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Exploring obstetricians’, midwives’ and general practitioners’ approach to weight management in pregnant women with a BMI ≥25 kg/m2: a qualitative study
  1. Caragh Flannery1,2,
  2. Sheena McHugh2,
  3. Louise C Kenny3,
  4. Mairead N O’Riordan4,
  5. Fionnuala M McAuliffe5,
  6. Colin Bradley6,
  7. Patricia M Kearney2,
  8. Molly Byrne1
  1. 1 Health Behaviour Change Research Group, School of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
  2. 2 School of Public Health, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  3. 3 Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of Liverpool School of Life Sciences, Liverpool, UK
  4. 4 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  5. 5 UCD Perinatal Research Centre, School of Medicine, National Maternity Hospital, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  6. 6 Department of General Practice, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Ms Caragh Flannery; cflannery{at}


Objective The aim of this study was to explore healthcare professionals’ (HCPs) beliefs and attitudes towards weight management for pregnant women with a body mass index (BMI) ≥25 kg/m2.

Design Qualitative study.

Setting A public antenatal clinic in a large academic maternity hospital in Cork, Ireland, and general practice clinics in the same region.

Participants HCPs such as hospital-based midwives and consultant obstetricians and general practitioners (GPs).

Method Semistructured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of hospital-based HCPs and a sample of GPs working in the same region. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed using NVivo software.

Results Seventeen HCPs were interviewed (hospital based=10; GPs=7). Four themes identified the complexity of weight management in pregnancy and the challenges HCPs faced when trying to balance the medical and psychosocial needs of the women. HCPs acknowledged weight as a sensitive conversation topic, leading to a ‘softly-softly approach’ to weight management. HCPs tried to strike a balance between being woman centred and empathetic and medicalising the conversation. HCPs described ‘doing what you can with what you have’ and shifting the focus to managing obstetric complications. Furthermore, there were unclear roles and responsibilities in terms of weight management.

Conclusion HCPs need to have standardised approaches and evidence-based guidelines that support the consistent monitoring and management of weight during pregnancy.

  • overweight
  • obstetrics
  • pregnancy
  • gestational weight gain
  • general practitioners
  • health care professionals
  • qualitative
  • antenatal
  • obstetrics

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  • Contributors CF, SMH, PMK and MB conceived and designed the study. CF and SMH developed the topic guide and study protocol. CB facilitated access to GPs for recruitment to the study. CF conducted and transcribed the interviews. CF and SMH coded the transcripts, developed and refined the themes. CF wrote the first draft of the paper. All authors contributed to successive drafts and read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by the Health Research Board SPHeRE Programme grant number SPHeRE/2013/1. The Health Research Board (HRB) supports excellent research that improves people’s health, patient care and health service delivery. The HRB aims to ensure that new knowledge is created and then used in policy and practice. In doing so, the HRB supports health system innovation and creates new enterprise opportunities.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval CF confirms that all patient identifiers have been removed so the patients described are not identifiable and cannot be identified through the details of the story. Ethical approval was obtained from the University College Cork Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Cork Teaching Hospital (ref: ECM 4 (y) 06/01/15). Written informed consent was obtained from all participants.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

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