Iyekekpolor, Maria E. (2016) The Antenatal Care Experiences of Overweight Pregnant Women in the UK. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The current position of the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2014) is that there is a threat of a global “obesity epidemic” (Boero, 2007, p.1); and existing studies in the UK report that a 5th of pregnant women are overweight. This has created increased scrutiny of fatness and weight, especially in pregnant women. The concern about obesity and pregnancy outcomes also contributes to the National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE, 2010), recommending that the antenatal care delivered to overweight pregnant women should be within the guidelines of a high-risk pathway of antenatal care. This has increased the medicalisation of the care for overweight pregnant women.

The aim of this study is to explore the experiences of overweight pregnant women in relation to their heightened medicalised antenatal care. Using a social constructionist approach and a Foucauldian interpretive lens, semi-structured face-to-face interviews were used to collect data from 12 women who were between 16 and 30 weeks pregnant, 6 midwives who provide antenatal care for them, and 3 obstetricians to whom women are referred. The data were analysed using thematic analysis. The findings show that pregnant women do not identify with being ‘obese’ and perceive themselves as being overweight but healthy. Key themes that emerged from the data describing women’s perception of heightened antenatal care are: their understanding of risk and risk perception, the power of science and how it constructs their maternal health and the power of obstetricians justifying medical interventions in pregnancy and childbirth.

This study creates and contributes to the awareness of how overweight pregnant women who are healthy experience antenatal care. It explores the need of overweight pregnant women, and identifies changes that need to be made to positively enhance how these women experience pregnancy and childbirth. These findings need to be considered by policy makers, individuals in practice and those with a role in educating health care practitioners so that overweight pregnant women are provided the appropriate antenatal care.

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