Dietary behaviours and weight management: A thematic analysis of pregnant women’s perceptions

Type Article

Journal Article


C. Flannery; M. N. Mtshede; S. McHugh; A. E. Anaba; E. Clifford; M. O'Riordan; L. C. Kenny; F. M. McAuliffe; P. M. Kearney; K. Matvienko-Sikar

Year of publication



Matern Child Nutr








Maternal obesity is associated with increased risk of gestational diabetes and other complications. Although antenatal interventions to help prevent these complications are ongoing, an understanding of overweight and obese pregnant women's opinions and attitudes is lacking. Therefore, this study aims to explore these women's experiences and perceptions of dietary behaviours and weight management during pregnancy. Secondary analysis of qualitative data originally collected to examine lifestyle behaviours in pregnant women was conducted. The data were from a purposive sample of overweight and obese pregnant women attending a public antenatal clinic in Cork, Ireland. The data were explored using thematic analysis. Interviews with 30 overweight and obese pregnant women were analysed. Three themes were developed relating to overweight and obese women's dietary behaviours and weight management perceptions including 'pregnancy's influence on dietary behaviours', 'external influences on dietary behaviours' and 'perception of and preferences for weight related advice and resources'. Together these themes reveal women's experiences of diet and how pregnancy factors (physiological changes) and external factors (family and friends) can influence dietary behaviours. Furthermore, perceptions of weight management advice and lack thereof were highlighted with women drawing attention to potential resources for future use during pregnancy. This study provides important insights into overweight and obese pregnant women's dietary behaviours and perceptions of weight management. According to these findings, there is a need for clear and unambiguous information about weight management, acceptable weight gain, food safety and how to achieve a balanced diet.