Preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and later risk of cardiovascular disease: Women's experiences and motivation for lifestyle changes explored in focus group interviews

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019 Nov 27;19(1):448. doi: 10.1186/s12884-019-2591-1.


Background: Preeclampsia (PE) and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) are both associated with increased risk of future cardiovascular disease (CVD). Knowledge of the relationship between these pregnancy complications and increased CVD risk enables early prevention through lifestyle changes. This study aimed to explore women's experiences with PE and/or GDM, and their motivation and need for information and support to achieve lifestyle changes.

Methods: Systematic text condensation was used for thematic analysis of meaning and content of data from five focus group interviews with 17 women with PE and/or GDM, with a live birth between January 2015 and October 2017.

Results: This study provides new knowledge of how women with GDM and/or PE experience pregnancy complications in a Nordic healthcare model. It reveals the support they want and the important motivating factors for lifestyle change. We identified six themes: Trivialization of the diagnosis during pregnancy; Left to themselves to look after their own health; The need to process the shock before making lifestyle changes (severe PE); A desire for information about future disease risk and partner involvement; Practical solutions in a busy life with a little one, and; Healthcare professionals can reinforce the turning point. The women with GDM wanted healthcare professionals to motivate them to continue the lifestyle changes introduced during pregnancy. Those with severe PE felt a need for individualized care to ensure that they had processed their traumatic labor experiences before making lifestyle changes. Participants wanted their partner to be routinely involved to ensure a joint understanding of the need for lifestyle changes. Motivation for lifestyle changes in pregnancy was linked to early information and seeing concrete results.

Conclusions: Women with PE and GDM have different experiences of diagnosis and treatment, which will affect the follow-up interventions to reduce future CVD risk through lifestyle change. For GDM patients, lifestyle changes in pregnancy should be reinforced and continued postpartum. Women with PE should be informed by their general practitioner after birth, and given a plan for lifestyle change. Those with severe PE will need help in processing the trauma, and stress management should be routinely offered.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Gestational diabetes mellitus; Preeclampsia; Prevention; women’s health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diabetes, Gestational / etiology
  • Diabetes, Gestational / psychology*
  • Directive Counseling
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Healthy Lifestyle*
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Motivation*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / etiology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Risk Factors