Maternal and Newborn Health
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How Can Midwives Support Overweight Pregnant Women?

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The first day of the Nordic Midwifery Congress in Gothenburg is complete. Health during pregnancy has been one of many subjects discussed and I had the privilege to be in the audience during this seminar. Overweight during pregnancy is a risk factor and presenters spoke about this growing problem in Sweden and the other Nordic countries.

Overweight during pregnancy is associated with increased risk for both the mothers and child. It’s a risk for developing preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, increased emergency Caesarian sections and stillbirths. These risks increase with an increased BMI.

One of the speakers, Anna Dencker, talked about Mighty Mums, which is a project in East Gothenburg that was started to help overweight pregnant women. The study presented was a follow-up of what had been helpful for these mothers. The women in the study have had a BMI of 30 or more during their pregnancy 3 years earlier. What they found were that during pregnancy, women are more motivated for making healthy changes. The main motivation is the child. Most pregnant women want to give their child the best conditions, and most of them are aware of the risks, and they are very motivated to change their lifestyle.

As a midwife student I think this is an important subject  and hope that I will be able to help these women. And after today’s seminar I feel like I have more knowledge.

So, what did the overweight pregnant women want from the midwife? The study showed that the overweight pregnant women want:

  • A trusting relationship with her midwife and to be listened to,  to get feedback, support and encouragement.
  • To discuss weight in a non-judgmental manner and to talk about it without the attached stigma. There is often an underlying problem that needs to be addressed to manage weight problems.
  • To receive strategies and tools, e.g. how to manage not to gain weight and tips of everyday training, healthy snacks, to have group meetings with a dietician, and to meet others in similar situations.

After birth the health care focus shifted to the child. The support ended when it was most needed, women need help even after birth.

According to International Code of Ethics for Midwives, midwives need to work with other health professionals when a woman’s need of care exceeds the care that the midwife can offer. Midwives should also be effective role models of health promotion for women throughout their life cycle. And this is exactly what women want!

Right now I am training at a maternity health center in Gothenburg, Sweden. There are so many tasks for a midwife in this setting. I believe that it is lack of time and understaffing that are the reasons why women experience little or no support after birth. I hope that maternal health care can develop to support women even after birth.

It’s easier to change lifestyle for the baby, so it’s important that women who are pregnant and have a high BMI receive the help they need. As a future midwife I will address overweight in a non-judgmental way, listen to them and it is my hope that I will help and support them!

Cover Photo Credit: Tatiana Vdb (Flickr/CC)

NJF

Girls’ Globe is at the NJF Congress in Gothenburg, Sweden. Follow the conversations here on girlsglobe.org and through the hashtag #midwives4all on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more through the following links:

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