Kerrigan A, Kingdon C & Cheyne H (2015) Obesity and normal birth: A qualitative study of clinician’s management of obese pregnant women during labour. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 15 (1), Art. No.: 256. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-015-0673-2
Background: Currently one-fifth of women in the UK are obese. Obese, pregnant woman are at an increased risk of experiencing complications of labour and serious morbidity. However, they are also more likely to undergo medical interventions such as induction of labour and caesarean section which in themselves confer additional health risks for obese women such as wound infection and deep vein thrombosis. Reducing unnecessary interventions and increasing normal birth rates for obese women would substantially improve their postnatal health and wellbeing and reduce the burden of NHS resources required to care for them post operatively. This research aimed to explore practitioners’ experiences of and strategies for providing intrapartum care to obese women.
Method: A qualitative methodology was adopted, focus groups and individual interviews were conducted with health professionals. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim and data analysed using a framework approach.
Results: Twenty-four health professionals participated; Six Consultant Obstetricians two Consultant Anaesthetists and 16 midwives. Three key themes emerged from the data: medicalisation of obese birth; promotion of normal obese birth; and the complexities and contradictions in staff attitudes and behaviours. The overall interpretation is that positive approaches to obese birth offer opportunities to promote normal birth. However, many health professionals find the provision of intrapartum care to obese women challenging, and attitudes and behaviours towards the promotion of normal birth are heterogeneous, complex and contradictory.
Conclusion: The care of obese women during labour is generally medicalised and focussed on the associated risks. However, although there are conflicting views on how to care for obese women, some practitioners do strive to promote normality and optimise the potential for normal birth by challenging current practices and utilise some ‘interventions’ in order to facilitate normality and mobility during childbirth. Obesity is a major and growing health problem and a major cause of morbidity and mortality for pregnant women. It is essential that more positive proactive guidelines are available to maximise normal birth if the postnatal health of obese women is to be improved.
Obesity; Normal birth; Intrapartum care; Challenges; Health professionals
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth: Volume 15, Issue 1
|Publication date online||31/10/2015|
|Date accepted by journal||28/09/2015|