Dr Jessica Gehlert
Royal Darwin Hospital 


Nutrition in Pregnancy: A Northern Territory Provider Perspective
Gehlert JEK1, Jeyaraman K1, Whitbread C1,2, Kirkham R2, Connors C3, Simmonds A2, O’Dea K4, Maple-Brown LJ1,2
1Department of Endocrinology, Royal Darwin Hospital, Darwin, Australia
2Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, Australia
3Top End Health Service, NT Department of Health, Darwin, Australia
4University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

Background: Maternal obesity, excessive gestational weight gain and diabetes are high-risk obstetric complications. The antenatal period provides an opportunity for nutritional education that may improve pregnancy outcomes.

Aims: To assess health professionals’ understanding of nutrition in pregnancy, particularly for women with diabetes, and the utilisation of local nutrition resources.

Methods: An 11 item questionnaire was distributed to Northern Territory (NT) health professionals involved in the care of pregnant women. For those who provide nutritional advice, confidence level was self-reported on a numerical scale of 1-10. Those who do not provide nutritional advice could include reasons. Statistical analysis was performed using Stata/IC version 14.1.

Results: Eighty-two questionnaires were completed by midwives (47.6%), medical practitioners (14.6%), diabetes educators (12.2%), nurses (9.8%), dietitians (8.5%) and Aboriginal health practitioners (2.4%). Eighty-nine percent provide nutritional information to pregnant women; 75.6% use their organisation’s recommended resources. The mean confidence rating when discussing nutritional requirements of pregnancy was 6.3±1.9, with the majority (87.8%) reasonably confident or more. Those who do not use the recommended resources reported lack of awareness of such resources.  A similar number of respondents (85.2%) provide nutritional advice to women who have diabetes in pregnancy, compared to advice to general pregnant women (89.0%). However, the mean confidence rating for discussing carbohydrate types and amounts was lower (5.5±2.3). Sixty-seven percent of respondents were reasonably confident in providing carbohydrate education, vs. 87.8% of respondents being confident discussing general nutritional requirements of pregnancy (p=0.007). Eighty-five percent discussed weight gain, however, only 53.7% monitor weight each antenatal visit.

Conclusion: The majority of surveyed NT health professionals provide nutritional advice to pregnant women and discuss weight gain, but reported less confidence providing nutritional advice to pregnant women with diabetes. We are working to improve the availability and access to culturally appropriate nutrition in pregnancy resources in the NT.