Testing a smartphone app to help mothers with diabetes stay active

Dr Sara White, Prof Lucilla Poston, Lucy Mackillop, Dr Ralph Smith, Dr Pam Dyson, Prof Susan Jebb, Dr Jane Hirst, Ms Yvonne Kenworthy, Ms Nicola Wango

Exercise can help to reduce the effects of diabetes during pregnancy, but many mothers find it difficult to stay active. Our researchers are testing whether a smartphone app could help mothers to stay physically active, and so reduce the risk of health problems for themselves and their baby.

Why do we need this research?

Developing diabetes during pregnancy, also known as gestational diabetes, can lead to health problems for both mother and baby. We know that getting more exercise can help mothers to control their diabetes, helping to reduce the risks to their baby, and improve their long-term health.

However, pregnant mothers can find it difficult to stay physically active during pregnancy, because of tiredness, isolation, or a lack of motivation. We need to find better ways to help mothers with diabetes stay active during pregnancy which take these barriers into account.

What’s happening in this project?

A smartphone app called GDm‑Health is being used across the NHS to help mothers with gestational diabetes to monitor their glucose levels during pregnancy. Researchers funded by Tommy’s want to understand whether this app could also be useful to help mothers stay physically active during pregnancy too.

To do this, our researchers will test an updated version of the GDm‑Health app which includes a programme called ‘Stay Active’. The Stay Active programme has been developed with input from women with gestational diabetes. It uses several techniques which are proven to help people change their behaviour, such as setting goals, self-monitoring, and motivational feedback.

In this initial pilot study, our researchers will assess whether women with gestational diabetes find the Stay Active programme useful. This will enable the team at a later date to study whether it helps women increase the amount of exercise they do.

What difference will this project make?

This project will help us find new ways to help women with gestational diabetes to stay physically active during pregnancy. Doing so could help mothers reduce the risks of health problems for themselves and their baby.

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