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A qualitative study exploring pregnant women's weight-related attitudes and beliefs in UK: the BLOOM study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Nicola HeslehurstORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Background: There is little information on the individual cognitive, perceptual and psychosocial factors that influence the lifestyle behaviours of pregnant women. This study explored pregnant women's weight-related attitudes and beliefs during pregnancy.Methods: Nineteen pregnant women with different pre-pregnancy BMIs and in their third trimester were purposefully sampled for face-to-face interviews. Topics covered included lifestyles, sources of information, feelings about their bodies, and level of control over themselves and their bodies. Systematic thematic content analysis was used to identify recurrent themes.Results: Women perceived their bodies as fragmented into 'my pregnancy' (the bump) and 'me' (rest of my body). This fragmentation was the key driver of their weight-related attitudes and beliefs and influenced their dietary and physical activity behaviours. Consuming healthy foods was necessary for 'my pregnancy' to provide the ideal gestational environment. Simultaneously, pregnancy was perceived as a time to relax previously set rigid rules around diet and physical activity, allowing women to consume unhealthy foods and lead sedentary lifestyles. Women faced emotional conflicts between limiting weight gain for 'me', and being perceived as acting morally by gaining enough weight for 'baby'. Although 'bump' related weight gain was acceptable, weight gain in other parts of their body was viewed negatively and implied lack of self-control. Conflict was often alleviated, and weight-related behaviours validated, by seeking practical and reputable information for weight management. Women felt that their midwives provided detailed information on what they should not do during pregnancy, but were rarely given information about what they should do in relation to diet and physical activity for weight management. Consequently, women often used information from a variety of sources which they filtered using 'common sense'.Conclusions: This study has identified that a central concept to pregnant women's diet and physical activity beliefs during pregnancy is the fragmentation of self into 'me' and 'my pregnancy'. This fragmentation influenced beliefs about diet and physical activity, and control and acceptability of gestation weight gain on different parts of the body. Future interventions and antenatal care should take this fragmentation into consideration when providing pregnant women with advice, information and support relating to their diet and physical activity behaviours.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Padmanabhan U, Summerbell CD, Heslehurst N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Pregnancy and Birth

Year: 2015

Volume: 15

Online publication date: 22/04/2015

Acceptance date: 30/03/2015

Date deposited: 20/04/2016

ISSN (print): 1471-2393

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.


DOI: 10.1186/s12884-015-0522-3


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