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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Pregnant women’s knowledge of weight, weight gain, complications of obesity and weight management strategies in pregnancy

Alexis Shub1*, Emily Y-S Huning1, Karen J Campbell2 and Elizabeth A McCarthy1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, Perinatal Centre, 3rd Floor, Mercy Hospital for Women, 163 Studley Road, Heidelberg, Victoria, 3078, Australia

2 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University (KC), Geelong, Melbourne, Australia

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BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:278  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-278

Published: 18 July 2013



Obesity is increasingly common in the obstetric population. Maternal obesity and excess gestational weight gain (GWG) are associated with increased perinatal risk. There is limited published data demonstrating the level of pregnant women’s knowledge regarding these problems, their consequences and management strategies.

We aimed to assess the level of knowledge of pregnant women regarding: (i) their own weight and body mass index (BMI) category, (ii) awareness of guidelines for GWG, (iii) concordance of women’s own expectations with guidelines, (iv) knowledge of complications associated with excess GWG, and (v) knowledge of safe weight management strategies in pregnancy.


364 pregnant women from a single center university hospital antenatal clinic were interviewed by an obstetric registrar. The women in this convenience sample were asked to identify their weight category, their understanding of the complications of obesity and excessive GWG in pregnancy and safe and/or effective weight management strategies in pregnancy.


Nearly half (47.8%) of the study population were overweight or obese. 74% of obese women underestimated their BMI category. 64% of obese women and 40% of overweight women overestimated their recommended GWG. Women’s knowledge of the specific risks associated with excess GWG or maternal obesity was poor. Women also reported many incorrect beliefs about safe weight management in pregnancy.


Many pregnant women have poor knowledge about obesity, GWG, their consequences and management strategies. Bridging this knowledge gap is an important step towards improving perinatal outcomes for all pregnant women, especially those who enter pregnancy overweight or obese.

Overweight; Obesity; Pregnancy; Body mass index; Weight gain; Knowledge; Complications