Academic journal article ABNF Journal

An Examination of Postpartum African American Adolescents' Sociocultural Beliefs, Perceptions of Body Weight, and Weight Control Behaviors

Academic journal article ABNF Journal

An Examination of Postpartum African American Adolescents' Sociocultural Beliefs, Perceptions of Body Weight, and Weight Control Behaviors

Article excerpt

Abstract: Obesity presents a public health challenge and is a serious chronic medical condition that is associated with multiple co-morbidities and reduced survivability/longevity. African American adolescents who retain weight after pregnancy are at the highest risk of becoming obese adults. Obesity is associated with 300,000 deaths per year and expected to cost the U.S. health care system over 237 million dollars within the next decade. The prevalence of obesity is cause for concern because of its economic costs and its toll in human suffering due to related morbidity and mortality. This study seeks to understand the meaning or essence of the lived experience of obesity among postpartum African American adolescents based on a literature review indicating the need for such a qualitative research. Understanding the influence of their developmental stage, sociocultural perceptions, and perceptions of postpartum weight retention could help develop population-specific interventions that could reduce the health risk of obesity.

Key Words: Postpartum Weight Retention, Obesity, African American Adolescents, Weight Control

Obesity is a public health problem that has reached epidemic proportions in the United States; more than 300,000 deaths each year are associated with it (Blixen, Singh, & Thacker, 2006; CDC, 2008a). Currently, more than 50% of the U.S. population is at least overweight, and approximately 20% are extremely obese (CDC, 2008b). Within the next decade, the escalating rate of obesity is expected to cost our health care system over 237 million dollars (National Institutes of Health, 2011).

The rising cost of obesity provides a rationale for critically examining the weight retention of women after childbirth. Childbearing is a causative factor in obesity, as women may gain weight, become overweight, or even obese by failing to lose weight gained during their pregnancy (Davis, Stange, & Horwitz, 2010; Groth & David, 2008; Kinnunen et al., 2007; Sarwer, Allison, Gibbons, Markowitz, & Nelson, 2006; Siega-Riz et al., 2009). In addition, subsequent pregnancies place these women at greater risk for retaining weight (Davis, Zyzanski, Olson, Stange, & Horwitz, 2009; Mottola, 2009; Setse et al., 2007). Studies have shown that pregnant women whose weight remained 14% to 20% above their pre-pregnancy weight during their postpartum period are at an elevated risk of developing later health problems (Davis & Olson, 2009; Walker, 2007). Subsequently, this weight retention places these young mothers at risk for morbidities and mortalities secondary to hypertension, diabetes, and other illnesses related to obesity (Gunderson, 2009; Kinnunen et al., 2007; Mottola, 2009; Schmitt, Nicholson, & Schmitt, 2007). Moreover, postpartum African American women have been acknowledged among other ethnic groups as having the highest risk for postpartum weight retention (Carter-Edwards et al" 2008; Davis, et al., 2009; Vaughan, Sacco, & Beckstead, 2008).

African American adolescent mothers are at the greatest risk of any ethnic group for retaining weight gained during pregnancy (Briley, 2006; Davis & Olson, 2009; Groth, 2007; Haire-Joshu, Schwartz, Budd, Yount, & Lapka, 2010; Thame, Jackson, Manswell, Osmond, & Antoine, 2009). Studies have shown that multiple factors contribute to postpartum weight retention among these adolescents (Blixen et al., 2006; Groth & David, 2008). However, few, if any, studies have addressed the sociocultural beliefs and perceptions of body weight that influence weight control behaviors relevant to postpartum weight reduction in African American adolescent mothers , ages 13 to 19.


Electronic searches were conducted using the following databases: CINAHL PLUS, JSTOR (Arts & Science I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII Collections), ScienceDirect, and PubMed, as well as the references in the selected studies reviewed. Thus, 236 studies were located using the key words 'postpartum and weight retention. …

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