Parenting stress affects postpartum lifestyle of new moms: Study

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WASHINGTON - Georgia Health Sciences University researchers say that post-pregnancy excess weight is likely caused by the impact of new parenthood stress on physical activity.

In order to emphasize the probable correlation between new parenthood stress and physical activity, the researchers analysed 60 first-time mothers.

They then linked higher post-pregnancy BMI to a combination of a high BMI before pregnancy, excessive weight gain during pregnancy, parenting stress and a sedentary lifestyle.

The parental stress was gauged by asking study subjects whether they felt like having less time for themselves and if they enjoyed being a parent.

They were also made to recall their physical activity over the previous 24 hours, dividing that activity from light to vigorous.

“Sedentary lifestyle, or a low amount of physical activity, was most influenced by the type of parenting stress the mothers reported,” said Deborah Young-Hyman, behavioural psychologist with the Georgia Prevention Institute.

“More parenting stress, especially depression, was associated with less physical activity and a higher postpartum BMI,” she added.

Interestingly, the researchers found that social interaction, generally considered a measure of well being, is correlated with a higher BMI.

“We think women are socializing with their friends, not isolating themselves, but they are doing sedentary things like talking on the phone, watching television or hanging out at home, instead of taking their babies on a walk together,” said Young-Hyman.

New mothers with a higher BMI apparently endured more depressive symptoms, but overall felt competent as parents.

Those with lower BMIs reported more physical activity and had less depressive symptoms.

“We know that physical activity improves your mood and helps you lose weight, but no one has ever asked how physical activity is related to parenting stress in first-time moms,” Young-Hyman said.

“The bottom line is that parenting stress does impact the postpartum lifestyles of new moms,” she said.

The study is published in Women and Health. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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