Open Access Open Badges Research article

Responses to gestational weight management guidance: a thematic analysis of comments made by women in online parenting forums

Madelynne A Arden1, Alexandra MS Duxbury2 and Hora Soltani2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, Sociology & Politics, Sheffield Hallam University, Collegiate Crescent, Sheffield, UK

2 Centre for Health and Social Care Research, Sheffield Hallam University, Collegiate Crescent, Sheffield, UK

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:216  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-216

Published: 30 June 2014



The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidance on weight management in pregnancy in July 2010 (NICE public health guidance 27: 2010), and this received considerable press coverage across a range of media. This offered an opportunity to examine how gestational weight management guidance was received by UK women.


A thematic analysis was conducted of 400 posts made in UK-based parenting internet forums in the week following the publication of the NICE guidance. This allowed us to examine the naturally occurring comments from 202 women who posted about the guidance on public forums.


Three main themes were identified and explored: i) Perceived control/responsibility ii) Risk perception iii) Confused messages.


Women differed in their perceptions of the level of control that they had over being overweight with some feeling responsible and motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Others felt there were multiple factors influencing their weight issues beyond their control. There were reports of feeling guilty about the impact of weight on the growing baby and experiencing significant obesity stigma from the public and health professionals. Information about the risks of overweight and obesity in pregnancy were difficult messages for women to hear, and for health professionals to deliver. Women reported being confused by the messages that they received. Health messages need to be delivered sensitively to women, and health professionals need support and training to do this. Risk information should always be accompanied with clear advice and support to help women to manage their weight in pregnancy.

Internet-mediated research; Gestational weight gain; Parenting forums; NICE; Women; Views; Risk perception