A Mixed-Methods Study on Factors Influencing Prenatal Weight Gain in Ethnic-Minority Women

Barbara Hackley, Holly Powell Kennedy, Diane C. Berry, Gail D.Eramo Melkus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Gaining too much weight in pregnancy is associated with perinatal complications and increases the risks of future obesity for both women and their infants. Unfortunately, women enrolled in intervention trials have seen little improvement in adherence to prenatal weight gain recommendations compared to women receiving standard prenatal care. Therefore, the purpose of this descriptive mixed-methods study was to explore factors related to excessive weight gain in pregnancy. Methods: Nonpregnant nulliparous women, currently pregnant women, and postpartum women (N = 43) were recruited from a health center serving an inner-city minority community. Women completed questionnaires on knowledge, self-efficacy, and behaviors related to nutrition, exercise, and prenatal weight gain. Fifteen of these women participated in focus groups. Focus group data were analyzed using ATLAS.ti (Scientific Software Development GmbH, Berlin, Germany). Codes were created, themes were identified, and consensus was reached through multiple iterations of the analysis by study personnel. Results: Excessive weight gain was common. Nutritional knowledge was poor and significantly lower among nonpregnant nulliparous women. Women felt sure that they could engage in healthy behaviors, but few did so. Participants in focus groups identified multiple barriers to healthy behaviors in pregnancy and made suggestions on how to help women more readily make improvements in these behaviors. Discussion: Strategies identified in this study such as providing focused education directed at nonpregnant nulliparous women, stressing portion control, helping women better manage their cravings, and providing more pragmatic support and resources need to be explored in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-398
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Midwifery and Women's Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014


  • Cravings
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Prenatal weight gain
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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