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BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2017 Mar 24;17(1):97. doi: 10.1186/s12884-017-1257-0.

Women's perceptions of discussions about gestational weight gain with health care providers during pregnancy and postpartum: a qualitative study.

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Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Alberta, 4-126 Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Research Innovation, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2E1, Canada.
University of Alberta, Community University Partnership, Facility of Extension, 2nd Floor, 2-281 Enterprise Square, 10230 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, AB, T5J 4P6, Canada.
Healthy Living, Population, Public and Aboriginal Health, Reproductive Health, Healthy Children and Families, Alberta Health Services, 10101 Southport Road SW cubicle #1740, Calgary, AB, T2W 3N2, Canada.
Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Alberta, 4-126 Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Research Innovation, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2E1, Canada.



Maternal body weight is an indicator of the health of a mother and her developing fetus. Risks of poor maternal and fetal health issues increase when women gain too little or too much weight during pregnancy. A study of 600 women from Alberta, Canada, reported approximately 30, 46, 80, and 80% of underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese women, respectively, gained in excess of Health Canada gestational weight gain guidelines. Behavioural interventions during pregnancy have shown to be effective at supporting women achieve gestational weight gain (GWG) recommendations and return to their pre-pregnancy weight postpartum, yet few women are counseled about weight gain during pregnancy. A discrepancy exists between health care providers' (HCP) reported counseling behaviours and women's perceptions of counseling by HCPs; most HCPs report counseling women about GWG; conversely, most women report not receiving counseling about GWG. This study explored women's experiences with GWG and their perceptions of discussions about GWG with HCPs during pregnancy and postpartum. This will help to identify gaps in service delivery and highlight areas for improvement that may better support women to achieve GWG recommendations leading to better health outcomes for women and children.


Five focus groups (n = 26) were conducted with women up to 1 year postpartum across the five Alberta health zones. Focus groups were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using qualitative content analysis.


GWG is important to women, for their health and for the health of their baby. In-depth conversations with HCPs about GWG or weight loss do not occur; however, women want the opportunity to discuss weight gain/loss with HCPs. Women would like discussions about gestational weight gain/loss to become part of standard care and offered to all women.


Women suggested that discussions about GWG should occur with all women, and that HCPs should initiate these discussions by asking women how they feel about discussing weight. Conversations should begin early on in pregnancy and continue through to the postpartum period. Interventions assessing discussions about GWG should be implemented and evaluated as this has been identified as a gap in prenatal service delivery.


Antenatal care; Gestational weight gain; Healthcare providers; Postpartum; Pregnancy; Prenatal care; Women’s perceptions

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