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Mums-to-be not given advice on weight management

Article: 8040883 pregnant womanMany women do not receive proper support and advice on weight management and healthy eating during and after pregnancy, despite recommendations from NICE, survey findings suggest.

Nearly three-quarters of women, 63 per cent, said that the NHS should provide midwife-led antenatal classes to address issues of weight and diet, and two-thirds reported that their midwife did not have time for such a discussion.

The survey of 6,252 women, conducted by the Royal College of Midwives in collaboration with the website Netmums, also found that six out of 10 women feel pressurised by celebrity culture to lose weight quickly after giving birth.

NICE published guidance in July this year on weight management before, during and after pregnancy which recommended that NHS Trusts and maternity units ensure that obese mothers are given practical advice and encouragement to lose weight before and after pregnancy, including access to specialist help if they need it.

The guidance aims to raise awareness of the growing problem of excess weight among women, the impact of obesity on the woman's own health and the health of the baby and offers help to health professionals to support overweight women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or who have given birth.

Being obese in pregnancy exposes women to a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and leaves them more likely to suffer a miscarriage.

Evidence also appears to suggest that babies born to obese mothers are more likely to become obese themselves in later life because of changes that occur inside the womb.

Two key recommendations in the guidance are that women should be encouraged to achieve a healthy weight before they become pregnant and that healthcare professionals should dispel the myth around ‘eating for two' when pregnant.

But almost nine out of 10 women rated the overall care that they received from midwives regarding healthy eating and weight management as 'neutral', 'poor' or 'very poor'

Almost half of those surveyed admitted to anxieties about their weight during pregnancy. Many were concerned about managing their weight gain and whether they would be able to lose weight after the birth.

Of the women surveyed, 41 per cent described themselves when they became pregnant as ‘over what they would like to have weighed' and/or ‘overweight'.

The survey did, however, show some positive findings. Half of the mums surveyed who answered the question said that they were advised by a midwife about healthy eating, as opposed to 9 per cent by a GP and 6 per cent by an obstetrician.

Sally Russell, the co-founder of the parenting website Netmums, described the findings as "a wake-up call to midwives to support women better throughout their pregnancy and inform them of their options."

15 November 2010

This page was last updated: 25 November 2010

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Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.