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Obesity and Mental Disorders During Pregnancy

Pregnant-womanAntenatal mental disorders and obesity are both risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes. Evidence from non-pregnant women suggests that obesity and mental disorders may be associated, but there has been limited research investigating the relationships between these factors during pregnancy. This mixed methods PhD project will therefore investigate the associations between obesity and mental disorders during pregnancy.

The current literature on the prevalence of mental disorders among obese pregnant women will be systematically reviewed and a meta-analysis performed if sufficient high quality studies are identified. A second systematic review will be carried out to examine the current evidence for the association between antenatal mental disorders and adequacy of gestational weight gain.

Epidemiological analyses of the ALSPAC and SCOPE cohorts will be used to further examine the relationship between obesity and antenatal depression/anxiety, and to investigate the associations of these factors with diet quality during pregnancy and obstetric outcomes. The ALSPAC study is a longitudinal cohort which recruited nearly 15,000 women in early pregnancy. SCOPE is an international cohort of 5,500 pregnant women investigating risk factors for late pregnancy complications.

The effect of depression on engagement and outcome in a weight management programme will be examined through analysis of outcomes in UPBEAT, a complex intervention including diet and exercise advice for obese pregnant women. Qualitative interviews will be carried out exploring obese pregnant women’s experiences regarding their weight and mood during pregnancy.

Who is involved?

This PhD is being carried out by Emma Molyneaux, under the supervision of Professor Louise Howard, Professor in Women’s Mental Health, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist and Head of the Section of Women’s Mental Health, and Professor Lucilla Poston, Tommy’s Professor of Maternal and Foetal Health and Head of the Division of Women’s Health, King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre. 

The PhD is funded by a Medical Research Council studentship and by Tommy’s charity.

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