Prevention of unhealthy weight gain in families in pregnancy and postpartum using a mHealth-enhanced intervention

The overall objective is to prevent unhealthy weight gain and body composition during pregnancy and in the postpartum period in vulnerable families (e.g., families on state benefit, single mothers). Specifically, we aim: 1) To develop an intervention that is acceptable for vulnerable families and feasible to use for midwives (and other professionals working with families in the postpartum period), 2) To evaluate the effectiveness of this intervention in the prevention of unhealthy weight gain and psychological problems of the individual family members (mother, father, child), 3) To assess which factors are important for unhealthy weight gain in mother, father, and child.

Work plan
In the development phase of the project, two existing interventions were adapted and aligned. The first is a smartphone-based intervention for overweight and obesity, and the second a lifestyle counselling intervention, based on motivational interviewing (this is a supportive way of talking about lifestyle changes). In addition, tools for the measurement of weight gain, body composition, lifestyle behaviour, psychological factors were selected and adapted. In the intervention phase, two trials studies will be conducted (in Germany and Austria), to evaluate the effectiveness of the two adapted interventions, alone or together, in the prevention of unhealthy weight gain. The target group consists of vulnerable families, and the intervention addresses the lifestyle of both mother and father, and the interaction between parents and their child.

Expected impact
Our target group is hard to reach, is often burdened by multiple risk factors (e.g., psychological issues), and has the highest risk of unhealthy weight gain in pregnancy and postpartum period. Also, their children have the highest risk of becoming overweight or obese. Therefore, in this group most health benefits can be gained, and developing an intervention strategy specifically designed for this target group is extremely relevant and important. The parents receive support for developing positive parent-child interactions, which will have long-term beneficial effects for the (weight) development of their children. The study adds knowledge on health development, acceptance and impact of mHealth prevention strategies in our target population. To evaluate the interventions in two different countries, with different health care systems, will provide essential information on the effectiveness in different contexts, which is important for further improvement of the interventions.


Partner Organization Partner Country
Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg (OFU) Germany
Deutsches Jugendinstitut e.V. (DJI) Germany
Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Department of Movement and Sport Sciences Belgium


The project has just finished the phase of developing the App and counselling interventions, and started with the recruitment for the trials.

However, the results from interviews conducted in Belgium with 74 expecting mothers and fathers are available. In the interviews, they were asked: 1) whether an intervention targeting unhealthy changes in physical activity and nutrition during pregnancy and the postpartum period would be acceptable; 2) how such an intervention should look like; 3) in which way (incl. through which channels) they want to be guided and supported to make healthier lifestyle choices; 4) during which period (pregnancy, postpartum) they needed the most support; and 5) how they would give support to expecting couples when (hypothetically) being a caregiver themselves. Their answers told us that they would prefer a couple- and family-based intervention and would value professional support. Content-wise the intervention should focus on clear nutrition and PA guidelines and on improving self-regulation skills.

These results have been published in the first paper of the project (Versele et al.; Recommendations for the Development of Family-Based Interventions Aiming to Prevent Unhealthy Changes in Energy Balance-Related Behavior during the Transition to Parenthood: A Focus Group Study. Nutrients 2022, 14,2346. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14112346 ). The results have been used in the further development of the interventions.

Communication and Dissemination Activities

Title: Recommendations for the Development of Family-Based Interventions Aiming to Prevent Unhealthy Changes in Energy Balance-Related Behavior during the Transition to Parenthood: A Focus Group Study.
Author: Versele, V*.; Deforche, B.; Aerenhouts, D.; Clarys, P.; Devlieger, R.; Bogaerts, A.; Liel, C*.; Löchner, J*.; Wolstein, J.*; van Poppel, M.*; Deliens T.*
Magazine: doi.org/10.3390/ nu14112346
Link: https://hdhl-zonmw.prerelease.betawerk.eu/sites/hdhl/files/2023-11/I-PREGNO-633417858daed_prephobes-annual-form-part-B-final.pdf 

Target groupAuthorsMeans of communicationLink
JPI Project leaders and JPIM van Poppel, J Wolstein, T Deliens, J Löchner. I-PREGNO Project. PREPHOBES kick-off meeting, May 3rd, 2021Online presentation.Download


Project number:
Duration: 100%
Duration: 100 %
Related funding round:
Project lead and secretary:
Mireille van Poppel
Responsible organisation:
University of Graz, Austria