Relationship between attitudes toward weight gain and nutritional status in pregnant teenagers in a federally funded nutrition program
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The pregnant adolescent is viewed as a high-risk individual due to her vulnerability to social, emotional, and biological stresses of pregnancy and adolescence and is therefore highly susceptible to suboptimum pregnancy outcome. Previous studies have not particularly considered the actual role that attitudes toward prenatal weight gain play in determining pregnancy outcome. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which attitudes toward prenatal weight gain and body image influence pregnancy outcome among pregnant adolescents. Forty-eight adolescent girls utilizing the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and other obstetrical clinics participated in the study. Participants were contacted in person at the clinics and were asked to complete a two-part assessment questionnaire on the premises. The first part requested demographic information and other information including attitudes toward weight gain recommendations. The second part consisted of selected sections taken from the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI), a multiscale measure designed to assess psychological traits associated with eating disorders. Individual attitude scores were calculated and total prenatal weight gain for each subject was determined upon delivery. Analyses were performed to identify possible correlations between attitude scores and total prenatal weight gain. When allowing a ± 10% range for each subject's recommended (calculated) prenatal weight gain, only 6 out of the 48 subjects gained an appropriate amount of weight and thus were believed to experience a positive pregnancy outcome. More than half of the total sample (51.4%) expressed the desire to gain less weight than that recommended for their pregnancy, with most of the remaining sample (40.5%) being in agreement with the recommendations they received. No strong correlation was seen between an individual's prenatal weight gain and attitude score (r = 0.20; p = .09), with a weak but significant relationship being detected. Thus, attitudes could not be associated with total prenatal weight gain. It is recommended that further studies in this area be performed, perhaps with the inclusion of diet recalls to obtain information on nutritional adequacy. It is also suggested that individual racial groups be considered to determine the potential for cultural influence on attitudes observed in this study.