Date of Conferral







Hedy R. Dexter


The intention-behavior gap between receiving professional health information and transitioning to improved health behaviors prior to conception is not well understood. In order to improve preconception health across the board, a more integrative understanding of the problem must present itself. This study combined elements from the theory of planned behavior, self-determination theory, and the bioecological model of human development as it's foundation. Qualitative phenomenology and semistructured face-to-face interviews were used to gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which nine overweight and obese women described preconception intentions and beliefs and the bioecological experiences leading to those beliefs. Interpretation of the results suggested socio-environmental conditions that affect the development of beliefs, intentions, and attitudes toward preconception health. Key discoveries regarding planning intention and behavior included laissez faire attitudes toward preconception planning, advice-seeking methods, perceived need to change behaviors, and ability to navigate the healthcare system and social programs. Future recommendations include using the more complex bioecological view to improve the global preconception health imperative. This study's potential for positive social change includes opportunities to hold important conversations about preconception health by disseminating study results locally and the expansion of knowledge in a field dedicated to the improvement of women and infant health worldwide through publication.