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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2010 Jan;19(1):65-70. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2008.1343.

Addressing obesity in pregnancy: what do obstetric providers recommend?

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  • 1Center for Obesity Research and Education, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia 19140, Pennsylvania, USA.



Maternal obesity is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. To improve outcomes, obstetric providers must effectively evaluate and manage their obese pregnant patients. We sought to determine the knowledge, attitudes, and practice patterns of obstetric providers regarding obesity in pregnancy.


In 2007-2008, we surveyed 58 practicing obstetricians, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse-midwives at a multispecialty practice in Massachusetts. We administered a 26-item questionnaire that included provider self-reported weight, sociodemographic characteristics, knowledge, attitudes, and management practices. We created an 8-point score for adherence to 8 practices recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) for the management of obese pregnant women.


Among the respondents, 37% did not correctly report the minimum body mass index (BMI) for diagnosing obesity, and most reported advising gestational weight gains that were discordant with 1990 Institute of Medicine (IOM) guidelines, especially for obese women (71%). The majority of respondents almost always recommended a range of weight gain (74%), advised regular physical activity (74%), or discussed diet (64%) with obese mothers, but few routinely ordered glucose tolerance testing during the first trimester (26%), planned anesthesia referrals (3%), or referred patients to a nutritionist (14%). Mean guideline adherence score was 3.4 (SD 1.9, range 0-8). Provider confidence (beta = 1.0, p = 0.05) and body satisfaction (beta = 1.5, p = 0.02) were independent predictors of higher guideline adherence scores.


Few obstetric providers were fully compliant with clinical practice recommendations, defined obesity correctly, or recommended weight gains concordant with IOM guidelines. Provider personal factors were the strongest correlates of self-reported management practices. Our findings suggest a need for more education around BMI definitions and weight gain guidelines, along with strategies to address provider personal factors, such as confidence and body satisfaction, that may be important predictors of adherence to recommendations for managing obese pregnant women.

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