Obesity in Pregnancy: A Qualitative Approach to Inform an Intervention for Patients and Providers


To investigate perceptions of minority pregnant women and providers about obesity and gestational weight gain (GWG), and to explore strategies to improve management of obesity in pregnancy with an emphasis on group prenatal care. Sixteen primarily non-Hispanic black pregnant women with a body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m2 and 19 prenatal care providers participated in focus groups. Discussion topics included GWG goals, body image, health behaviors, and group prenatal care with additional emphasis on provider training needs. Women frequently stated a GWG goal >20 lbs. Women described a body image not in line with clinical recommendations (“200 pounds is not that big.”). They avoided the term “obese”. They were interested in learning about nutrition and culturally-acceptable healthy cooking. Women would enjoy massage and exercise in group settings, though definitions of “exercise” varied. Family members could help, but generational differences posed challenges. Most had to “encourage myself” and “do this for me and the baby”. Providers expressed discomfort discussing GWG and difficulty finding the right words for obesity, which was partially attributed to their own weight. They noted the challenges they faced during prenatal care including time constraints, cultural myths, and system issues. Providers considered a group setting with social support an ideal environment to address health behaviors in obese women. Culturally-tailored programs that use acceptable terms for obesity, provide education regarding healthy eating and safe exercise, and encourage support from social networks may be effective in addressing GWG in obese minority women. Provider training in communication skills is necessary to address obesity in pregnancy.

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Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number K23HD076010. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Michelle A. Kominiarek.

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Kominiarek, M.A., Gay, F. & Peacock, N. Obesity in Pregnancy: A Qualitative Approach to Inform an Intervention for Patients and Providers. Matern Child Health J 19, 1698–1712 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-015-1684-3

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  • Prenatal care
  • Obesity
  • Provider education
  • Health disparities