Do obese pregnant women worry about the risks of pregnancy and birth?

Improving advice to obese pregnant women about where to give birth.
  • Authors list

    Professor Jane Sandall, Dr Dharmintra Pasupathy, Dr Sophie Relph

Start: September 2018

End: August 2019 

This project took place at our London centre which operated between 1995 and 2021. 

One in five pregnant women in the UK are obese. Although these women are more likely to have complicated pregnancies and births, many obese pregnant women actually have no complications at all.

This means that it is important to understand whether obese women worry about the risks of pregnancy and birth, and whether this affects the decisions they make about where they give birth.

Tailored pregnancy care that suits the woman's circumstances

The care a woman receives during pregnancy and birth should be tailored to her individual circumstances, and a wide range of choices are offered. NICE recommends that all obese women with a BMI over 35, and some with a BMI over 30, give birth in a hospital where they can be looked after by doctors and midwives (a BMI over 30 is considered obese, while over 40 is severely obese).

However, there are many more midwife-led birth centres in the UK than there were ten years ago, some of which are alongside hospital birth centres, and it may be appropriate for some obese pregnant women to give birth at these centres.

Good advice on where to give birth is important

We believe that it is important for obese women to be properly advised and supported when they make decisions about where they want to give birth, especially because many do have uncomplicated pregnancies and births.

By looking at interviews with obese women that have already been published in scientific journals, we want to understand how the discussions women have with healthcare professionals make them feel about the risks they face in pregnancy, and whether this influences the decisions they make.

Our hope is that we can then support healthcare providers in their discussions with obese pregnant women, so that these women are better informed and able to make the right choices for their individual circumstances.

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