There is a need to develop weight management interventions that fit seamlessly into the busy lives of women during the postpartum period.
The objective was to develop and pilot-test an evidence- and theory-based intervention, delivered by short message service, which supported weight loss and weight loss maintenance in the postpartum period.
Stage 1 involved the development of a library of short message service messages to support weight loss and weight loss maintenance, with personal and public involvement, focusing on diet and physical activity with embedded behaviour change techniques, and the programming of a short message service platform to allow fully automated intervention delivery. Stage 2 comprised a 12-month, single-centre, two-arm, pilot, randomised controlled trial with an active control.
This study was set in Northern Ireland; women were recruited via community-based approaches.
A total of 100 women with overweight or obesity who had given birth in the previous 24 months were recruited.
The intervention group received an automated short message service intervention about weight loss and weight loss maintenance for 12 months. The active control group received automated short message service messages about child health and development for 12 months.
Main outcome measures
The main outcomes measured were the feasibility of recruitment and retention, acceptability of the intervention and trial procedures, and evidence of positive indicative effects on weight. Weight, waist circumference and blood pressure were measured by the researchers; participants completed a questionnaire booklet and wore a sealed pedometer for 7 days at baseline, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. Outcome assessments were collected during home visits and women received a voucher on completion of each of the assessments. Qualitative interviews were conducted with women at 3 and 12 months, to gather feedback on the intervention and active control and the study procedures. Quantitative and qualitative data were used to inform the process evaluation and to assess fidelity, acceptability, dose, reach, recruitment, retention, contamination and context.
The recruitment target of 100 participants was achieved (intervention, n = 51; control, n = 49); the mean age was 32.5 years (standard deviation 4.3 years); 28 (28%) participants had a household income of < £29,999 per annum. Fifteen women became pregnant during the follow-up (intervention, n = 9; control, n = 6) and withdrew from the study for this reason. At the end of the 12-month study, the majority of women remained in the study [85.7% (36/42) in the intervention group and 90.7% (39/43) in the active control group]. The research procedures were well accepted by women. Both groups indicated a high level of satisfaction with the short message service intervention that they were receiving. There was evidence to suggest that the intervention may have a positive effect on weight loss and prevention of weight gain during the postpartum period.
The interviews at 3 and 12 months were conducted by the same researchers who collected other outcome data.
An evidence- and theory-based intervention delivered by short message service was successfully developed in conjunction with postpartum women with overweight and obesity. The intervention was acceptable to women and was feasible to implement in the 12-month pilot randomised controlled trial. The progression criteria for a full randomised controlled trial to examine effectiveness and cost-effectiveness were met.