Johanna Saarikko, Hannakaisa Niela-Vilén, Amir M. Rahmani and Anna Axelin; Original publication date: March 11, 2021; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-021-03689-6

Abstract

Background

Maternal overweight is increasing, and it is associated with several risk factors for both the mother and child. Healthy lifestyle behaviors adopted during pregnancy are likely to impact women’s health positively after pregnancy. The study’s aim was to identify and describe weight management behaviors in terms of the Capability, Opportunity and Motivation Behaviour (COM-B) -model to target weight management interventions from both the perspectives of women who are overweight and maternity care professionals.

Methods

This qualitative, descriptive study was conducted between 2019 and 2020. Individual interviews with pregnant and postpartum women who were overweight (n = 11) and focus group interviews with public health nurses (n = 5) were undertaken in two public maternity clinics in Southwest Finland. The data were analyzed using deductive content analysis consistent with the COM-B model.

Results

In the capability category, the women and the public health nurses thought that there was a need to find consistent ways to approach overweight, as it had often become a feature of the women’s identities. The use of health technology was considered to be an element of antenatal care that could be used to approach the subject of weight and weight management. Smart wearables could also support an evaluation of the women’s lifestyles. The opportunity category highlighted the lack of resources for support during perinatal care, especially after birth. Both groups felt that support from the family was the most important facilitating factor besides motivation. The women also expressed a conflict between pregnancy as an excuse to engage in unhealthy habits and pregnancy as a motivational period for a change of lifestyle. Furthermore, the women wanted to be offered a more robust stance on weight management and discreet counseling.

Conclusions

Our findings offer a theoretical basis on which future research can define intervention and implementation strategies. Such interventions may offer clear advice and non-judgmental support during pregnancy and after delivery by targeting women’s capabilities, opportunities, and motivation. Health technology could be a valuable component of intervention, as well as an implementation strategy, as they provide ways during maternity care to approach this topic and support women.