NCT response: RCM and Netmums survey on weight management

Released on: 20 July 2011

Many women fail to get proper advice on weight management during and after pregnancy, a UK-wide survey by RCM and Netmums suggests. Some 63% said their midwife had not explained obesity issues such as body mass index, during their first antenatal appointment. The poll of 6,226 women also found six out of 10 felt pressurised by celebrity culture to lose weight quickly after giving birth.

The survey found almost half the women who responded were worried about their weight during pregnancy. But many appeared to be confused about what their correct weight should be. As well as missing out on obesity advice during pregnancy, nine out of 10 said that after giving birth they had had no opportunity to discuss their concerns with their midwife.

Overall, 84% said the general advice they received from midwives on weight management was not good. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of those who responded said the NHS should provide midwife-led antenatal classes specifically to address healthy eating and weight management.

Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Officer, NCT, said:

“Thousands of women attend NCT courses each year and we know from listening to them that weight management and weight loss during and after pregnancy is a concerning issue. There’s also a lot of conflicting advice on exercise and how much weight to gain during pregnancy and how to lose it afterwards - this can set a worrying example by encouraging new mums to embark on drastic weight loss programmes, which are not only unrealistic, but can also be very unhealthy.

“We welcomed the new NICE guidelines, published in the summer, which should ensure better consistency of support from health professionals on exercise and weight management across the board, and will allow services to be tailored to meet women’s individual needs.

“Women are well motivated to make changes to their diet when they are pregnant and this opportunity can improve the family eating pattern for the future. Activities such as walking or swimming do not carry particular risks for pregnant women provided they are not done too strenuously, but pregnant women should check with their GP to make sure that any exercise they are planning to do is safe. Post pregnancy, activities such as breastfeeding can help women to return to their pre-pregnancy weight provided they follow a sensible diet.”