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Being overweight in pregnancy

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Pregnancy is an important event in any woman's life but for a woman who is already overweight or obese, the changes that occur to her body may have significant consequences.

Apart from the medical complications, how the pregnant woman views herself, her body image and self-esteem, the perceptions she has about how others behave towards her are factors that may impact on the quality of her pregnancy experience.

It is therefore important that maternity caregivers have some understanding of the psychological issues and factors that may exacerbate negative feelings, in order to plan optimum care.

Psychological distress

There appears to be limited published research relating specifically to the psychological impact of obesity during pregnancy. This is in contrast to the larger volume of research relating to psychological impact of obesity in the non-pregnant population. It is worth reading a little about some of the studies with the non-pregnant population as the study findings will still have relevance for pregnant women.

Two main concepts have emerged from literature and that relate to the psychological impact of obesity in the non-pregnant population: stigma and psychological distress.

Puhl and Brownwell1summarised the literature and highlighted that prejudice and discrimination in education, the workplace and healthcare were common experiences for those who are obese.

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