenson, research assistant professor, and Dr. David A. Savitz, professor and chair, both of the department of epidemiology; Dr. Amy Herring, assistant professor of biostatistics; Dr. June Stevens, professor of epidemiology and of nutrition; and Dr. Nancy Dole, associate director of the Carolina Population Center and adjunct assistant professor of epidemiology.

Research associate professor Merry K. Moos and associate professor Dr. John M. Thorp Jr., both of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UNCís School of Medicine, complete the projectís research team.

The Postpartum PIN study also will gather information through focus groups, in-depth interviews and questionnaires about eating and exercise during pregnancy to further explore womenís interpretation of topics such as physical activity, healthy eating and weight loss during and after pregnancy. The researchers hope this information, along with that obtained from the home visits, will enable Siega-Riz and colleagues to develop intervention programs that help women gain weight appropriately during pregnancy and return to pre-pregnancy weight after delivery.

"The postpartum time period is one in which women donít often receive a lot of attention for themselves," said Siega-Riz. "We are very interested in supporting women during this time and hope through this study to identify potential avenues for intervention, to encourage appropriate weight gain and help women lose the weight once the baby is born."

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Note: Siega-Riz can be reached at (919) 962-8410 or am_siegariz@unc.edu. Evenson can be reached at (919) 966-4187 or kelly_evenson@unc.edu. Savitz can be reached at (919) 966-7427 or david_savitz@unc.edu.

UNC School of Public Health contact: Lisa Katz, (919) 966-7467 or lisa_katz@unc.edu

UNC News Services contact: Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415