Call for clearer guidance on weight management in pregnancy

By Julie Griffiths on 11 July 2018 Pregnancy Midwives Pregnancy and Weight Management

The RCM and its Alliance partner Slimming World are calling for clearer guidance on healthy weight management for expectant mothers, and more support, training and equipment for midwives.

The organisations say that not speaking to overweight women about their weight during pregnancy is a missed opportunity. 

NHS data shows that one in five women (21%) start pregnancy with a BMI in the ‘obese’ range. Yet there are no national guidelines for women, midwives or health professionals on weight management during pregnancy. 

Research by the RCM and Slimming World found that 43% of midwives are not confident about advising women on weight management during pregnancy, and 79% would feel more confident if they had more training.
Surveys of 110 midwives and 740 women, led by both organisations, reveal that overweight expectant mothers are left feeling confused by the lack of clear information. And midwives are also concerned that they cannot offer the best support to these women in the absence of clear guidelines. 
Nearly all of the women surveyed (91%) said that pregnancy was a time during which they were potentially more open than usual to healthy lifestyle messages, yet less than half discussed their weight with their midwife.
Slimming World public health manager and dietician Carolyn Pallister said:
‘The women that participated in this survey told us that they were more open to talking about a healthy lifestyle when they were pregnant, so we need to make sure that midwives feel that they have the right training and resources to support that. As it stands, this is a significant missed opportunity to share healthy lifestyle messages and guidance.’
RCM CEO Gill Walton said: ‘There is strong evidence of the risks of obesity and excess weight gain in pregnancy and yet there are no UK guidelines on what constitutes a safe weight gain, and many midwives have to use their own initiative and refer to American guidance.
‘There is a clear need for midwives to have the tools, guidance and training they need so that they can offer women the best possible support and care. This is especially pressing because of the potentially serious complications that can arise in pregnancy as a result of women being overweight or obese.’ 

Gill added that it is a ‘real concern’ that some midwives do not have access to the most basic piece of equipment like scales. She is calling for clear guidance on healthy weight management in pregnancy and says the RCM will be looking at how they can take this forward so that women and midwives have the information, support and resources needed.