Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Feleta Wilson


Background: Obesity presents a public health challenge and is a serious chronic medical condition, which is associated with multiple co-morbidities and reduced survivability/longevity (Davis, Stange, & Howitz, 2010). African American adolescents who retain weight after pregnancy are at the highest risk of becoming obese adults. Obesity is expected to cost the United States health care system over 237 million dollars (National Institutes of health, 2011) within the next decade.

The prevalence of obesity is cause for concern because of its costs to the economic base of the country and its toll in human suffering due to related morbidity and mortality. Over 300,000 deaths in the United States each year are associated with obesity (Blixen, Singh, & Thacker, 2006; Centers for Disease Control, 2008). No studies have attempted to understand the lived experience of this phenomenon among postpartum African American adolescents.

Purpose: This mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) research examined the essence of weight retention among 10 postpartum African American adolescents (ages 18-19) from their perspective. The study sought to understand the meaning of the lived experience of this population. Understanding the influence of their developmental stage, sociocultural perceptions, and perceptions of postpartum weight retention would enable the development of population-specific interventions.

Methods: Max Van Manen's phenomenological approach was used. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews, a demographic data form, and administration of the Reese Body Image Scale to determine the adolescents' perception of their postpartum weight retention. The inclusion criteria consisted of postpartum African American adolescents (ages 18-19) who had retained postpartum weight, received a least one prenatal visit, and delivered a single-term birth. A purposive sample was recruited from Metropolitan Detroit area clinics, doctors' offices, and community centers.

Method of analysis: The primary investigator individually analyzed the interview data from audio-taped transcripts and observation notes, looking for significant statements, sentences, words, or quotes. The data were coded and member-checking was done to verify the final three themes that emerged: being confident about their body (and weight) before their pregnancy, being insecure about it during their pregnancy, and being overwhelmed by it after their pregnancy.

Findings: The adolescents' knowledge of their weight gain and expected losses after pregnancy were unrealistic. Some of the participants thought that once they gave birth their bodies would automatically return to their pre-pregnant weight. On the other hand, some knew they might not lose all the weight they had gained but hoped it would just go away eventually, or they would do something about it when they had more time. When asked how they felt about their body weight before during and after pregnancy, the participants had no problems with their weight before their pregnancy, but either complained of gaining too much during pregnancy or not losing all the weight they had gained once their baby was born. They attributed this weight retention to their busy schedules of caring for self and infant.

Conclusion: The initial findings from this study will assist in understanding the factors and barriers related to weight control behaviors related to the obesity epidemic that affects postpartum African American adolescents. Further studies to examine the meaning and essence of the experience of weight retention among postpartum African American adolescents are essential in order to develop culturally appropriate weight-loss interventions for this population. Nurses and healthcare providers can utilize the findings from this study to initiate evidence-based practice to increase weight control behaviors in this population. An increase in weight control behaviors will assist in the reduction of the obesity in postpartum African American adolescents with weight retention.

Included in

Nursing Commons