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Newspaper media framing of obesity during pregnancy in the UK: A review and framework synthesis

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Nicola HeslehurstORCiD, Dr Shelina Visram



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


Two thirds of women report experiencing weight stigma during pregnancy. Newspaper media is powerful in framing health issues. This review synthesized UK newspaper media portrayal of maternal obesity. NexisUni was searched to identify newspaper articles, published January 2010 to May 2021, reporting content on obesity during pregnancy. Framework synthesis integrated quantitative and qualitative analysis of the content of articles. There were 442 articles included (59% tabloids and 41% broadsheets). Three overarching themes with interacting sub-themes were as follows: (1) Women were blamed for their weight, risks, and NHS impact. (2) Women were solely responsible for solving obesity, gendered from school age. (3) Women with obesity were a burden on individuals (e.g., themselves, their children, and health professionals), to society, and the NHS. Catastrophizing language framed the “problem,” “scale,” and “public health concern” of maternal obesity, emphasizing risk, and danger and was alarmist, aggressive, and violent as to elicit fear or devalue women. Articles platformed ‘expert’ voices rather than women's lived experiences. This review identified that UK newspaper media negatively frames and oversimplifies the topic of maternal obesity. Exposure to blaming and alarmist messaging could increase women's guilt, stigma, and internalized weight bias. The newspaper media should be harnessed to de-stigmatize maternal obesity and promote maternal well-being.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Heslehurst N, Evans EH, Incollingo Rodriguez AC, Nagpal TS, Visram S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Obesity Reviews

Year: 2022

Volume: 23

Issue: 12

Print publication date: 01/12/2022

Online publication date: 21/10/2022

Acceptance date: 05/10/2022

Date deposited: 03/02/2023

ISSN (print): 1467-7881

ISSN (electronic): 1467-789X

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/obr.13511


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