The researchers from the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust attended two expectant parent events at Mothercare in Cowley in late October to tell mothers-to-be about the key role that diet and exercise play in ensuring safer pregnancies and healthier babies, and to let them know about the ground-breaking research they are conducting, using digital technologies to optimise healthy weight during pregnancy.
One of the technological breakthroughs that they showcased was GDm-health plus, a smartphone app that helps women with gestational diabetes (GDM) to manage their condition at home, without the need to constantly come into hospital. The women monitor their own biomedical information, with real-time feedback and support from midwives and clinical staff.
The team, led by Dr Lucy Mackillop, Consultant Obstetric Physician and senior researcher for the Oxford BRC’s Obesity, Diet and Lifestyle Theme, met 67 women at the two Mothercare events, of whom 21 agreed to be contacted about patient involvement opportunities or to give feedback on research activities.
“They seemed really interested in diet and felt that an app that helped to advise them on nutrition would be useful,” Dr Mackillop said. “One woman was using the app as part of her current antenatal care and really liked it. Another woman had bought her own glucose meter as she felt this sort of monitoring would be good for women at risk of GDM, not just those with a confirmed diagnosis of GDM.”
The Chief Medical Officer’s 2015 annual report highlighted serious concerns about the effects of obesity in women before and during pregnancy. The recent increase in obesity among women of reproductive age not only influences their health, but also increases the risk of complications during pregnancy and is likely to compromise their children’s health.
“Our preliminary work shows that women are not fully aware of what healthy pregnancy weight gain is, the dietary choices they should be making and how much exercise is recommended during pregnancy,” Dr Mackillop explained.
The two events in Cowley were the first of a number of events the research team are planning to engage with women about having a health pregnancy and about the GDm-health plus app.