Objective: To assess the effectiveness of dietary with or without physical activity interventions to prevent excessive weight gain in pregnancy and explore the factors that influence intervention effectiveness.\ud \ud Design: Systematic review, including a meta-analysis of controlled trials of interventions to prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy and a thematic synthesis of qualitative studies that investigated the views of women on weight management during pregnancy.\ud \ud Data sources: Eleven electronic bibliographic databases, reference list of included studies, relevant review articles and experts in the field.\ud \ud Review methods: Two independent reviewers extracted data. RevMan software was used to perform the meta-analyses. Qualitative data was subject to thematic analysis. Both quantitative and qualitative data were aligned using a matrix framework. \ud \ud Results: Five controlled trials and nine qualitative studies were included. The overall pooled effect size found no significant difference in gestational weight gain amongst participants in the interventions group compared with the control group (mean difference -1.88kg CI -4.34 to 0.59). The study designs, participants and interventions all varied markedly and there was significant heterogeneity within this comparison in the meta-analysis (I2 76%). Subgroup and sensitivity analysis did not identify contextual elements that influenced the effectiveness of the intervention.\ud \ud In a thematic analysis of the qualitative studies, three major themes emerged relating to women’s views of weight management in pregnancy; pregnancy as a time of transition and change, conflicting and contradictory messages, a perceived lack of control. When the results of both quantitative and qualitative data were aligned it was clear that some of the barriers that women described in achieving healthy weight gain in pregnancy were not addressed by the interventions evaluated. This may have contributed to the limited effectiveness of the interventions.\ud \ud Conclusions: Despite intense and often tailored interventions there was no statistically significant effect on weight gain during pregnancy. Inadequate and often contradictory information regarding healthy weight management was reported by women in qualitative studies and this was addressed in the interventions but in itself was insufficient to lead to reduced weight gain. Multiple types of interventions, including community based strategies, are needed to address this complex health problem
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