Obese women's perceptions of weight gain during pregnancy: A theory-based analysis

Emily M. Nagourney, Dina Goodman, Yukyan Lam, Kristen M. Hurley, Janice Henderson, Pamela J. Surkan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: Excess gestational weight gain (GWG) in obese women is linked to adverse maternal outcomes and is particularly pervasive among African Americans, who have the highest obesity rates in the USA. A better understanding of culturally relevant attitudes and perceptions of GWG is needed to develop targeted interventions to prevent excess GWG among this group.Design: Using the constructs of Social Cognitive Theory, we explored attitudes and perceptions surrounding diet and exercise among low-income obese African-American pregnant women in Baltimore. We conducted twenty-one semi-structured in-depth interviews with pregnant adult women.Setting: Participants were recruited from a referral clinic for obese pregnant women at a large urban hospital in Baltimore, MD, USA.Participants: Twenty-one low-income African-American adult females in the first two trimesters of pregnancy with BMI > 30·0 kg/m2.Results: Lack of knowledge was not the main obstacle to healthy behaviours during pregnancy. Rather, food cravings and fatigue, an unhealthy physical food environment, limited self-efficacy for controlling excessive GWG, and a lack of adequate emotional and informational support impacted women's agency. While digital technology was discussed as a vehicle to promote maintenance of a healthy weight in pregnancy, further research is needed to test how it can be used to empower women to engage in healthy behaviours during pregnancy.Conclusion: Interventions to prevent excess GWG among African-American pregnant women should harness support from partners and family and must go beyond sharing of clinical knowledge to also include strategies that improve the food environment, diet quality and self-efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2228-2236
Number of pages9
JournalPublic health nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • African-American women
  • Gestational weight gain
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Cognitive Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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