The makings of a maternal obesity epidemic: A Meta-narrative review

Feltham, Christina orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8443-0846, Thomson, Gill orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3392-8182 and Kingdon, Carol orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5958-9257 (2023) The makings of a maternal obesity epidemic: A Meta-narrative review. Midwifery, 127 . ISSN 0266-6138

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Study background
The prevalence and complications of maternal obesity are well reported; with a hegemonic medicalised view leading to women's pregnant bodies being ‘managed’. We aimed to address current knowledge gaps by exploring the literature across research traditions and overtime to better understand the experiences of maternity care for women living with obesity, in relation to choice, consent and control.

A systematic review using meta-narrative methods. Identification of studies included a scoping phase involving experts, hand searching and database browsing and a systematic searching phase. Seven databases (MEDLINE, MIDIRS, CINAHLComplete, Scopus, SocINDEX, PsycINFO, SPORTDiscuss) were searched with no date or geographical restriction. Non- English language studies were excluded. Two authors appraised quality prior to data extraction and synthesis. Data were tabulated, and women's experiences conceptualised in relation to choice, consent and control, first, by research tradition to reveal the unfolding storyline, secondly emergent narratives were synthesised into meta-themes.

Twenty-four studies were included, from seven research traditions. Of these, twenty-one were qualitative, two were quantitative, and one study utilised a mixed method design. Studies spanned twenty-one years from 1996 to 2022. Across research traditions, four themes were evident, ‘women's beliefs and experiences of weight’, ‘social determinants’, ‘being risked-managed’ and ‘attitudes of caregivers’. Over time, management of maternal obesity has moved from a focus on weight gain and diet as a woman's issue, to weight being pathological resulting in increased medicalisation to a renewed focus on lifestyle through the public health arena. It suggests that lack of choice over care can reduce women's perception of control over their pregnancy and birth experience.

Increased medicalisation of maternal obesity, which includes defining and managing weight as pathological can limit women's choice and control over their maternity care. There is a need for national and local policy development which includes women in the process. It is important that women's views are heard, understood and acted upon so that a balance can be achieved, avoiding over medicalisation yet ensuring mortality and morbidity risks are minimised

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