The influence of psychological factors on postpartum weight retention 12 months post-birth

Rhian Collings, Briony Hill, Helen Skouteris

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Background During the first postpartum year 20% of women retain excessive weight from pregnancy (postpartum weight retention; PPWR), which predicts long-term overweight/obesity. Objective The aim of this study was to explore the associations between psychological factors (depression, anxiety and stress symptoms and body attitudes) in late gestation and at 12-months postpartum with PPWR one-year post-birth. Methods Pregnant women (N = 176) completed questionnaires in early–mid pregnancy (Time 1; mean (SD) = 16.97 (1.35) weeks), late pregnancy (Time 2; mean (SD) = 33.33 (2.05) weeks), and one year postpartum (Time 3; mean (SD) = 53.12 (3.34) weeks). Women provided demographic characteristics, height and pre-pregnancy weight at Time 1. At Times 2 and 3, weight, depressive, anxiety and stress symptoms and body attitudes (salience of weight and shape, attractiveness, feeling fat, and strength and fitness) were assessed in addition to physiological, socio-contextual and lifestyle factors. Gestational weight gain and PPWR were calculated. Hierarchical linear regression models were conducted to explore variance in 12-month PPWR. Results Overall, models explained 26–39% variance in PPWR. Gestational weight gain in late pregnancy and low attractiveness at 12 months postpartum were the only variables associated significantly with 12-month PPWR. Conclusion While psychological factors did not appear to be important direct contributors to PPWR at 12 months, the overall contribution of all variables suggests that such factors may be implicated in a small and incremental way. Exploration of the interactions between variables will help unpack potential mechanisms of the development of PPWR at 12 months post-birth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-191
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • body dissatisfaction
  • depressive symptoms
  • gestational weight gain
  • Postpartum weight retention

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